As usual, I’ll be evaluating the cards from a multiplayer angle, and this means that your opinion might be completely different than mine if you’re mostly playing against individual opponents. Then again, it might be different even if you’re not, so there’s that. Let me know in the comments what you think about the new stuff!
With that out of the way and because I’m feeling impatient today, let’s immediately start with the remaining one of the five colors, yes?
Abbot of Keral Keep – Oh well, we’re starting it off with a bad one.The abbot’s ability seems to be red’s new signature mechanic that tries so hard to be good card draw. Unfortunately for it, it just isn’t, and this little fellow is not going to change that. It feels a bit like cascade although you’re not guaranteed to be able to play what you exile as you’ll have to pay the mana for it, too. And if you can’t, you just got a 2/1 with prowess for two mana. That’s hardly impressive, is it?
Avaricious Dragon – 4/4 flying for four mana? Nice. And it let’s us draw an additional card? Awesome! Now where’s the catch? “Discard your hand”?! No way! This is a recipe for disaster as every opponent knows that, barring onboard tricks, you’re never going to react to anything they do at instant speed. Drawing an extra card per turn may be cool but it’ll almost never be worth telling the whole table that you can’t stop them if they’re trying something evil.
Call of the Full Moon – +3/+2 and trample for only two mana? That’s Rancor territory here! Unfortunately, Call of the Full Moon doesn’t return to your hand if it gets destroyed. On the contrary, it even has it’s own destruction practically built in! So as good as the boost is, this aura is probably too easy to get rid of.
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh / Chandra, Roaring Flame – Small children are told that they shouldn’t play with fire, so my question to you is: Have you learned that lesson? Because once again, Chandra is among the weakest of a new batch of planeswalkers and will thoroughly disappoint you if you put her into your deck. The funny thing is that her creature side isn’t actually all that bad while her planeswalker side just totally sucks. Well, not totally because Chandra’s ultimate is actually cool and can put a lot of pressure on your opponents – if you manage to ever get there. But that, dear readers, is going to be extremely difficult as it means that you’ll have to keep shooting players for a lousy two damage, all the while having to work with other cards to protect your planeswalker. Because, and let’s be honest here, Chandra just cannot do it on her own. Shocking other creatures hasn’t been enough in multiplayer for decades, and it won’t be enough here. In duels, the newest iteration of red’s iconic planeswalker might actally be better than most people are prepared to give her credit for, but in multiplayer, this is one fire I’d never want to play with…
Chandra’s Ignition – This on the other hand is totally playable and can actually win you the game. If you’re doing it right, this can take out opponents directly or kill the board with you being the only one who controls a fatty. Oh, and don’t forget the likes of Charnelhoard Wurm, Lu Xun, Scholar General, Nicol Bolas or Deus of Calamity. Their abilities all trigger if they are used with Chandra’s Ignition. Especially Bolas lives up to his name, the evil bugger!
Embermaw Hellion – I really want to like this one, but in the end, I think that the bonus is probably negligible. Too bad.
Enthralling Victor – Power 2 or less? Uhm, thanks, I’ll pass.
Exquisite Firecraft – Four damage for three mana is good although being a sorcery hurts it somewhat. In most cases, this is probably going to kill a medium-sized creature but it’s good to know that it can take away a fifth of an opponent’s life total in a pinch. Not bad but also not awe inspiring.
Flameshadow Conjuring – Wow! Every decent fatty now basically has haste AND will probably take out at least one opposing creature. With a little imagination, we could say that this means that for a single red mana, your creature gets haste (the token), vigilance (the original creature you cast stays behind to protect you) and becomes indestructible when it attacks (the original creature again as it actually never attacks). Uhm, confused? Never mind then because this card is totally awesome anyway! And the cost is so damn low! And let’s not even talk about all the ETB shenanigans you can pull off with this. Ghostway and Legion’s Initiative have certainly found a new friend. I absolutely love it!
Goblin Piledriver – I’ve yet to see a goblin deck being successful at a multiplayer table. Their normally low toughness really kills the archetype. Be that as it may, I’m glad they chose Matt Cavotta’s artwork for this reprint and not the ugly judge promo.
Magmatic Insight – At first glance, this looks quite good. Two cards for a single mana? Why not. Then, you realize that you need all the mana you can get in the early to the midgame, so you won’t ever want to discard a land then. Even in the later stages, you’re not guaranteed to have sufficient mana that discarding a land would not hurt you. And even if it wouldn’t, wouldn’t you prefer to draw more than just two cards then? It all depends on the situation of course, but I myself would rather try to find alternatives here.
Molten Vortex – See Magmatic Insight. However, the vortex can kill creatures and take out players and is therefore worth consideration. And if you combine it with cards like Life from the Loam or Crucible of Worlds, you actually have a decent damage engine that might win you the game.
Pia and Kiran Nalaar – Wow, I never expected Chandra’s parents to show up on a card. And a good one at that! They aren’t as powerful as Siege-Gang Commander in a nutshell, but they are a mana cheaper and more flexible in that they can sacrifice any artifact. Spine of Ish Sah, Ichor Wellspring and Mycosynth Wellspring, Solemn Simulacrum or Summoning Station? There are a lot of options for a creative deck builder.
Scab-Clan Berserker – Getting a creature to become renowned is somewhat tricky. This girl tries hard, though. Haste definitely helps, be it in the early game or later on after a sweeper. Her ability to deal 2 damage whenever an opponent casts a noncreature spell can quickly add up and might actually prevent people from casting anything when their life total is low. However, if she can’t get through, you’ve just cast a hasty Gray Ogre…
Thopter Engineer – Granting haste to that lonely Thopter token shouldn’t really matter in most cases, but please consider how many powerful artifact creatures we have at our disposal. That makes Thopter Engineer far superior to Ghirapur Gearcrafter who is also in the set. I’m seriously thinking about branching out into red in my Esper artifacts deck just to provide Sharuum the Hegemon, Sphinx of the Steel Wind and Wurmcoil Engine with haste. There, the Thopter token would also synergize nicely with Trading Post. So yep, this is a nice one.
Blazing Hellhound – Being able to sacrifice things at instant speed is always helpful against things like Mind Control. Other than that, the hound is a 4/3 for four mana, so we could do worse. The 1 damage should mostly be inconsequential though.
Bounding Krasis – I really want to like this guy but have problems evaluating his usefulness. I’m not sure whether he is good enough although a 3/3 for three mana is already okay. But tapping or untapping one other card upon entering the battlefield just feels so … insignificant? Yes, that’s it. Insignificant.
Possessed Skaab – A little expensive, although it offers quite a bit of versatility, especially in those colors. I’d say it’s easily worth a slot in your Commander decks, although I’m not so sure about 60-card multiplayer. There, five mana should probably give you a bigger bang than this dude.
Shaman of the Pack – I’ve never been an elf deck fan but consider this: Even if you control only three other elves, you cast a 3/2 for three mana that steals four life. Not bad in my book. Worthless in a non-elf deck of course.
Thunderclap Wyvern – The artwork reminds me of the ‘gating’ creatures from Invasion block (see Horned Kavu or Sawtooth Loon for example). Be that as it may, Thunderclap Wyvern is actually more reminiscent of Celestial Crusader and at the same time both better and worse than its predecessor. It’s worse because it requires two colors of mana and doesn’t have split second, it’s better because it has one more toughness and pumps only your own creatures, irrespective of their colors. If I were playing a white and blue deck, I would definitely go with the wyvern here because my playgroup is chockfull of white decks (soldier tribal, ally tribal, a Bant Birthing Pod concoction, an Emeria, the Sky Ruin deck etc.) and I wouldn’t want to help my opponents by pumping their whole team.
Alhammarret’s Archive – Many powerful artifacts cost five mana, and here is another representative of this species. It depends on your deck, of course, but Alhammarret’s Archive can kick the right deck into overdrive, making it very hard to kill you even if your opponents team up to take you out.
Hangarback Walker – Magic’s very own new aircraft carrier, eh? All by itself, it’s a bit expensive and slow and wouldn’t probably get included in my decks. However, in a dedicated +1/+1 counter deck, this card can wreak havoc. Imagine this together with Doubling Season if you will. Okay, everything is awesome with Doubling Season but my argument stands. This can be a powerhouse in the right deck.
Helm of the Gods – Cheap mana cost? Check. Cheap equip cost? Check. Potential massive power and toughness boost? Check. Unfortunately, it requires a very specific deck to do the best it can do but even +3/+3 for a cost of two mana is already good. And all colors have enchantments that work well even outside dedicated enchantment decks. Oblivion Ring, Phyrexian Arena, Evolutionary Leap, Warstorm Surge, Thassa, God of the Sea and her other divine friends – just to name a few. Oh, and don’t forget the enchantment creatures from Theros block.
Mage-Ring Responder – Are these Vex portals in the background? Oh, never mind me. For some reason, I want to cast this guy and laugh maniacally when my opponents frown in confusion. I mean, this guy is so darn expensive in everything he does that he really can’t be worth it, right? But then, I imagine myself sending him towards another player, watching them squirm in their seat as they realize that their life total is already so low that seven damage would actually hurt them a lot. They’ll have to block – and this means that Mage-Ring Responder kills at least two creatures with each attack, putting the respective opponent under immense pressure. Oh well, who am I kidding? Seven mana just to untap him is too much…
Meteorite – I read the card name and expected brutal mass removal. And then I read the rules text. Well, if you want to see a five mana artifact that produces only a single mana and is nevertheless playable, take a look at Pyromancer’s Goggles further below, okay? This though? Let’s just say that if I see an opponent casting it, I’ll probably be quite happy.
Orbs of Warding – Good against decks that kill with spells or hordes of creatures. Otherwise, I couldn’t care less.
Pyromancer’s Goggles – If you paid five mana for an artifact that lets you ramp for one red mana, you’d be an idiot. It’s a good thing then that Chandra’s goggles can do sooo much more. Volcanic Offering? Elemental Appeal kicked? Relentless Assault for even more combat phases? Insurrection? Oh, wait, the last one doesn’t work… Uhm, how about Titanic Ultimatum and Cruel Ultimatum then? Even a lowly Breath of Malfegor becomes cool if you get a copy for a single red mana! Love the goggles!
Sword of the Animist – I very much like the artwork although the sword itself can barely be seen. Playwise, this is a really good equipment that can ramp turn after turn but might not be as reliable as you think because if you need your creatures to defend yourself, you can’t attack to get more lands. Be that as it may, Kemba, Kha Regent is going to love this.
Throwing Knife – Flavorwise, this is a great design although I would have liked it better if the creature didn’t have to attack to throw the knife. This is one of those cards that tell a little story and that make Magic such a cohesive and well-thought-out game. More of this please!
Foundry of the Consuls – Gargoyle Castle never saw much play and I expect this one to slowly disappear as well. Although getting two creatures instead of one is definitely a plus, the total power and toughness is 2/2 whereas Gargoyle Castle was actually 3/4. Might work as a one-of in artifact decks but that’s probably all it will ever do.
Mage-Ring Network – Storage lands teach you how to manage resources. No, seriously. What’s more important for you at any given point in a game, getting the mana immediately or investing mana for future gains? There have been quite a few storage lands in the past, and Mage-Ring Network doesn’t fare well against most of them as it can only ever produce colorless mana. Not a fan.
Rogue’s Passage – This has always been a very good nonbasic land as people tend to forget it although it has the potential to kill them. Weird, isn’t it? And don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be your own creatures that you make unblockable with this.
This is the End
Whew, we’re finally through with our Magic Origins review, and thus with core set reviews in general. All things considered, I think it is a worthy conclusion to a long tradition that sadly needed to go.
My favorite cards to come out of it:
Yeah, not a single planeswalker among the Top 5. And I also never expected a red card to end up in first place. Wow!
What are your favorites? Any deck ideas yet? And what do think about the discontinuation of core sets in general?
Until next time!