SUP = strictly unplayable
BUP = borderline unplayable
*BP = borderline playable
P = playable
BA = build-around or BADASS
*New category. Highlights that the card is close to playable. It may not be well positioned or it might be risky or too situational to include in main decks. BP is different from BUP in that BUP is reserved for a card that is most likely not playable, but could crop up situationally or surprise me.
In order to see the card pictures pop-up, I recommend downloading and enabling the FireFox add-on ‘Autocard Anywhere’.
And a reminder to all – I do not play online, meaning the PDCmagic rules that limit cards to only commons as they are printed in the current standard legal sets does not apply to my metagame. I play tournaments IRL at the ChannelFireball Game Center, where if a card was EVER printed as a common, it is legal tender. Thus, my review will include cards that I can legally play with and against at an event. Until standard pauper becomes a sanctioned format, I will continue to care about cards like Rancor and *spoiler* Doom Blade, because it would be dumb for me to ignore them.
Angelic Wall – SUP
Reprint that already sees zero play.
Auramancer – BUP
Most enchantments don’t hit the graveyard ever, and the good one (Rancor) knows how to return to hand on it’s own most of the time. This could get back Dead Weight or an Oblivion Ring that has been destroyed, but other than that I don’t see why you would want a Gray Ogre with marginal potential for upside.
Capashen Knight – SUP
No one has enough mana to let this knight attack or block profitably. Ain’t no one got time for dat!
Celestial Flare – BP
There aren’t many utility creatures in the format, so that bodes well for this card. A fine addition to a white deck that eschews playing red removal that is looking for a way to interact with things like an all-in Nivix Cyclops. Still not a proactive card, meaning your opponent can play around it if you telegraph it, so effective use of it could be limited.
Charging Griffin – SUP
Does not fly past Seraph of Dawn while costing just as much mana = does not get played.
Congregate – BP
Originally a common printed in Urza’s Saga, this card is a potentially a huge amount of life gain for only a 4-mana investment. Situational, but potential to breath a lot of life back into the party.
Dawnstrike Paladin – P
While this 5-drop will see better days in draft, it’s obviously a sick Rancor and Ethereal Armor target. With the rotation of Sentinel Spider I can see this card taking a similar role. Gaining lifelink over reach helps race, but if they have ground blockers while they are bashing you in the air then this is much worse than it’s green, spidery version.
Divine Favor – SUP
Do me a favor and divine not to play this card, even if a deity asks you to.
Fortify – BA
Another 2-power pump crusade that has added utility to save your token army from Electrickery and Shrivel, too? Sign me up – this card is bonkers for swarm decks. On par and often better than Dynacharge, and it gives Righteous Charge some redundancy.
Griffin Sentinel – SUP
Doesn’t hit hard enough. Vigilance let’s it block only 2 power flyers in addition to attacking, which isn’t likely to be remotely close to good enough.
Hive Stirrings – SUP
If you wanted to play slivers, you will need to do so in another format. There is little incentive to play them with only commons available. For instance, this card is much worse than Gather the Townsfolk. The Sliver legion didn’t even get Gemhide Sliver back, and I can’t even play the uncommon shifted one because of the name-change technically (which is also why Flames of the Firebrand is not legal despite it being a functional reprint of Arc Lightning – a common).
Master of Diversion – P
This is what Hazda Snare Guard was trying to be. This decoy hits for 2 instead of 1, requires no mana activation cost, and only loses out on 2 points of toughness. If they can’t block, you don’t need the additional toughness anyway. This competes with Court Street Denizen, which has more blowout potential with tokens but this Diversion is a sure thing, whereas the Court can fail to deliver the goods without subsequent white creatures.
Pacifism – BP
Ghostly Flicker still exists, and so do bounce spells and Mist Raven. Then again, I think this is an elegant answer to Nivix Cyclops right now as well as Seraph of Dawn in Selesnya or Boros decks. I tend to like Oblivion Ring more for this effect, when you’re not playing on MTGO of course.
Pay No Heed – SUP
Pay no attention to this card, it’s effect is so narrow you heed a microscope to see what it does.
Sentinel Sliver – SUP
The effect is just not relevant because the tribe is weak, just my two sents.
Show of Valor – SUP
Show me the unplayable reprint.
Siege Mastadon – SUP
More unplayable reprints. Didn’t think it could be worse than Nav-Squad Commandos, but Siege Daddy is the original Thraben Purebloods.
Solemn Offering – BUP
Great potential sideboard card, but without many relevant artifacts in the format, you most likely would rather have Ray of Revelation to deal with troublesome enchantments.
Soulmender – SUP
Any lifegain combos out there? No.
Suntail Hawk – SUP
Outclassed by everything.
Archaeomancer – BA
The most interesting man in the format – the man, the myth, the legend. He is back again to promote the only viable version of control this format has seen. If you like control, consider auto-including him as a 4-of in your build. Nothing else out there gets as much value as much as him. You’ve got a question? I’ve got a ‘mancer! Value-squire, that is!
Armored Cancrix – SUP
You can try to teach an old dog new crix, but an Armored Cancrix is a crab – so a dog with armor is like a furry crab. Whatever, don’t play this.
Cancel – BP
I like that Cancel has the potential to be Counterspell with Goblin Electromancer, so I recently have been trying it as a 2-of in my Izzet Aggro/Control deck. I think it’s better than Syncopate, but I still prefer to have the combo of 4x Essence Scatter and 4x Negate over it.
Claustrophobia – BUP
Reprint – a color-intensive, unreliable answer to a creature. Leaving creatures in play with enchantment removal on them is like locking a convict in a jail cell but having the guard take a nap with the keys exposed on his belt-loop just outside the bars.
Coral Merfolk – SUP
Gosh, core-al sets print some weak cards in the name of dumbing the game down to the mer-masses.
Disperse – BUP
An Unsummon that hits artifacts or enchantments is interesting. You can Disperse your own Oblivion Ring with the trigger on the stack to exile something permanently, and then have the opportunity to cast O-Ring again. Other than that, just play Unsummon instead.
Divination – BUP
Has been in the format the past season and I haven’t seen it played ever. Pilfered Plans at least lets you get some incidental mill action going. I prefer Amass the Components, Think Twice, and Prophetic Prism for card draw over Divination right now.
Essence Scatter – P
One of the better removal spells in the format. Stops enter the battlefield effects like the Gatekeepers and when people play around it by holding their better creatures it doesn’t matter. Just ignore creatures that you can kill with removal or trump with your creatures and save the counters for their best creatures.
Frost Breath – SUP
If you think there’s a frosty the snowball’s chance in hell that this get’s played, don’t hold your breath.
Merfolk Spy – BUP
A potential sideboard card if your opponent has islands and no removal? The clock and random info on this Spy is so marginal that I doubt he will be worth it. If the reveal was equal to the amount of damage he dealt it would be more interesting.
Messenger Drake – BP
Runewing 2.0 that is. A relevant size for a flyer, but pretty cost prohibitive, and with only 3 toughness he dies to a lot of red removal and trades with most flyers. He basically always cycles after trading with a spell, which I hope you get the message, is a good thing.
Negate – P
Great reprint, love having ways to interact with powerful spells.
Nephalia Seakite – BUP
Reprint of a bird that hasn’t seen play except for maybe a Flash/Evolve Bant deck. Lacks the necessary 4 toughness to be a house.
Scroll Thief – BUP
Has been in the format the past season – hasn’t seen much play. I want to include it in my aggro/control lists, but it’s just too easy to blank with multiple 2 toughness creatures. It plays well with Hands of Binding, but one damage and one card per turn isn’t stealing games very often.
Seacoast Drake – SUP
Color-shifted Concordia Pegasus is a nice wall in the air, but 4 toughness is the key to a strong defense – and this Drake has no offense to brag about.
Sensory Deprivation – SUP
A decent answer to early aggro, but there are so many better answers out there. Maybe in you’re mono blue and need to interact? Nah, let’s come to our senses now.
Spell Blast – SUP
Originally a common in Tempest, this card is always a bad deal for you in terms of mana wars since you will always be paying more for the counter than the opponent did for the spell. You might as well blast this spell way off your radar of what a playable counterspell looks like.
Time Ebb – BP
I like the tempo against decks that are tapping out for large or defensive creatures, but many have powerful enter the battlefield effects, so why not just play removal or counterspells instead?
Tomb Scour – BUP
This draft dreg ports directly into the dedicated Dimir mill deck. 4x Tomb Scour is 1/3 of a deck, which is still pretty bad. I like Curse of the Blood Tome to get more than 5 cards if it sees play for just 3 turns.
Trained Condor – SUP
Too small to attack favorably past much of anything, dies to everything, hard to use bonus: this bird needs more training if it wants to level up and join the big leagues.
Zephyr Charge – BUP
I hate cards that do nothing by themselves. That said, making any guy able to jump is particularly powerful on both offense and defense. We haven’t seen a card like this recently, so I’m interested to see if it has much of an effect.
Accursed Spirit – SUP
This apparition is cursed from ever being cast in this format – too easy to kill and really only wants to be aggressive since it can’t block and live to tell the tale often. Four-drops as wincons need to be more resilient to removal, an X/2 is cursed to ride the pine.
Altar’s Reap – BUP
Reprint. Saw marginal play in BW Tokens. The card is situational but helps create card advantage and can activate Morbid for Tragic Slip and can provide a sac outlet for Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers or Act of Treason. It’s still too erratic for my tastes.
Blood Bairn – BUP
I’ve tested Falkenrath Torturer and Bloodflow Connoisseur and this guy fits the same bill. He’s a better sac target for Fling, but without a source of recurring creatures, his power to get big isn’t going to be worth saccing your team much.
Child of Night – SUP
Tithe Drinker is so much better, mana requirements aside. Creatures with lifelink are good, but he requires Rancor, Ethereal Armor or Spectral Flight to bash through any measly defense. I’d rather be enchanting a hexproof creature.
Corpse Hauler – SUP
Unfortunately for this Gravedigger, damage does not stack, so he is unlikely to get a 2 for 1. If a 2/1 for 2 mana was relevant, maybe I would consider playing him, but the Coral Merfolk of the world get outclassed too easily.
Dark Favor – SUP
While this is a beating on a hexproof or lifelink creature, I’m not sure you’re favored when you open yourself up to 2 for 1s or just play bad cards in general in this format.
Deathgaze Cockatrice – BUP
This can kill anything is comes in contact with, which makes it a reasonable defensive creature against Seraph of Dawn. It doesn’t really compare to it though, because with the same cost, it’s just an over-costed Wind Drake when it can’t trade with a better creature, which is obviously horrible. X/2s are worse with Shock entering the format, too.
Doom Blade – P
Here’s an interesting card. Originally printed at common, Doom Blade is likely to see play at the ChannelFireball Game Center based on their rules that allowing these cards to be played. The MTGO PDCmagic crew won’t allow it. Until the format is sanctioned and the rules are regulated, this will see play where it is allowed to. Doom Blade is more flexible than Victim of Night mana-wise and can hit things like Stitched Drake. It functions on a different level than Devour Flesh, which is needed to kill hexproof beasts, but in most scenarios the targetability feature is the stone blade.
Duress – BUP
Pretty horrible sideboard card, since most decks with spells have ones with flashback or they can get them back with Archaeomancer anyway.
Festering Newt – SUP
The slimy salamander would be so good if only it’s maker, Bogbrew Witch, was also a common, right? Actually, even if the whole cycle of flavor (including Bubbling Cauldron) was common, I’m pretty certain they wouldn’t be powerful enough to see play.
Liturgy of Blood – SUP
This card might have a chance at instant speed, but at sorcery speed, and 5 mana, it’s just too bloody slow to effect the game often enough. No way this would see play over Murder.
Mark of the Vampire – P
A niche card used in conjunction with Hexproof creatures and other auras like Rancor and Ethereal Armor. Allows you to actually race aggro decks. Checkmark in the playable column.
Mind Rot – SUP
My brain hurts trying to think of a situation where I would want this card. A virtual blank against aggro and it likely rots in your hand as the control decks are unlikely to be down to 2 cards often. Even if they do and you snag the last two – the format doesn’t have cards that are so busted they need to be proactively dealt with before the opponent even taps mana to invest in them. The top of their deck is just as dangerous as cards in hand, since the power of each card is so close throughout a deck.
Minotaur Abomination – SUP
6-mana is a lot for an Armored Wolf-Rider.
Nightwing Shade – SUP
5-mana is a lot for a Wind Drake shade.
Quag Sickness – BUP
Totally playable in a mono-swamp manabase, but creatures are easy to recur these days, so I like Oblivion Ring more. Most instant speed removal is better so you can avoid getting blown out by Ghostly Flicker. And there is no little incentive to play mono-black. A decent target for Auramancer, too.
Shadowborn Apostle – SUP
Unfortunately, there isn’t a demon in the format worth six of these innocent souls.
Shrivel – P
Finally something other than just Electrickery to take care of multiple X/1s. The utility to attack and play this post combat to finish off the opposing blockers is offset by the fact that most times your own guys that were blocked would hit the bin as well. Still worth a sideboard slot in non-red decks against tokens.
Undead Minotaur – SUP
Vanilla blah blah weak sauce.
Vile Rebirth – SUP
See Cremate and Beckon Apparition.
Wring Flesh – SUP
Could be better than Tragic Slip, but not often, and without the Terminate potential you would really have to twist my arm to get me to play this.
Academy Raider – SUP
Compare this to Looter-il-Kor – it’s worse in every case. Costs one more mana, has a worse form of evasion, and red ‘pirate’ looting requires a card in hand to be discarded first. While this is not even a fair comparison, this card is just garbage. If you want this effect you can play Rummaging Goblin instead, and I don’t think anyone in the right mind did that before it rotated.
Act of Treason – BUP
I guess you could sideboard it in an aggro mirror, but not many creatures are big enough to warrant it’s inclusion because you are relying on the opponent to play something worth targeting.
Blur Sliver – SUP
Is sliver beatdown a thing? How many colors does it require? Anything more than 2 is sketchy without Gemhide Sliver in the mix.
Canyon Minotaur – SUP
I forgot how much vanilla poop gets printed in core sets. Hill Giant represent.
Chandra’s Outrage – P
This is an awesome removal spell for aggro decks. It deals with Seraph of Dawn and any Gatekeeper and shocks the opponent for added value. Compare this with Punish the enemy and you better recognize how awesome this is. Red decks used to be outraged when the opponent resolved and X/4, now they will burn like an ant under a magnifying glass.
Cyclops Tyrant – SUP
If I told you to play this card I would get banished from playing standard pauper. I’m not sure who the standard pauper tyrant is, but he’s out there, and he would banish me.
Demolish – SUP
Without relevant artifacts to kill and a lack of fast aggro decks to punish mana-screwed opponents, I suggest you rid yourself the thought of playing this.
Dragon Hatchling – SUP
The Mother of Dragons thinks that the hatchlings need time to grow before they are ready for battle. Hopefully GoT Season 4 will have some dragon battles.
Goblin Shortcutter – SUP
This doesn’t compare to other aggressive 2-drops, and gets blanked easily by Fervant Cathar because of it’s ‘surprise factor’. You could play Azorious Arrester for a nearly identical but better effect, too.
Lava Axe – BUP
Maybe there’s enough burn to make the full deck, but I still see too much incidental lifegain in the format to combat aggro decks that severely axes this archetype into the ‘too risky’ category. If you want this effect you can try Explosive Impact instead.
Lightning Talons – SUP
I don’t like getting 2 for 1’d even even it means I manage to get a Lava Spike in (see Madcap Skills). Other than that it can still be chump blocked and bounced. Might be OK on a Seraph to attack for massive life swings? Those would be some large talons.
Maurauding Maulhorn – BP
Shoutout to Advocate of the Beast. Always attacking is a big drawback but his size is relevant. If you are able to top the curve with him and are already in an offensive position then I like what he can do – attacks past a lot of blockers and requires an answer before things get out of control. Growing +1/+1 every turn as a beast in a Gruul deck with Advocate of the Beast is great at breaking creature mirrors and board stalls when the opponent doesn’t have black-based removal.
Pitchburn Devils – SUP
Reprint – never saw play.
Regathan Firecat – BUP
I like the 4-power for 3 mana a lot. The downside of trading with any 1-power creature or removal spell takes it off my radar, but he’s still a scary cat.
Seismic Stomp – BUP
Maybe you want falter in your sideboard? Not the worst at getting a Nivix Cyclops past blockers.
Shock – P
I’ve been running Pillar of Flame in all my lists with red and touting it as one of the best removal spells in the format, mainly because the exile clause is relevant, but also because killing an X/2 for one mana is crucial, otherwise you fall behind in the game rather quickly. If I replaced it with Shock I would still use it to kill a turn 1 Delver of Secrets just like I would a Pillar of Flame, but the added flexibility of killing things on not my turn is pretty huge. Sure things like Gravepurge, Haunted Fengraf, and Stitched Drake get turned on, but I’d be willing to try Shock and see if it presents enough of an upside. Situations where Pillar of Flame is stuck in hand against an X/4 is miserable.
Smelt – SUP
All the Shatter for 50% the cost. If only there were relevant targets.
Striking Sliver – SUP
Now they can’t be dealt with in combat very well. Unless this one dies mid-combat – that’d be awkward. To think about it, any sliver dying mid-combat is such a blowout.
Thunder Strike – SUP
Doesn’t save your creature from removal, just from trading in combat. The potential for 2 extra damage isn’t worth it.
Wild Guess – SUP
Advocate of the Beast – BP
Combo list of beasts: Maurauding Maulhorn, Rumbling Baloth, Adaptive Snapjaw, Batterhorn, Battering Krasis, Ember Beast, Hollowhenge Beast, Primal Huntbeast, Slaughterhorn, Tenement Crasher, Towering Indrik.
He’s not that good by himself – and not many of these creatures are playable. Weak combo that can take over a game if it goes unanswered for multiple turns.
Brindle Boar – SUP
There are better ways to gain life – see Centaur Healer and Saruli Gatekeepers.
Deadly Recluse – SUP
Reprint – too easy to kill and while the deathtouch/reach combo can halt many an attacker, it can’t beat removal or first strike.
Elvish Mystic – P
Upgrade from Arbor Elf, since this can make green mana even if you don’t have a forest, like if you have a Selesnya Guildgate and 2 Plains in play, and you would really like to play a 4-drop, like Rumbling Baloth, on turn 3.
Fog – BUP
Sideboard for green-based control against aggro. Not very good, but it has the potential to lock a creature deck out of the game with Flickermancy.
Giant Growth – BP
Reprint from Return to Ravnica. Green-based aggro isn’t very good so I haven’t seen this card much. Busted with Rancor and creatures trading in combat, but not doing anything against black removal and Pacifism effects makes Ranger’s Guile my choice over this. Slaughterhorn is also a better option in most cases.
Giant Spider – BUP
Towering Indrik has been around and it sees no play. There are better defensive options out there against flyers, but this one stops every flyer in it’s tracks. That’s because there aren’t any 4-power flyers. Removal, enchantments, and other tricks will keep the Spider in check. If this was Penumbra Spider then I’d be singing a different tune (would be one of the better creatures in the format).
Gladecover Scout – P
A cheap hexproof creature was missing from the format. The clock on the Junk or Selesnya deck just picked up the pace. This allows the deck to make use of it’s enchantments like Ethereal Armor and Rancor much earlier, since waiting to hit a 4 or 5 drop would sometimes be too late in some match-ups.
Groundshaker Sliver – SUP
I know this analysis isn’t earth-shattering, but this is way too expensive for a sliver deck to care about.
Hunt the Weak – SUP
Costs too much, but might be worth considering if it was an instant. As is, it leads to too many 2 for 1’s and requiring a sizable creature in play beforehand is asking a lot.
Lay of the Land – SUP
Caravan Vigil exists and doesn’t see play. Get your fixing without spending cards, with Evolving Wilds, Guildgates, Abundant Growth, or Prophetic Prism.
Naturalize – BP
Reprint – Not usually necessary, see Ray of Revelation.
Plummet – BUP
Reprint – too narrow.
Predatory Sliver – SUP
This is the most important sliver. The anthem effect is more relevant as the slivers amass the numbers to swarm. It’s too bad there isn’t a repeatable sliver token generator.
Ranger’s Guile – BUP
A nice counterspell against removal and triggered abilities that would be removal, the range of this card is from strong sideboard card to don’t bother.
Rootwalla – SUP
Beetleform Mage blows this out in terms of playability. Without evasion, this doesn’t have much going on for it.
Rumbling Baloth – P
This is an all-upside Ogre Jailbreaker. Ramp him out early and he brings the beats. He grows with Advocate of the Beast and is a must-answer threat.
Sporemound – BP
If only there were lands that you could repeatedly bounce. Even then, this just isn’t efficient enough at churning out tokens when less expensive options like Captain’s Call exist. If you’re a sap for free 1/1s, have at it.
Trollhide – BP
Slipping this on a creature at a safe time could mean serious trouble for decks looking to use black and red removal to deal with your threats. Not a necessary enchantment for the Hexproof deck, since it can’t save it from being sac’d to a Devour Flesh, but the regen clause is a potential game-changer.
Verdant Haven – BUP
Without any ‘X-spells’ at common and real incentives to ramp, I don’t see a reason to play this card, but I haven’t explored all the possibilities yet.
Cards with more than one color are apparently too complicated for Core Sets.
Accorder’s Shield – SUP
According to the surgeon general, you might be auto-mulliganing if you play this card.
Darksteel Ingot – BUP
Ramp + Fixing that can’t be messed with. Sign me up for this if your deck wants to go deep. Not sure if this is better than Verdant Haven, but it probably is since it doesn’t require green, so something like Grixis Control could use it. I just think it will end up being a blank a lot of the time when Prophetic Prism is what you’re looking for. Fix + cycle > fix + ramp.
Sliver Construct – SUP
Filler for Sliver decks, not worth it’s weight in Sliver.
Shimmering Grotto – SUP
Someone might play some number of these with an already ambitious mana-base, and they will be wrong to do so.
The Most Hight Impact Additions to the Format
Top 5 Spells
Honorable Mention: Time Ebb
2) Chandra’s Outrage
1) Doom Blade
Top 5 Creatures
Honorable Mentions: Maurauding Maulhorn + Messenger Drake + Dawnstrike Paladin
5) Master of Diversion
4) Gladecover Scout
3) Rumbling Baloth
2) Elvish Mystic
Dr. Chris Baker, D.C. | Sports Chiropractor
ChannelFireball Team Chiropractor