Oath of the Gatewatch Limited Review: Blue

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Posted January 15, 2016 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Nerdy Bits

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10.0: A card that earns a ten is unbeatable, or close to it. In a well designed set, there won’t be any cards that warrant this score, as they “break” the format.

9.0-9.9: These are bombs. If you see one, you’re going to take it, and you’re probably going to splash for it, mana costs be damned.

8.0-8.9: This range is for exceptional cards. You won’t go out of your way to play them, but they offer great value. Efficient removal spells end up in this range.

7.0-7.9: Cards that fall here are the upper band of playables – that is to say, above replacement level, but not necessarily exciting (some could be, I guess).

6.0-6.9: This is probably the most common score. These cards aren’t great, but they make up the majority of Limited decks.

5.0-5.9: These are cards you’ll end up playing, but are below replacement level. You may be disappointed running these in the main deck, but you could be doing worse.

4.0-4.9: This batch of cards are those that you should be avoiding. You’ll occasionally be forced into a scenario where you have to play one, but you will be actively unhappy.

3.0-3.9: When an opponent plays cards with this score, I’ll actually be pretty happy.  

2.0-2.9: … what are you even doing at this point?

1.0-1.9: If these cards are in your deck, your deck is a disaster. Something went very, very wrong along the way.

0.0-0.9: These cards should be burned in a dumpster fire, probably along with their designers. Just kidding, we love you WotC employees.

Mythic Rare

Sphinx of the Final Word

Sphinx of the Final Word

A 5/5 Hexproof flier for seven mana is actually not absolute worst card. Sphinx of the Final Word ends up actually being playable, but it’s not optimal. Seven mana is a lot, even for an evasive threat that is difficult to remove. The Sphinx does get a slight bump because, unlike in many Limited formats, it’s two other abilities will actually have some relevance. There is only one pack of BfZ, but Spell Shrivel will still be playable, and I actually rather like Dispel in this format, so Sphinx gets better.

Score: 7.5

Crush of Tentacles

Crush of Tentacles

Normally, Crush of Tentacles is just going to be Ok. In a post-Cylonic Rift world, Sorcery speed mass-bounce spells just don’t cut it. This card gives your opponent the opportunity to rebuild first, and if your argument is that “well I just won’t play anything” then I have some fingers for you. Now, in a 2HG format, which Oath is, Crush gets a lot better. All of the sudden you get the first chance to rebuild – your team mate could begin recasting permanents after Crush resolves. Even barring this, you’re paying five mana for an 8/8 in addition for giving your opponents a massive setback, so Crush does get bonus points for getting so much better in 2HG.

Score: 7.0

Rare

Deepfathom Skulker

Deepfathom Skulker

I’m going to pretend that Deepfathom Skulker’s activated ability doesn’t exist for a minute. A six mana 4/4 is underwhelming, but on its own it can still draw cards by hitting opponents, and it gives this ability to your entire team. That’s already pretty good – it’s a Bident of Thassa with a 4/4 body. Now let’s factor in its activated ability. Now it’s REALLY a Bident of Thassa with a 4/4 body. Sure, it requires colorless mana, but this effect really justifies having a few sources in your deck. You can beat down and just keep getting more and more gas.

Score: 8.0

Dimensional Infiltrator

Dimensional Infiltratoer

2/1 for two, Flying, Flash, evades removal. Huh. Dimensional Infiltrator is actually pretty good. I will admit that it’s odd in a Rare slot, since it feels more like an Uncommon, but eh, it’s still a good card. The activated ability is especially powerful. Not only does it Exile from your opponent’s library to enable Ingest, it can also save the Infiltrator. The bounce clause is a “may” ability, so you can just Exile cards off your opponent’s deck without having to worry about recasting this guy. All that said, it’s kind of lame in the mid to late game. It doesn’t match up well against bigger threats, and if you draw it off the top on turn six or so it’s pretty miserable.

Score: 7.0

Hedron Alignment

Hedron Alignment

For as much as I love alternate win conditions, they generally won’t shine in Limited, and HEdron Alignment is no exception. It’s a cool card, to be sure, but it’s also a Rare, and you need four copies. Now, that’s not impossible – in an 8-man draft, there are 24 packs opened, so there’s a slight chance you could get four of them. But even if you do, how are you going to get it into the graveyard or in exile? The card has Hexproof, after all, so what, you hope someone targets you with discard or hits one off of Ingest? Those are not good odds.

Score: 2.0

Oath of Jace

Oath of Jace

Oath of Jace is hot trash in Limited. Three mana to draw three and discard two at Sorcery speed is barely Ok – not only does it have zero impact on the board, it’s just not all that powerful in general. Being able to Scry a bunch would be nice, but realistically, how many Planeswalkers will you have in Limited? One? Two, if you get really lucky? This is an exceptionally low pick, and you’re probably never going to play it any Limited deck.

Score: 2.0

Overwhelming Denial

Overwhelming Denial

In any other Limited format, I would completely write off Overwhelming Denial. I’m tempted to do the same here. However, that simply isn’t fair, as we’ve already seen that countermagic is decent in this format (see: Spell Shrivel). Now, I don’t think Overwhelming Denial is quite that good. The uncounterable clause is largely irrelevant, and doesn’t justify the additional Blue mana. Furthermore, it doesn’t exile the spell it counters – which is part of what made Spell Shrivel playable. In most scenarios, the Surge ability would also be useless, so don’t have delusions of casting strictly better Counterspell in OGW/BfZ Limited.

Score: 5.0

Uncommon

Cyclone Sire

Cyclone Sire

Cyclone Sire is really good. A 3/4 for five, even with Flying, may be a bit below expectations for an Uncommon, but it’s not really too far behind curve. It can attack and block well, and when it dies, it replaces itself, which is great. It doesn’t draw a card, no, instead, it just gives you a 3/3 with Haste (though that may not necessarily be relevant). That’s a lot of value for five mana. Not quite Thragtusk levels of value, of course, but considering this is an Uncommon, what you’re getting for your mana is great.

Score: 7.8

Gift of Tusks

Gift of Tusks

Gift of Tusks is an odd effect, and one that seems to have become mandatory in every set. The thing is, I don’t think it’s particularly good. There will be times when it works as a decent combat trick, and the fact that it only costs one mana certainly helps with that. With this card, it is important to note that it can hit the opponent’s creatures as well, turning a chump block into a trade (but that’s still a 2-for-1). The ceiling and floor on Gift of Tusks aren’t that far apart, but that’s just a result of it having a fairly low ceiling and a floor that isn’t particularly high.

Score: 5.5

Grip of the Roil

Grip of the Roil

Remember Crippling Chill, that great card from Khans of Tarkir? And I say that unironically, that card was excellent. What if WotC printed a strictly better version? Oh, they did? Huh. So yeah, how about Grip of the Roil? Even without its Surge cost, this card would be playable (though it would probably be a Common). Two mana for this effect is quite insane, and three mana for it is good too, so most Blue decks will want 1-2 copies of this card, if only for the massive tempo swing that it can provide.

Score: 7.6

Prophet of Distortion

Prophet of distortion

Vanilla one mana 1/2’s aren’t good. That’s a well known rule in Limited. Occasionally, 1/2’s can be pretty good, thanks to a powerful activated ability. Being able to draw cards at Instant speed is something I would consider to be quite powerful, but not necessarily in Limited. Four mana is a bit high, and this particular Prophet is definitely below replacement level.

Score: 5.5

Roiling Waters

Roiling Waters

Roiling Waters definitely does a lot. Drawing two cards and bouncing two creatures is a massive tempo swing, and in terms of raw power level, Roiling Waters is quite high. That being said, seven mana is also quite high, so it’s hard to determine how potent this card is. It’s probably the type of card you’ll be happy to have one of at the top of your curve in a Blue deck. However, while the card is powerful, it gets worse the more copies of it that you have in your deck. Even one may not be great, but the format will likely continue to be slow, and there is some ramp that Blue has access to (more, depending on your second color) so you could be casting it earlier than turn seven.

Score: 6.0

Thought Harvester

Thought Harvester

Thought Harvester is a solid flier. The Exile clause isn’t great here, since processing isn’t going to be as common with only one pack of BfZ in the format. That being said, it’s upside, and can still enable some powerful effects, no doubt. It’s also a 2/4, which blocks quite well and when the time comes, isn’t the works attacker, especially since it has Flying. I doubt it will be a high pick, but it’s the type of card Blue decks will end up playing, and only somewhat begrudgingly.

Score: 6.2

Unity of Purpose

Unity of Purpose

“Eh” is pretty much all I have to say about Unity of Purpose. It doesn’t do all that much – it creates surprise blockers, I guess, but there are times when it’s just 100% dead, and even when it’s not, it doesn’t do quite enough to justify the times when it will be dead.

Score: 3.8

Void Shatter

Void Shatter

Dissipate on its own isn’t exactly great in Limited. It was decent in Innistrad Limited, because the format was slow and the Exile clause was relevant. The same is actually true here, and Void Shatter is better still because it has Devoid. A three mana, unconditional counterspell with upside is not quite as good as it is Constructed, but most Blue decks will be pretty happy with a singleton Void Shatter, even if it’s just out of the sideboard. It’s not a priority – counterspells never really are in Limited formats – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good, and Void Shatter is definitely good. It’s an above replacement level playable.

Score: 6.0

Common

Abstruse Interference

Abstrusive Interference

When did Force Spike justify three mana? Was it when they added a 1/1 Scion to it? Man, this card is just really, really bad. Counterspells already aren’t at their best in Limited, but an overcosted Force Spike with minimal upside? That really deserves to be tossed straight into the garbage.

Score: 0.0

Ancient Crab

Ancient Crab

A three mana 1/5 is shrug worthy. There’s not much to say about it – if you want to be defensive and keep your opponent from attacking profitably, it’s fine. Otherwise, you should avoid playing the card.

Score: 4.8

Blinding Drone

Binding Drone

Blinding Drone is actually a solid tapper. It has a decent body for two mana (a 1/3 isn’t great but it’s nothing to complain about), and the tap ability costs only one mana and a tap. Now, that one mana does need to be Colorless, but most decks in the format are probably splashing Colorless mana sources anyways. This obviously isn’t the best uses of those sources, but I predict that it will be pretty good, and the Drone is one of the better Blue commons.

Score: 6.9

Cultivator Drone

Cultivator Drone

Cultivator Drone is a decent way to get access to Colorless mana. Not only does it provide a source of Colorless, but it also ramps you into bigger spells sooner. Now, it does come down on turn three, but that still allows you to cast four, five, and six drops a turn earlier, which is fine. Plus, it has a reasonable body at three mana, so when it’s not producing Colorless, it can attack and block just fine. Now, the big drawback is that it can only be used on Colorless spells and activated abilities. However, there are enough devoid cards in the format that this isn’t a huge limitation. Of course, there are some decks where it’s just going to be a random 2/3, and that isn’t great. But in those decks, you’re not going to prioritize Cultivator Drone anyways, so it’s doubtful you’ll have to worry about that particular scenario.

Score: 6.8

Comparative Analysis

Comp Anal

Instant speed Divination is great, especially in a format like this one. Hell, a functional reprint of Inspiration/Weave Fate is perfectly acceptable. Neither scenario is mindblowingly powerful, but both are good, and so Comparative Analysis becomes a fine pick up.

Score: 6.6

Containment Membrane

Containment Membrane

Containment Membrane is obviously quite efficient if you can enable Surge. Even if you don’t, three mana for this effect is far from bad. It’s certainly no Claustrophobia, but as soon as a creature attacks you, it has a similar effect. It does mean you may need to take a hit, which is unfortunate, but in most scenarios you’ll just be able to lock down the creature and move on with the game. It’s not great, but it’s pseudo-removal and that makes it pretty playable.

Score: 6.3

Gravity Negator

Gravity Negator

Gravity Negator is surprisingly good, for a Common. A 2/3 flier for four is below curve (usually you’d want a 3/3 or 3/2 for that cost), but it does have upside. It launches other Creatures into the air, so it can, in theory, give your whole team evasion. Of course, it costs a Colorless mana each time the ability is activated, but there will come a stage in the game where that’s perfectly fine. Even early on, it can help to sneak in damage or finish off an opponent after a particularly aggressive start.

Score: 6.7

Jwar Isle Avenger

Jwar Isle Avenger

A 3/3 flier for five is a rate that we’re pretty used to getting from common Blue Creatures. It’s obviously a bit under the curve, but it’s still three power in the air, so it’s definitely a worthy pick up. Not an early pick, to be sure, but something most Blue decks will be pleased to have one or two of. Now, if you can trigger Surge, this card suddenly becomes very, very good. You may still be casting it on turn five, but it won’t be the only thing you’re spending mana on, so it’s still a significant improvement. How often you’ll trigger Surge, I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem impossible at all.

Score: 6.7

Negate

Negate

Ah, Negate. Negate is like an old friend to me. I see it fairly often, and I’m happy when I get to have it around. I’ve known it forever, so it’s not super flashy or anything, and I know exactly what to expect. Sometimes it’s better than others, but at the end of the day, it’s always worth keeping around. Negate may be slightly better in this format than others, but it will usually hit something, so I’m in the camp of mainboarding a copy of the card.

Score: 6.0

Slip Through Space

Slip Through Space

Slip Through Space is mostly a Surge enabler. It’s a cheap way to allow you to cast haymakers for their Surge costs, and draws you into more gas along the way. On its own, Slip is obviously not very good – probably not even worth a card. However, with enough powerful Surge spells in your deck, it will probably become worth it to pick this card up and play it to enable some powerful effects for low costs.

Score: 5.3

Sweep Away

Sweep Away

Sweep Away is pretty good. A three mana Unsommon isn’t great, especially since it can only hit your opponent’s creatures.  However, being able to send a creature back to the top of your opponent’s library is actually pretty good, even at three mana. The days of Azorious Charm are clearly long gone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that less efficient versions just aren’t good.

Score: 6.8

Umara Entangler

Umara Entangler

Umara Entangler is surprisingly aggressive for a Blue Creature. A 2/1 for two passes the vanilla test (though an extra point of toughness would be kind of nice). On its own, however, you probably wouldn’t play this card in a Blue deck – it would just be kind of a random Creature. However, the fact that the Entangler has Prowess makes it significantly better. The card can put in some serious work, as it’s hard to attack into or block without worrying about any random Instant turning into a combat trick. Overall, Umara Entangler is a pretty good card.

Score: 6.5


About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.