Core sets are always kind of odd when it comes to reviews. Most of the commons and uncommons are awkward at best and intended for drafting or introducing new players to core concepts, while the rares range unplayable to niche. Occasionally you’ll get a card that does something truly unique though and that’s what these reviews are all about.
With over half the set being reprints, the Magic 2013 Casual and Commander Review will only cover brand new cards. And I’m going to comment on every single one of them. I’m really glad they cut down on vanilla creatures. As always, the biggest rule about reviewing sets like these for the kitchen table is that there is never a card that is truly unplayable – just very, very close.
Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Planeswalkers are always interesting in casual but more often then not, they are quickly killed off. But this version of Ajani lands quickly and works in a variety of decks. His first ability, while awkwardly worded, can work well in group hug style decks as he can pump any creature (or none at all).
His second ability is less useful thanks to the sorcery timing requirement, but on the offensive the combination of evasion and double strike makes for a terrifying beast in the air. But the fact that it costs -3 makes me wary. Finally there is the ultimate which evokes his original ultimate nicely. Getting an army with power double your own life just four turns after Ajani resolves can quickly end games. Plus the fact that he essentially starts the game at 5 loyalty means he will be a challenge to kill.
White Weenie usually doesn’t have enough staying power to control the kitchen table past turn three and Ajani’s Sunstriker doesn’t do enough. The biggest issue is the simple fact that this 2/2 for WW only has one ability – it’s just a worst version of Knight of Meadowgrain. If you’re putting together some weird cat-cleric tribal deck, this could work to lower your curve, but otherwise it falls into the strictly worse pile.
I’m really liking the inclusion of token generation attached to creatures in White. Avacyn Restored showed it off some, but getting three power for 3 mana in white is a solid deal. This card isn’t absurdly amazing, but it does have some major value.
At five mana, this is way too expensive for my tastes, but the card really shines when combined with flickering effects. Then again, if you’re looking at abusing enter the battlefield triggers, there are much better triggers.
Three 1/1s for 4 mana isn’t terrible (and I’m sure Bruce will be considering this for his Polymorph–Emrakul deck), but when it comes to token generating, I would prefer Timely Reinforcements most of the time.
Crusader of Odric
This is the kind of card for kitchen tables! I’ve loved Heedless One and its kin for years, so getting an all-purpose white one is a nice touch but when was the last time anyone dropped Scion of the Wild? While it isn’t Keldon Warlord, this is a great way to give white weenie some extra push midgame.
Enduring Renewal decks were always frustrating to play against, but I’m happy to see another Second Sunrise. The fact that it grabs Planeswalkers is a nice bonus (and really makes me wonder why Second Sunrise didn’t just say “permanents”). Even better though is the fact that Faith’s Reward only works for you! While I don’t see an Eggs deck taking over the kitchen table, this card can be great for countering sweepers – or to be played alongside your own.
This is a fascinating common to me that plays so well with exalted! The gradual pump from casting creatures means anyone with flash is much more exciting. Plus being a griffin means it is one of those creature types that has an odd amount of support.
Healer of the Pride
The four casting cost is what kills this. Well, that and the fact that it just isn’t good enough. Soul’s Attendant and Soul Warden are the gold standards for life gaining creatures and Healer of the Pride just doesn’t do enough to really make it work. I imagine this is Wizards way of removing those kind of abilities from the game, but at the kitchen table they are never going away.
Knight of Glory
The newest addition to the Black-White Knight battle, Knight of Glory is an interesting take. While he breaks the double color casting cost rule, the fact of the matter is this is a 3/2 when attacking for only two mana! Later game, he has no trouble standing back as a blocker and pumping someone else. Based on what Magic 2013 is saying, it definitely looks like White Weenie could become a real kitchen table possibility.
Odric, Master Tactician
This card should really be named “Sorry we screwed up Gerrard Capashen all those years ago, here’s a new version.”
Odric is a great opportunity as a commander. His absurdly worded ability that blows banding out of the water allows him to essentially be unblockable, ensuring you will be dealing commander damage. Toss in some equipment and a handful of other creatures, and you’ve got a decent deck. It does require you to swing with 4 creatures but knowing none of them will die in combat makes that a lot easier to swallow. Just make sure you cast Serra’s Blessing to keep your guys vigilant.
The first part of the cycle inspired by Kird Ape and Sedge Troll, Prized Elephant makes me rather giddy. Hedge Troll has been a favorite of mine for years, so seeing that kind of card expanded upon makes me happy. A 4/4 for 4 isn’t terribly exciting though, even if it can gain trample. While not a terrible card, if I’m playing white-green, there are stronger options.
Boon Reflection is a fun card, but kind of weird. For commander bent on gaining life, this does offer a second way to double life gain. Tossing it onto a creature isn’t always the best, but it does make it a turn cheaper (and drastically changes how you tutor for it). For very specific commander players, I can see this being a welcome addition.
Show of Valor
I guess Spidery Grasp was too good? I don’t see why I would ever be running this.
Holy crap this is good. Angels are already hugely popular thanks to Kaalia, but giving exalted to all your creatures (an ability that stacks) makes this truly insane. On her own, she’s a 5/4 flier for only four mana – Blastoderm wasn’t even that good! But if you have any other creatures out, she will decimate opponents in single strokes. I don’t understand how a card can be this good!
Touch of the Eternal
Two cards in Magic require you to count: this and Chaos Moon. I’m not sure why this one is worded so awkwardly. But at 7 mana, I feel this is just way too expensive. Am I missing something? If I am, let me know.
I see War Falcon really working in bird themed decks. After all, there are 40 different bird soldiers (and a handful of Bird Knights when you count changelings). Being a Savannah Lions in the air makes this card very interesting, but the amount of work required to make it work means this will probably be left behind rather quickly.
So Tundra Wolves is now a dog? Alright.
The rest of the set are reprints, but a handful of them look interesting. Intrepid Hero allows better battlefield control against absurdly large monsters (or just artificially pump creatures to kill them). Oblivion Ring is the staple of white removal and white infinite loops. Planar Cleansing is a fine reset button that won’t win you many friends. Serra Avatar is an unexpected surprise along with Serra Avenger (who is begging to be cascaded into).
Top 5 Magic 2013 White Cards for Casual & Commander
5. Faith’s Reward
4. Rhox Faithmender
3. Odric, Master Tactician
2. Ajani, Caller of the Pride
1. Sublime Angel
I feel bad picking only rares and mythics for the best cards, but the fact of the matter is there isn’t a whole lot being offered for white in Magic 2013. But man, those rares and mythics are quite impressive.