Evaluating Cards





We've all done it. Reciprocate is going to make White Weenie a threat again. AEther Vial is a piece of junk. Eryao, Soratomi Ascendant is a combo waiting to happen. We've all been horribly, horribly wrong at times. This article is aimed to help remove (or lessen) those problems.

I'm going to come right out and say that if you're a dedicated and well-versed tournament player, you're not going to get a lot from this article. You may learn some things, but this article is aimed mostly towards the middle-ish players who can recognize good cards but not when to use them best or why they are good.

Evaluating cards, at least for me, is a step by step process. When I look at a card, I analyze it in this sequence:

Does this card have a valid purpose in your deck(or any deck)?

The first thing one must do when considering a card is find a reason to play the card. How will this card help your deck achieve its objectives? Why would you want to play this card? Matsu-Tribe Sniper, for example, is good at locking down fliers. Can you see a deck that would need that ability? If so, then the Sniper has a valid purpose. In general, if a card costs 6 or more mana, its effect should be directly related to you winning the game.

Ancestor's Chosen: This card is decent in combat and decent at gaining life, but not spectacular at either. When do you need a decent creature and life? When on the defensive. This card could have a use in a defensive deck.
Murmurs from Beyond: Murmurs from Beyond, unlike most draw spells, is not useful for putting the card that you want in your hand. Lacking that, what viable purpose does a draw spell have?
Pithing Needle: This card neutralizes certain other cards. But that's not a purpose unless the card you are neutralizing is very important to your opponent and/or very good at hurting your deck. If you often encounter decks containing these cards, Needle can be useful.

This card has a purpose.
This card has no purpose.

Does the card fill its purpose(s) effectively?

When you play a card, you want it to have a visible effect on the game. Drawing a weak card in a time of need is as bad or sometimes worse than drawing land. For example, playing a Benalish Hero after the second turn (or even at all) will rarely affect the game. Simply put, playing powerful cards will not ensure a powerful deck, but playing weak cards will almost always guarantee a weak deck.

Fist of Suns: Reducing the cost of a spell only to require a mana of every color does not do a great job of reducing the true cost of the spell. The fact that Fist is an artifact and could be gone at any moment only increases the risk involved in playing the card.
Leonin Elder: Gaining life is only effective when done in large amounts at a constant rate. Even if you and your opponent only drew and played artifacts, you'd only gain 2 life a turn, which offsets the damage caused by a Bear. That's just not very powerful.
Beserk Murlodont: What's the meaning of this ability? To make your Beasts better when blocked. How often do you think +1/+1 will make the difference when considering creatures as large as Beasts?

This card is effective.
This card is ineffective.

Does the card fill its purpose(s) efficiently?

Efficiency is what makes a Rorix Bladewing more deadly than a Dragon Tyrant or Erase better than Peace and Quiet. Determining exactly how much of an effect you need and not paying for anything "extra" will save you time and mana and make your deck more flexible overall.

Crimson Hellkite: This card doubles as creature removal and a win condition, but only one at a time. This is immediately a clue that the creature is inefficient, but the thing that drives it home is that any spell costing more than 5 should pretty much win you the game, and the extra cost for the extra ability takes away from
Hellkite's speed while barely improving it's ability to win you the game.
Disciple of the Vault: Of course, the efficiency of this card is entirely dependent upon how many artifacts you are going to lose when it is out. If the number is almost always greater than two you can justify playing this card but otherwise it's not worth it.
Emperor Crocodile: Emperor Croc's restriction means you can't play him alone. You have to keep your other creatures alive, meaning one probably has to sit out of combat. So you're getting a small boost over what you would normally get for :3mana::symg:, but you're also restricting when you can play Croc and what you can attack with.

This card is efficient.
This card is inefficient.

How often will I find this card subpar or unhelpful?

In other words: How often will I look at this card and wish that it was the card I had switched it out for? Although there are times when Shock is better than Seal of Fire, Seal is better in most situations. You want the card that is better most of the time rather than the card that is amazing only some of the time.

Rending Vines: Initially, Rending Vines seems a little better than Naturalize; for one more mana you get a card. However, Vines is at best only partially effective at fulfilling its main purpose (destroying an Artifact or Enchantment). Rending Vines' inconsistency and increased mana cost cause it to be less effective than Naturalize at doing what it needs to do most.
Doomed Necromancer: This card is a little more color-intensive than Zombify, but you get a 2/2 out of the deal and can pay the cost over two turns. However, in a situation where you need the creature immediately or your opponent is holding a Shock, this card is significantly worse. So you have to decide which situation is more common for you.
Sapphire Medallion: If you play on average one blue spell per untap step, this saves you 1 mana a turn; worse than a Talisman. If you play two or more blue spells per untap step, this saves you 2 mana a turn which is better than everything besides Sol Ring. So how many blue spells do you play a turn? (Not counting those not requiring colorless, of course)

This card is rarely subpar or unhelpful.
This card is often subpar and unhelpful.

How does this card work with other cards?

No matter how good a card is, it still needs to find a deck that it can fit into well with cards that do well alongside it. Wrath of God doesn't belong in White Weenie, and Ball Lightning doesn't belong in Welder. Being able to use the card to its full potential without taking too much from your deck can sometimes be tricky (or impossible, in the case of Chance Encounter).

Chalice of the Void: Chalice can only realistically counter cheap spells. Unfortunately Chalice counters your own spells, meaning you probably want to
cut down on cheap spells, meaning you probably shouldn't run accelerants which would help you cast expensive spells or a bigger Chalice. Now there's a catch-22.
Measure of Wickedness: Obviously a very dangerous card, but unless you can support its requirements it will damage you instead. Thus, playing this card requires you to play many cards that put cards in your graveyard for cheap, which resricts your deck design. It's a powerful card, but you will have to make concessions to be able to play it which may weaken your deck overall.
Endangered Armodon: Like Measure, Armodon requires you to build your deck in a certain way to use it. In this case, that means no Birds or Elves which could allow you to take advantage of its big size. Instead it's only about as big as creatures it would hit play without given Birds or Elves.

This card works well with many cards.
This card works poorly with many cards.




Let's evaluate a few cards based on these rules.


Nova Cleric
Does this card have a purpose?
Acting as a Cleric -OR- destroying Enchantments.

Is this card effective?
Acting as a Cleric: It is a cheap Cleric, if unspectacular.
Destroying enchantments: It cannot destroy enchantments the turn it comes into play and is susceptible to creature removal, making it a poor enchantment destroyer.

Is this card efficient?
In the best situation, it is :2mana::symw::symw: for a 1/2 and a Cleanfall. Otherwise it is a 1/2 for white mana or a Cleanfall for :2mana::symw::symw:.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
In a Cleric deck: Unless enchantments need to be destroyed, always subpar.
In a White Weenie deck: Unless a blocker and mass enchantment destruction is needed next turn, almost always subpar.

How does this card work with other cards?
Being a cheap Cleric means it can be sacrificed more easily.

Judgement: It can only reliably serve as a cheap Cleric, and there are better Clerics for :symw:.



Wildfire

Does this card have a purpose?
Denying mana and destroying small creatures.

Is this card effective?
Denying mana: Wildfire destroys all mana creatures and a good amount of land but doesn't touch artifacts.
Destroying small creatures: Wildfire kills everything with toughness less than 5 that can't regenerate and isn't Pro: Red.

Is this card efficient?
This card is a 4-point Starstorm with a mid-sized Thoughts of Ruin for free. Quite a deal.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
Denying mana: When the opponent has 9 lands, much more land than me, or plenty of artifact mana, useless.
Destroying small creatures: When the small creatures regenerate or have protection from red, useless.

How does this card work with other cards?
Works extremely well with artifact mana to make land loss more devastating for the opponent and to allow faster recovery.
Works well with 4-5 mana creatures with 5+ toughness.

Judgement: Can be a devastating game-ender to decks without artifact mana, large creatures, or regenerating, Pro: Red creatures.



Alaborn Zealot

Does this card have a purpose?
Destroying attackers -OR- acting as a Soldier.


Is this card effective?
Destroying attackers: Zealot destroys the creature it blocks. However, it can't stop fliers or trample damage, and is not difficult to kill.
Acting as a Soldier: Zealot is a horrible attacker, but may be decent with pump-ups.

Is this card efficient?
white mana to destroy a blocked creature is decent. white mana for a 1/1 is not amazing.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
Destroying attackers: When the opponent has removal, the attackers regenerate, or the attackers have evasion, it's near useless.
Acting as a Soldier: Always subpar.

How does this card work with other cards?
Works well with Catapult Squad or a regeneration effect.

Judgement: This card is a cheap, decent defender provided it gets to block. It's not a great Soldier.



Homura, Human Ascendant

Does this card have a purpose?
Being an attacker -OR- enhancing your other creatures.

Is this card effective?
Being an attacker: 4/4 is not a devastating size, but it's not small either.
Enhancing your creatures: +2/+2, Flying, and Firebreathing to every creature is extremely powerful.

Is this card efficient?
:4mana::symr::symr: for a 4/4 is horrid.
:4mana::symr::symr: for 2 Glorious Anthem + Levitation + Ghitu War Cry is excellent.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
Being an attacker: Despite limited evasion from opponents not wanting to see it die, almost always.
Enhancing your creatures: Subpar to Shiv's Embrace unless it affects two creatures.

How does this card work with other cards?
Creatures costing more than :4mana::symr::symr: (especially red ones) don't benefit that much from the enhancement, and it is too expensive to bolster your early creatures.

Judgement: Unless this card can be flipped very early in a horde deck, its effect is not often very important.



Skullscorch

Does this card have a purpose?
Making your opponent discard cards while at low life -OR- making your opponent take damage while holding good cards.

Is this card effective?
Making your opponent discard cards while at low life: 4 damage is quite a lot when under 10 life, and randomness can take away your opponent's answers (assuming they have a hand).
Making your opponent take damage while holding good cards: A Hymn to Tourach is a dangerous effect that will often force players holding important cards to take the burn.

Is this card efficient?
:symr::symr: for a possible 4 damage to the dome is okay.
:symr::symr: for a possible Hymn to Tourach is good, but not as good as Hymn because there's an out.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
Making your opponent discard cards while at low life: When your opponent has no hand or no important cards, useless.
Making your opponent take damage while holding good cards: When your opponent has high life, near useless (to the board position). Only slightly stronger than a [card]Volcanic Hammer[card] to the dome.

How does this card work with other cards?
Skullscorch can support other burn cards early on, but cannot finish off an opponent.
Red has no other discard spells to back up Skullscorch with.

Judgement: This card is useless to the board position too often to be very playable.



Straw Golem

Does this card have a purpose?
Doing quick damage to opponents.

Is this card effective?
A first turn 2/3 is pretty dangerous, but of course it only works until the opponent plays a creature.

Is this card efficient?
1 mana for a 2/3 is quite good.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
When your opponent has a creature card in hand, near useless (although it encourages them to play creatures).
If Kird Ape is an alternative, almost always subpar.

How does this card work with other cards?
Straw Golem works vaguely well with AEther Storm and the like.

Judgement: This card is pretty decent as a quick beater against creature-light decks, but otherwise has no value. Might be an interesting sideboard card, but there are probably better options.



Laquatus's Champion

Does this card have a purpose?
Being a regenerating beater -AND/OR- finishing off your opponent.

Is this card effective?
Being a regenerating beater: 6 power is a lot and regeneration means the Champion will see plenty of combat in addition to being hard to kill.
Finishing off your opponent: 6 life is a pretty big hit, and if it's not enough the Champion is still ready to deal lots of damage.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
Being a regenerating beater: Against Pro: Black creatures and regenerators, subpar to beaters with evasion.

How does this card work with other cards?
Patriarch's Bidding would allow several of these to enter play at once, dealing a scary amount of damage.

Judgement: This card is an efficiently costed creature which is both able to deal a lot of damage and stick around to deal some more. Playable.



Keiga, the Tide Star

Does this card have a purpose?
Killing your opponent -OR- deterring your opponent from attacking.

Is this card effective?
Killing your opponent: 5 evasion damage a turn ends the game fairly quickly.
Deterring your opponent from attacking:
Losing one of your creatures to combat and possibly losing another to your opponent is a situation most people do not enjoy.

Is this card efficient?
:5mana::symu: for 5/5 flyer is slightly worse than Mahomati Djinn.
:5mana::symu: for a 5/5 flying blocker that gives a Persuasion when it dies is a good deal.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
Killing your opponent: Not often, because any bigger flyer who blocks this will get stolen.
Deterring your opponent from attacking:
If the creatures are untargettable or not large enough to kill Keiga, subpar to Meloku, the Clouded Mirror.

How does this card work with other cards?
Keiga does not have any impressive interactions with other cards.

Judgement: This card is a good win condition, but not as good a defender as Meloku in most situations.



Vampiric Tutor

Does this card have a purpose?
Finding the card you want -AND- shuffling your library.

Is this card effective?
Finding the card you want: You have to wait a turn and can't get from your sideboard or graveyard, but otherwise any card is fair game.
Shuffling your library: Not only does it shuffle, it ensures that you get a good card on top.

Is this card efficient?
Finding the card you want: black mana and 2 life for the card of your choice next turn is slightly worse than Demonic Tutor, but it is an instant.
Shuffling your library: black mana and 2 life is way too much to pay for a library shuffle. Don't use it solely for this reason.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
Finding the card you want: When you need the card NOW or are under 3 life, useless.
Shuffling your library: When you are under 3 life, useless.

How does this card work with other cards?
Vampiric Tutor works well with decks trying to find combo pieces or situational cards like Boil.

Judgement: This card is good at finding specific cards for cheap, but the delay and life cost might make it a waste of time for some decks.



Grand Coliseum

Does this card have a purpose?
Providing mana -OR- providing mana of different colors.

Is this card effective?
Providing mana: After the first turn, yes.
Providing mana of different colors: After the first turn and provided you are not at extremely low life, yes.

Is this card efficient?
Providing mana: After the first turn, as efficient as most lands.
Providing mana of different colors: After the first turn, just as good as the oft-used [card]City of Brass[card].

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
Providing mana: When you need mana immediately, useless.
Providing mana of different colors: When you need mana immediately, subpar to City of Brass. When you only need mana of two different colors, subpar to painlands.

How does this card work with other cards?
Grand Coliseum has no amazing interactions with other cards.

Judgement: This card can provide colorless mana unlike City of Brass, but is slower because of it. It's up to you to decide whether speed or life is more important for your deck.



Fireball

Does this card have a purpose?
Destroying many creatures -AND- destroying large creatures –AND- killing your opponent.

Is this card effective?
Destroying many creatures: Somewhat (you need a lot of mana).
Destroying large creatures: Somewhat (you need a lot of mana).
Killing your opponent: Somewhat (you need a lot of mana).

Is this card efficient?
Destroying many creatures: Definitely not.
Destroying large creatures: No.
Killing your opponent: Not really.

How often will I find this card subpar or useless?
Destroying many creatures: If you don’t have creatures and the opposing creatures are small, subpar to Flamebreak and Pyroclasm.
Destroying large creatures: As far as red goes, this may be your only real answer to large creatures. Generally more efficient than Urza’s Rage andSearing Wind.
Killing your opponent: Subpar to fatties when you don’t have enough mana to kill them and the fatties can get through.

How does this card work with other cards?
Fireball works well with a lot of mana acceleration, such as Urzatron and Elves. Also works well with direct burn as a finisher.

Judgement: This card is an okay finisher that doubles as creature removal, but only if you have a lot of mana. Maybe playable in a Trinity-esque deck or a heavy-mana format like Mirrodin Block.


I'm sure you all have your own ways of evaluating cards, but I thank you for having taken the time to read mine. Hopefully this will help some of you in your quest to evaluate cards more accurately.

Thanks to Goblinboy for editing!

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