Introductions and Explanations Who Am I?
Greetings fellow multiplayer enthusiasts. My name is Kyle "Prid3" Brecht and at the time of writing this I'm a 15+ year MTG veteran who's been playing and following the game competitively (across all relevant duel formats) for well over a decade. That being said whereas most Magic players spend the vast majority of their recreational time dueling/drafting/testing the bulk of my personal playtime has been spent at kitchen tables slinging spells in large multiplayer matches with my friends, family and acquaintances. Be it Cube, Constructed and/or EDH I've literally played tens of thousands of hours of multiplayer Magic in my lifetime and so I consider myself to be an expert on the subject as a whole. With that in mind I'd like to offer you my take on how Commander 2016 will affect the global multiplayer scene as a whole. That is, unlike similar set reviews this one is going to be purely focused on multiplayer formats and dynamics with absolutely no emphasis on duel and/or limited Magic. While I understand that this sort of content won't appeal to everyone it's my belief that multiplayer Magic is played by a relatively high % of the casual MTG playerbase and so it's my hope that most of you will be able to extract meaningful value from my expertise.
I'm a fiercely competitive player and my set reviews are going to reflect that. That is to say that this is largely going to be a competitive multiplayer set review and so don’t expect me to put any emphasis on subjective measures such as fun factor, flavor nor self-imposed restrictions. While I recognize that terms such as "casual" and "competitive" carry many negative stigmas in the MTG community rest assured that I don’t use either maliciously. As far as I'm concerned it's a simple matter of mindset and how players approach the game from a mental perspective. "Competitive" Magic players such as myself typically build decks with the goal of maximizing our overall match win % given an expected metagame. "Casual" players on the other hand tend to consider a wide variety of variables and factors beyond winning alone. Clearly it's an entire spectrum as opposed to a small subset of two data point but the key thing that I wanted to stress is that these terms have absolutely no bearing on a person’s worth nor morality. No one is inherently better or worse for thinking about a game in a different way. The only reason why I’m going to focus entirely on “what wins games of Magic” is because every other variable is far too subjective to make definitive, sweeping claims about. That being said everyone enjoys winning and while most of us can still have fun losing all things being equal we’d rather win games than lose them.
Grading Scale: A: Oppressive cards that completely warp the game around them. These are format definers that dominate games in which they're left unchecked and crush adversaries who aren't employing similarly powered strategies. This makes them must-have competitive staples with limitless potential. Think Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Humility, Consecrated Sphinx, Sylvan Primordial, Purphoros, God of the Forge. B: Formidable cards that will enable you to pull ahead of the pack. Winning decks should be clamoring to field them as they figure to significantly improve your overall win %. This makes them top-priority acquisition targets for players of all skill-levels. Think Grave Pact, Rolling Earthquake, Wrath of God, Recurring Insight, Scavenging Ooze. C: Powerful cards that will enable you to keep pace with the rest of the field. A list full of C's won't crush a table but a solid foundation of them should be good enough to keep you competitive. Think Syphon Mind, Clever Impersonator, Scab-Clan Berserker, Realm Seekers, Oreskos Explorer. D: Marginal playables with which to flesh out your lists in the absence of reasonable alternatives. I strongly encourage that you enlist substitutes if it's a realistic option since they're unlikely to yield impressive win %s. F: Weak cards that shouldn't be played. Niche: Immensely powerful-yet-narrow cards that are Bs/As in decks that actively want them and Fs/Ds everywhere else. Think Waste Not, Repercussion, Limited Resources, Intruder Alarm, Oath of Druids. Sideboard: Tremendously powerful-yet-niche cards that you shouldn't maindeck against unknown adversaries but that have competitive applications in known metagames with clearly defined threats and strategies. Think Dystopia, Energy Flux, Compost, Stony Silence, Vandalblast. +/-: Used to denote a better or worse N. That is, a B+ represents a strong B whereas C- implies a weak C.
This is a niche combo/synergy engine for decks that feature a critical mass of lifeloss spells (such as Hex Parasite and Necropotence) which you can abuse to make severely unfair lifegain trades. That being said these types of combos tend to be slow, unreliable, single target in nature and rarely-if-ever kill outright. Even in a perfect world where you cheat an Axis of Mortality into play alongside an early Hex Parasite you still have to wait 3 full turns to zap your adversaries and even then you're not even sealing the deal. I've never actually played with or against a legitimately competitive version of this archetype for that reason alone and while I've certainly lost to similar lines of play I've never felt powerless during the process. It's not a strategy that's worth pursuing outside of being a lark.
Sun Titan this is not. I expect my 5 drops to consistently provide value because the “Bloodgift Demons” of the world aren't powerful enough to make the cut in my experience. Why take a chance on a risky investment when you can blindly jam reliable alternatives (such as Promise of Power or Reveillark) that will always do their job? Moreover, unlike Sunny D this card cannot recur powerful lands/artifacts/enchantments (such as Myriad Landscape and Serenity) nor enable degenerate "chain" sequences by abusing critters like Phantasmal Image, Flickerwisp and/or Eldrazi Displacer. Sure, in a meta devoid of removal it could theoretically do decent work but that's true of any "risky" bomb. Bluntly put I don't care about games where I get to goldfish; I care about the ones where my opponents fight me tooth and nail at every turn of the game. Heed my advice and take a pass on this one.
While these “Imposing Sovereign” style creatures are arguably relevant against Splinter Twin-esque combos they're generally too niche to pass muster. I don't mind the ones that also affect artifacts (think Blind Obedience) but nailing creatures alone isn't relevant enough to consistently generate a sizable advabtage for you. Given the right context/meta it might eventually make sense to field these types of hatebears but as it sits they're still not making the cut in any midway competitive list.
Grade: Niche C
I couldn't imagine excluding this from any white-based token decks given that it's essentially free ramp that also furthers your primary gameplan. Don't get me wrong, Adanto is unexciting at best, but even if you rarely-if-ever use it as a token producer the upside of casting Legion's Landing on turn 1 and curving it into a "Raise the Alarm" type spell is far too powerful to overlook. I've never been able to find playable 1 drops outside of Green (Wild Growth, Utopia Sprawl, Carpet of Flowers) and since I'm not always playing the color I'm excited to see something that I can happily field in my White/Red/Black brews for a change. Again, it's not the most exciting or powerful spell ever printed but it gets the job and does enough to earn its slots which is the only thing that anyone should care about. Cutting 2 lands for 2 of these is going to significantly increase your probability of winning games so be sure to keep it in midn when you're fleshing out your lists.
Now this is a hatebear that I can get behind. Whereas “Imposing Sovereigns” are only relevant against a niche subset of combos and creatures these “Torpor Orbs” tend to have a substantially more relevant effect on the game. After all, an enormous % of staple multiplayer creatures have powerful ETB triggers that enable them to bypass the threat of removal and other forms of interaction. They're the weapons of choice when you're tasked to defeat numerous adversaries because nothing else is powerful or consistent enough to reliably get the job done. As such decks tend to be filled with critters that are severely impacted by these “Torpor Orb” effects which render them all-but obsolete. When paired with other forms of disruption you can effectively neuter every threat played by each opponent which is exactly the scope and scale that you're looking for in a multiplayer contect. As such this is exactly the type of threat that you want in your low-to-the-ground Armageddon Hatebear decks to ensure that your adversaries never stick a relevant threat.
Grade: Niche C
For 8 mana you're typically expecting something that matches/topples bombs such as Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Emeria Shepherd and Avacyn, Angel of Hope but unfortunately this thing falls woefully short of that mark. In a dedicated Dinosaur deck it's still a Plague Wind that costs less mana and comes with a free 7/7 but otherwise there's vastly superior alternatives at your disposal. As such I wouldn't even bother trying to field it outside of tribal lists but I'd happily field the first in those. After all, I'm a huge fan of these “Cyclonic Rift” style mass removal spells that don't negatively affect you given their ability to legitimately win games as opposed to merely prolonging them. Don't get me wrong, Wrath of God is great and you should run it, but "Mass Calcify" is definitely what you want to be casting in your creature-based midrange/ramp deck.
Grade: Niche D
Much likes Ashes of the Fallen and Conspiracy this makes any “tribal matters” cards brutally effective by converting them into blanket buffs that affect each creature you control. Moreover, it also boasts degenerate synergy with Turntimber Ranger (and other similar effects) by enabling you to generate an arbitraily large army of attackers. That being said despite I'm unaware of anything truly oppressive that you can pair with Arcane Adaptation (unless you count the aforementioned Ranger) that would make it worth your while to acquire. Still, this is the type of card that will continue to gain strength as more cards are released and more synergies are discovered. In that sense it's a good idea to keeps cards like this in the back of your mind because they're obscene in any deck that actively wants them. Granted, those will be few and far between, but I wouldn't discount its future potential.
I happily play both Night's Whisper and Sign in Blood in relatively competitive lists and since this will often function as a strictly superior alternative I can't in good conscience give it anything less than a passing grade. It's going to be significantly weaker than Impulse in the vast majority of situations but the looting effect can be relevant for "graveyard matters" cards and effects (think Animate Dead) and that fact it can sometimes be a 2-for-1 is something that few other 2 CMC spells can boast. Even if you just run this out on turn 2 as a generic cantrip that's still a perfectly fine use for the card and shouldn't be overlooked so please don't feel as though you need to sandbag the card until you're getting the full 2-for-1. Heck, I often find myself casting Sign in Blood on turn 2 and since you have a discard a card when you take that line anyways the "loot" isn't even a drawback in that scenario.
Grade: Niche B
I realize that grabbing a Planeswalker and stating “it combos with Doubling Season” is beating a dead horse but I do want to highlight the fact that this is the cheapest card (CMC wise) that reliably clears a table out. After all, this sequence enables you to create infinite copies of Jace and thus infinite 2/2 tokens with which to beat the table into submission on the following turn. Moreover, it does so without forcing you to field cards that are otherwise completely useless or overly expensive. That is, you no longer have to field useless win conditions such as Mikaeus, the Unhallowed + Triskelion or Zealous Conscripts + Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker assuming that you're currently fielding Samut, the Tested. You're still going to be vulnerable to “Planar Cleansing” style board clears since the tokens don't have haste but the upside is that you don't have to worry about drawing key 1-of combo cards and getting screwed by it as a result. As a backup plan you can always field Jace, Architect of Thought given that he enables you to Bribery to your heart's content after which you can tutor out something like Time Stretch or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to seal the deal. Otherwise you can field the standard suite of Blue cantrips, draw spells and permission to ensure a consistent + interactive gameplan that reliably finds what it needs in a timely fashion.
While I typically make every effort to rank cards in a vacuum I struggle immensely to care about ones that have vastly superior alternatives at lower CMCs. I'm obviously referring to Recurring Insight which is essentially a strictly better card by every measurable metric. Not only does it draw more cards (on average) via a better spread but it also does it for less. Look, a draw 7 for 7 is fine and I wouldn't fault anyone for fielding one in their "big Blue" decks, but at the end of the day there's no compelling reason for anyone to acquire nonsense like this while Recurring Insight is still sitting pretty at 50 cents. Buy your Insights and ignore cards like these until you have a legitimate reason to consider fielding them.
One virtue that I espouse in my Blue multiplayer guide is that you can blindly start any Blue deck with 4x Preordain in order to significantly improve its consistency. After all, it's a card that you can happily play on turn 1 to smooth your draws and mitigate the risk of succubming to both mana flood and screw. Now, assuming that you happen to field a critical mass of cheap shuffle effects (such as tutors and fetchlands) then cards like Brainstorm and Ponder surpass it but for the overwhelming majority of players who build with reasonable budgets in mind Preordain is where it's at. Despite the fact that Opt is an instant the fact that it only Scrys a single card makes it many orders of magnitude weaker. I can confidently state that there's absolutely no compelling reason to ever field the former over the latter. That being said if you, for wahtever reason, can't or won't use Preordain or Ponder then Opt is playable. Not "good," not "solid," just "playable." I strongly encourage that you make ever effort to avoid playing marginal junk like this insofar as Preordain exists but if worse comes to worst it's an altervative (albeit an unexciting one at best).
Blue, in general, lacks access to powerful + budget-minded 2 drops that they can feel legitimately happy to slam on turn 2. Clearly Impulse is fantastic but things like Gilded Drake, Snapcaster Mage and Phantasmal Image don't qualify. As such I'm always ecstatic to see cards like Search for Azcanta being printed. After all, it's a powerful 2 drop that fuels any graveyard-based tactic that eventually flips into a solid card advantage engine (albeit only for noncreature spells). Unfortunately Blue decks can already field card advantage spells/engines up the wazoo and so any new challenger has steep competition to overcome. Given that I rarely find myself cutting things like Mystic Remora, Rhystic Study, Manifold Insights, Recurring Insight, etc. it's difficult to justify more than 1-2 deck slots for something as slow as Search for Azcanta. Don't get me wrong, I realize that none of those are 2 drops, but your goal as a competitor is to win games of Magic and not cast a draw spell every turn of the game. If casting a cantrip, slamming a mana rock or even skipping your 2 drop will enable you to win more games on average then that's what you should doing. I still think that this will be a solid 1-2 of in most lists but, again, it's not going to drastically change how Blue decks are already built and played.
As much as I harp on 1-for-1s and spot removal in general I'll be the first to give credit where it's due and highlight the ones that are legitimately worth playing. Spell Pierce is one of the most powerful and versatile permission spells in the game and will routinely turn games on its head. After all, as with Swan Song (another bomby permission spell) it's one of the few spells that can profitably interact with a quick Animate Dead, Waste Not, Survival of the Fittest, Defense of the Heart, Birthing Pod, etc. which can often seal the deal as early as turn 2. Moreover, it's also a fantastic at thwarting combos and/or game-ending bombs such as Exsanguinate, Tooth and Nail, Insurrection and basically anything else worth else tapping out for. Beyond that it's also stellar in counter wars where it'll often trade for a "real" card for the low sum of 1 mana. The only thing that prevents it from being a staple its unreliability in the lategame where it can often go dead. This is why it'll rarely make the cut in 60 card constructed decks since you'll often want something that's still reliable on turn 15 when everyone has access to a plethora of mana. Rather, it tends to shine in hyper-competitive (i.e. protracted) games that don't last for more than 4-5 turns on average. As such it tends to see much more competitive play than casual. It's still a tool that you should keep in your proverbial toolbox but unless you're playing with and against turn 3-4 combos you're better off deferring to things like Swan Song, Arcane Denial, Negate and Counterspell in its stead. Finally, I'll note that this one of the most oppressive 2HG cards ever printed given that it's impossible for the opposing team to play around it. As such it's always going to trade for a card for matters and there's no two ways about it. I'm not going to bother giving a separate 2HG grade or anything but suffice it to say that you can blindly jam 4 and never look back.
This is the most exciting Rewind that we've seen in some time given that it's the first one that also functions as a Mana Drain. I realize that Rewind is too weak to make the cut in multiplayer given that it's far it's too slow and mana intensive but the upside on Spell Swindle is what pushes it over the edge. After all, it can still act like a cheap/free counter that you pair with other permission/draw spells to win Control/Combo wars but it also functions as a massive ritual that cany power out 10-12 CMC bombs that can win games on the spot. Omniscience is certainly the main one that comes to mind but realistically we're happy to jam any 8+ CMC bomb on turn 4-5 after thwarting a game-changing play the turn prior. Plasm Capture is no joke and I've been highly impressed with it in Simic ramp decks. I'll often field is as a 2-of since I'm routinely able to jam it on turn 3 and follow it up with a "Sylvan Primordial type threat to seal my advantage in the midgame. Given that Spell Swindle is arguably easier to cast and monocolored I'm definitely going to be jamming it as a 1-2 of in my Control builds as hard counter that pairs well with my big finishers. It's clearly not going to supplant cheap alternatives such as Counterspell, Negate and Arcane Denial, those will always reign supreme, but there's enough going with this card to warrant further testing and consideration.
The idea behind cards like Spoils of Blood that people are inevitably going to jam mass removal spells in multiplayer matches at which point you can slam cards like these to create giant, "hasted" fatties with on mostly empty boards. Now, while that tactic might sound appealing on paper in practice it's unexciting at best. After all, you're rarely producing threats large enough to kill players outright and since literally any chump blocker/removal spell thwart them the sequence never leads to a legitimate game win. Moreover, they're abysmal draws at most stages of the game because unless the stars align and everything works in your favor they rot in your hand while you get mercilessly pummeled. Obviously you can (and should) field the mass removal spells yourself but even then you'd be amazed at how bad a 1-2 mana 8/8 can feel when it's being jammed on turn ~6 in a ~4 player game. If you still want to field this type of threat I highly recommend sticking with unconditional Mortivores because believe me when I say that you're going to be wildly disappointed with the average use-case of cards like Bloodcrazed Paladin.
Whenever you're evaluating Black mass revival spells you realistically have to take into consideration the cards that you'd be cutting/omitting from your lists in order to make room for them. In the context of Boneyard Parley that would mean axing staples such as Animate Dead, Living Death and/or Sepulchral Primordial in favor of something that costs significantly more mana for a trivial boost in overall power (if any). Consider Animate Dead's average use-case for example. It will always recur the strongest creature from any graveyard for 2 mana which is rather absurd when you stop to think about it. More often than not there's only going to be one or two reasonable choices for revival targets anyways which means that a card like Boneyard Parley is virtually never going to blow you away to being with. The obvious target is either going to be put into a pile alone or alongside something insignificant and will never be paired alongside other reasonable threats. If there's magically 5 amazing targets across all graveyards then sure, you hit the jackpot, but that's not realistic. As such you're essentially paying 5 extra mana to recur something trivial which isn't even remotely close to being worthwhile. Moreover, this isn't a card like Wake the Dead, Victimize or Ever After that can reliably recur 2-card combos such as Mikaeus, the Unhallowed + Triskelion. Your opponents get to split the piles how they see fit so that's never going to happen. As such I highly recommend taking a pass on janky nonsens such as Boneyard Parley because realistically you're never going to get your money's worth compared to throngs of alternative finishers for these style of Black Control decks. Living Death, Sepulchral Primordial, Razaketh, the Foulblooded, Army of the Damned, Rise of the Dark Realms, the list goes on and on of cards that you'd always field before touching it.
Expensive, % based lifeloss cards make absolutely no sense to me because they always play like complete and utter trash in practice. After all, mass lifeloss is only relevant for aggressive strategies but part a certain a point they become trivial given that players will be too low for them to matter by the time that you're able to cast them. Think about it; on turn 1 when everyone is still at 20 this thing will hit everyone for 7. That's good! The problem is that come turn 5 when everyone is at ~3 you're only hitting them for 3 and that's abysmal. Sure, it gains some additional value in formats such as EDH and 2HG but even then but in the context of 60 card constructed this isn't where you want to be. Again, assuming that opened with cards like Pulse Tracker, Bloodchief Ascension and Throne of the God-Pharaoh people are already going to be extremely low by the time that you manage to land a 5 drop and suffice to say I don't want to pay 5 mana to ping my adversaries for 2-3 or whatever. At that point you want to jam a card like Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Exsanguinate that will legitimately close the game out. If this always dealt 5 damage to each player or something along those lines then sure, it might be worth considering, but expensive, % based burn spells are completely worthless as far I'm concerned.
I'm not going to give my entire "don't play more 1-for-1s than you absolutely need to" spiel but needless to say you can safely assume that yes, it still applies. With that in mind I want to highlight a card which has continued to rise in my own ranks over the last few years to the point where I consider it to be a multiplayer staple. Once upon a time you wouldn't have caught me dead with maindeck Duresses in any multiplayer format whereas now it's something that I play in literally 100% of my EDH decks (casual or otherwise) and the overwhelming majority of my Constructed decks as well. The sad reality is that even though 1-for-1s are marginal at best Duress enables you to beat throngs of cards that you otherwise wouldn't stand a chance against. Combos, obscene value engines, 1-card win conditions and more can all be stripped away for the low sum of 1 mana and 1 card. Moreover, and more importantly, Duress gives you meaingful interaction againt counter magic. Bluntly put when I sit down a table the only players that I care about are the ones with permission. This is because they're the only ones who can meaningfully interact with my own uninteractive + game-winning bombs and since the game of "Kingmaker" is the least fun and interactive experience imaginable it's the only way to take matters into your own hands. After all, if we know for a fact that we'll be able to win any game in which we resolve our Living Deaths (or whatever) then we should be willing to throw countless cards away to make that happen. As such I'll happily field Defense Grid and Duress in the dark just so that I never find myself in hopless situations when my life is in someone else's hands. I couldn't care less if no one brings any permission because I can typically smash those decks even if I "mulligan" a couple of draws away. I can't remember the last time that "lack of cards" has been an issue for me when playing Black because when you're packing mass drain + "Necrologias" you're drawing far more cards than you could ever hope to play. When I lose (which is often) it's with a full grip that I never had an opportunity to deploy so spewing some value in 1-for-1s is totally irrelevant. Anyways, this is my long-winded of saying that Duress is fantastic and that everyone should own at least a playset of it. When push comes to shove it gets the job done on a trivial budget and gives you game against all of those spells and strategies that you'd otherwise be powerless to thawrt. That isn't to say that you must field the full 4 in every deck that you build but as your playgroup starts to evolve and become more and more competitive you're definitely going to start fielding them en-masse if for no other reason than to act as a "1 mana counter target counter spell."
Now this is a card that I can get behind. First of all it makes all of your mass removal free (if not mana positive) assuming that you're fielding things that cost 0-4 mana (Innocent Blood, Smallpox, Toxic Deluge, Massacre, Damnation, etc.) at which point you get to play the game as though your removal is free. Worst-case scenario you immediately pop some of those treasures to recoup the mana and continue with your turn unimpeded. Best-case scenario you spend 3 mana (Toxic Deluge) to kill ~10 creatures, net 7 additional mana in the process and now have a throng of Lotus Petals to fiddle around with. Granted, you won't always be able to power out a, 8-20 drop on turn 4-5 but assuming that you manage to pair one with a decent Wrath effect then you should be sitting pretty in terms of mana for the rest of the game. Don't get me wrong, much like Black Market it's going feel slow and expensive initially, but assuming that you can find the time to get it going you'll reap the rewards of your labor. Otherwise it also serves as a non-interactive finisher that's relatively difficult to remove given that enchantment removal tends to be sparsely played in multiplayer. It's neither fast nor reliable but the fail use-case of "poor man's Black Market" is still relatively powerful so it's not as though the card is ever going to be completely dead. This is where cards such as Test of Endurance and Mortal Combat often fall short given that they're literally worthless up until they win the game. Revel in Riches on the other hand can still be relevant long before you've accrued the ten treasures. To be clear, neither mode of this card is particularly noteworthy on their own and if it only did one or the other then we wouldn't even consider playing it. That being said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and the fact that we just slam a turn ~4 Revel in Riches and follow it up with something like Massacre + Innocent Blood for a turn ~5 kill is definitely competitive enough to pique my interest.
Even though damage doublers are severely underrated and underplayed in mutliplayer these aren't the droids that you're looking for. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that it's a one-sided effect and the fact that it's a creature means that we can potentially abuse it with revival. That being said there's still much left to be desired and I don't see this ever making the cut as a result. At the end of the day it's a 7 drop that practically screams “kill me now or I'll slaughter you all” which means that its average use-case of “removal bait” is unexciting at best. As such you're never going to slot it over Dictate of the Twin Gods for that oppressive “EOT Dictate, untap, kill everyone” sequence that we've all come to know and love (unless we're on the receiving end).
Inferno Titan Jr. comes with a reasonable body and a solid ETB trigger which is perfect when your deck has value engines such as Mimic Vat, Flameshadow Conjuring, Sneak Attack and Panharmonicon. Given that Red lacks reasonable access to card draw spells it's often forced to turn to those instead and that's where creatures such as Burning Sun's Avatar shine. While I would never cut Inferno Titan for the Avatar it's a reasonable alternative that foots the bill in a pinch. It's especially effective in smaller tables and/or formats such as 2HG where you're less concerned with economies of scale but even then it's still a full step below his Infernal cousin. Ultimately we're looking at a reasonable 6 drop that pairs well with the cards that you're already playing so you don't have to work very hard to slot it into your existing shells.
While aggro/burn decks aren't particularly competitive in general the archetypes are finally starting to get some meaningful love. Rampaging Ferocidon is an extremely aggressive creature that hits hard, pings often and even brings a relevant "hate" effect to the table. Even Menace is relevant assuming that you list has cards like Throne of the God-Pharaoh that reward attacking. It's arguably better than Scab-Clan Berserker in creature-dense metas and the "Sulfuric Vortex" clause can be crucial for beating lifegain-based Black strategies. You're not beating those Exsanguinate effects otherwise. Moreover, it's also relevant defense against certain infinite combos, namely "Splinter Twin" style kills that rely on generating large sums of creatures. Even outside of a dedicated burn/aggro deck it's still a 3/3 for 3 with many relevant upsides and so there's a floor on how bad its nightmare-case scenario can ever be. Clearly you wouldn't want this type of threat for your generic Control/Ramp builds but any aggressively-slanted build could certainly consider it.
Paying 7 mana to destroy all creatures, Planeswalkers plus an annoying land is going to be good enough to make the cut in most casual settings. Unfortunately it's too fair and expensive to compete with “Wildfires” in more cutthroat metas but assuming that mass land destruction is off the table then it's a passable alternative for Control-based strategies. It's not exciting by any means and I wouldn't recommend fielding more than 1-2 but there are worse ways to spend 7 mana and a card in multiplayer. This is especially true if your list happens to contain spells such as Mogg Maniac, Broodhatch Nantuko, Boros Reckoner, Hornet Nest and/or Stuffy Doll at which point it becomes a legitimately compelling option. Combos/synergies aside it's still playable as-is but I do recommend trying "cheat" on the 20 damage effect if at all possible.
I've become increasingly unimpressed with expensive value engines that don't impact the board to the point where I can barely justify their inclusion in my lists nowadays. Multiplayer magic is moving too far away from “they won't have it” and “none of their spells will matter” to take a chance on risky investments such as these. More often than not you're going to get burned and come out impossibly far behind on your returns. Once upon a time I would have scoffed at anyone who excluded 4x Lurking Predators from their Green decks or laughed at the person omitting Grave Betrayal from their Control lists whereas now I can barely muster a single deck slot for those types of cards in EDH let alone constructed. I recognize that we've all lived the dream and rode win-more spells to triumphant victories. By no means am I suggesting that it's impossible for these types of cards to provide absurd value. If you can manage to stick a Sunbird's Invocation, untap with it still play, cast a couple of spells, get some value and repeat that process then you can absolutely get your value's worth. The problem is that those games are few and far between and more often than it's going to die, you're going to whiff, you won't have strong spells to follow it up, etc. That's why I just can't get excited about this card when I know that I'm just always going to axe it in favor of something like Mob Rule or Wildfire that won't let me down. Its average use-case is (in all likelihood) so depressingly weak that it's difficult to take it seriously.
While I still maintain that Outpost Siege is one of the strongest (budget-minded) card advantage engines available to Red mages I don't think that I'll be shaving any copies for Vance's Blasting Cannons anytime soon. The reality is that hitting lands is part of what makes the card so powerful and once you take that out of the equation it starts to lose most of its luster. I wouldn't fault anyone for fielding exactly 1 copy as a form of ramp/removal but bear in mind that flipping it is easier said than done in multiplayer and that 3 damage per turn is unexiciting at best. Outpost Siege is going to be strictly better a gargantuan % of the time as a result which is why I don't even plan to test this as a singleton in any of my brews.
While this card has potential it definitely won't live up to the hype that's currently surrounding it. The front half is an extremely marginal "Impulse" for creatures that doesn't benefit from token-based spells such as Sylvan Offering and Beacon of Creation. Assuming that you have 25+ creatures you're fairly likely to hit but you'll still miss on occasion and even when you don't 3 mana cantrips are handly impressive. The back half is clearly bonkers assuming that you have any way to spend the mana but it's also relatively conditional and difficult to tutor for. Ater all, Green has throngs of ways to tutor up creatures and spells but no realistic way to nab one of these. As such I'm largely unimpressed by it. It's not unplayable by any means, Gaea's Cradle is utterly ridonkulous in Elf-ball/token builds to reacha critical mass of creatures, but Growing Rites of Itlimoc is a touch too unreliable for my tastes. If someone can prove me wrong and create a worthwhile list that includes them then I'll happily eats my words but until that day comes I'm largely going to ignore this thing.
These cards share the same design space and so I may rate them together. For what it's worth I think that the 3 CMC version is significantly more appealing but I digress. These cards have appeal in builds that feature plenty of burn-based damage such as Pyroclasm, Pestilence, Pyrohemia, Cave-In, Wildfire and more. The fact that you can go turn 1 Wild Growth, turn 2 Ranging Raptors + Cave-In to clear the board and immediately undo your 2-for-1 is extremely compelling and it only gets juicier if you want until turn 3 assuming that you're able to slam your Ripjaw on-curve as well. Follow that up with a Wildfire and the game should be all-but over. Otherwise these are ideal threats for Pestilence style decks given that they boast large butts and reward you handsomely for pinging them. Technically you could support them with generic pingers as well, Goblin Sharpshooter certainly comes to mind for example, but I'm personally more interested in board-clears that will disrupt your adversaries in the process. I've heard rumblings of decks that abuse Amulet of Vigor to chains pings until you run out of fetchable lands but strikes me as being too cute unless you have a compelling reason to field Amulets in the first place. Maybe if you have a whack of bouncelands then sure, it might make sense, but otherwise I'm largely uninterested in overly convoluted combos. Ultimately there's no wrong way to eat these Reece's and I look forward to building around these cards for years to come.
Grade: Sideboard D
Whereas I'm legitimately content to field cards like Dense Foliage in my Green lists I can't bring myself to get excited about Shapers' Sanctuary. This type of effect is actually more a punisher mechanic in the sense that it enables your adversaries to choose when and where it applies. If a creature you control has to die then it will and you drawing a card is a small consolation at that point. Otherwise they can choose to ignore them as they see fit until they get swept away by a Wrath effect. That's why it's barely even playable as sideboard card and realistically only shines in small, duel-like games in which players are packing their lists with spot removal. Then (and only then) it somewhat makes sense to turn to this type of protection spell.
While Hostage Taker is an interesting riff on both Control Magic and Clone it's not a card that I'm particularly interested in acquiring and playing. After all, it's significantly more risky and mana intensive than its counterparts while only boasting a marginally higher power-ceiling. For those wondering what I mean by "risky" I'm mostly referring to consistency issues. Whereas turn 2 mana rock, turn 3 Control Magic/Clone will answer a quick Entomb + Animate Dead on a fatty this card will only buy you some time until removal is found. Moreover, it's also extremely weak against mass removal since it actually protects the only threat that you cared about removing which defeats its purpose entirely. This clearly isn't an issue in games where you're able to cast the threat shortly after exiling it but that's not always going to be the case. That being said the card still has some strengths that are worth highlighting. First of all it's the first Control Magic effect that significantly affects creatures with powerful ETB triggers such as Sylvan Primordial. This is because you're forced to cast the creature as opposed to merely stealing it. Moreover, unlike one-and-done theft effects Hostage Taker boasts immense synergy with blink/bounce/revival/etc. engines that can be used to reset its target. The idea here is to capture something, cast it, rinse and repeat until your adversaries are utterly defeated. While this process is both slow and mana intensive it's still a viable route to victory assuming that you can assemble the components and mana to carry it out. All of this still only leaves Hostage Taker as a "medium playable" but insofar as you're legitimately going to pair it with things like Mimic Vat and/or Crystal Shard then there's some merit to fielding it over alternatives such as Rite of Replication and Control Magic.
Before moving on I want to highlight that this card will be significantly more powerful in "powered" formats such EDH in which you're allowed to field things like Mana Crypt and Sol Ring. Obviously Lots/Moxen are off of the table but there's still tons of fast mana floating around and anything that reads "steal target player's Sol Ring" has my attention. That being said I don't really want to pay 4-5 mana for that luxury when a card like Dack Fayden will do it for 3 but the point still stands that this card can be legitimately bonkers when it's nabbing fast mana. As such while I consider it to be a C for Constructed Multiplayer Magic it's more like a C+/B- in EDH so keep that in mind when you're making the decision whether to acquire them or not.
Grade: Niche C+
Tishana is essentially a beefed-up version of Regal Force and given that the latter still sees a reasonable amount of competitive play there's no point in dismissing her. After all, a huge % of Green-based token/Elfball decks field one big "card draw" creature that they can tutor up via Green Sun's Zenith, Survival of the Fittest, Eldritch Evolution, Chord of Calling, Birthing Pod, etc. and she's going to beat out the competition in any build that can support her. You could argue that that makes her a "Niche A" or something along those lines but I don't want to misrepresent how powerful she is nor how frequently that she'll see play. After all, these token/Elfball decks typically aren't Blue and so unless you can reasonably cast her then you may as well stick to Regal Force. Otherwise it sometimes makes more sense to field cheaper cards like Skullmulcher/Shamanic Revelation for curve considerations. While this card is powerful I don't expect her to see much actual play because too many stars have to align for her to be the optimal choice. She's powerful, I'm not suggesting otherwise, but there comes a point where a card is too niche to seriously consider acquiring when there's a reasonable alternative that's only marginally worse yet infinitely more flexible.
Artifact + Land
The dream use-case of this card is to run out a 1 drop on turn 1, follow it up with one of these on turn 2 and then slam into someone on turn 3 to build-your-own Lotus Vale. Heck, even the average use-case of "cast something on turns 1-3, run this out on turn 4 and hit the player without blockers" is still exceeding good. What makes this card so appealing is that multiplayer games often feature at least one player who's down on their luck (more player = higher probability that one or more will have a terrible draw) and since the plants are only shipped to one of them you can prey off of laggers in a big way. Moreover, it's also important to note that your "Gilded Lotus" is a land instead of an artifact which means that it's going to dodge all of that nasty stax/removal that could otherwise thwart your well-laid plans. Otherwise I doubt that I need to sell people on the power-level of Gilded Lotus given that most of us should be able to see why jumping straight to 7+ mana is bonkers. Remember that the land transforms untapped which means that you'll often be able to follow it up with a spell on the turn that you transform it. Courser of Kruphix, Toxic Deluge, Rhystic Study, Manifold Insights, Anger of the Gods, the list goes on and on of relevant things that you'll be able to cast alongside it. Now, the primary downside of this card is that it's significantly less reliable than traditional ramp. When you jam a Worn Powerstone on turn 3 you know what you're getting but this card isn't nearly as consistent. You might not have have any creatures, they might die before dealing combat damage, your adversaries might all have blockers, on and on and on. When it's good it's great but when it's bad it's complete and utter trash. It's still something that you should be willing to take a chance on because the upside is definitely there but it's not a slam-dunk in the same way that card like Fellwar Stone is.
As someone who's tested extensively with both Jace's Sanctum and Pyromancer's Goggles let me be the first to say that I like this card a lot. Spell-based decks are relatively difficult to build and play in multiplayer given that creatures are the de facto forms of protection but enough broken spells have been printed in recent years to make this less of a concern. For example, whereas before you used to run the risk of running out of removal to protect yourself nowadays you can enact silly chains involving Dark Petition and Seasons Past to "go infinite" as it were. Primal Amulet is bonkers in these types of lists because when your goal is to cast 3-4 spells per turn every turn then reducing their cost 1 starts to look rather absurd. Casting a 1 mana Dark petition into a 5 mana Seasons Past in order to recur a 1 mana Nature's Lore, a 2 mana Praetor's Grasp a free Massacre and your Dark Petition is going to feel unfair to play again. Note that by no means does this card have to be played in a Seasons Past deck and it will find homes in monoblue, monoblack, Izzet, Azorius and plenty of other archetypes as well. I merely chose Seasons Past as my example because it highlights how spell decks often chains spells together to great effect. Blue decks will gladly do the same thing with High Tide into Impulse into Frantic Search into Manifold Insights into Turnabout into Engulf the Shore into Rise from the Tides + Time Warp for similarly absurd sequences.
Otherwise the flipped side of the card is perfect for doubling noninteractive finishers such as Exsanguinate, Cut //Ribbons, Time Warp, Rise from the Tides, Wildfire, Blatant Thievery, Army of the Damned, Expropriate, etc. Note that even cards that don't "need" to be double can massively benefit from its effect if for no other reason than to play around permission. I've played countless Pyromancer's Goggles lists in my day at a good 25% of my activations are made for that very reason alone. After all, if that "Insurrection" is going to win the game if it resolves then make it as difficult to interact with as possible. Otherwise I very much doubt that I need to explain to anyone who doubling Exsanguinate is a "good thing" because I'm sure that you can all work that one out for yourself.
While I'm guilty of fielding more than my fair share of grindy card advantage engines I dislike the ones that are both expensive and conditional given that they rarely have a relevant impact on the game. After all, in order for a card like Vanquisher's Banner to yield significant returns you'd have to play at least 4-5 creatures before getting a midway decent ROI. Note that this is factoring in both the pump and the card draw because Tidings isn't exactly a staple and so we can't kid ourselves into thinking that "5 mana draw 4-5 cards over 4-5 turns" is somehow exciting. My biggest issue with this card is that I don't see how it's even going to make the cut and that's even including singleton formats such as EDH. This is because Tribal decks require a critical mass of threats in order to fuel their payoff engines and this leaves very little room for spells. As such the few that you field need to have a significant impact on the game and fill glaring holes and weakness of your strategy. That's why they tend to be things like ramp, tutors, removal, permission, card draw and/or any other effect that creatures struggle to replicate. As such you rarely have the slots for anemic Mind's Eye/Coat of Arms hybrids that don't pack the same punch as game-changing bombs.
Checklands are some of the wisest investments that budding Magicians can possibly make given that they're extremely powerful and versatile forms of color fixing. After all, the vast majority of budget-minded brews are going to include their fair share of basics and once that requirement is met these become eminently reasonable options for fixing your colors. A general rule of thumb is that insofar as you have 14 or more basics (including ways to fetch them) then you'll reliably be able to have one in your opening hand at which point these become untapped duals with no strings attached. That isn't to say that you must have 14 or more basic lands in your list but it's a reasonable benchmark to aim for whenever possible. Otherwise the value of untapped duals should be clear as day to even the most novice mages given the inherent value of speed and color fixing. Granted, Checklands will never supplant the likes of duals, fetches, shocks, etc. but they're only a tier or two behind and this still relatively competitive in the grand scheme of things. At >= $5.00 a pop it's not going to get any better than these.
Grade: Niche B
This is a card that I've been wildly impressed with and so I highly recommend acquiring them. Not only does it enable you to splash for off-color bombs in your tribal lists but it also always taps for mana which is relevant for expensive, spell-based bombs such as Patriarch's Bidding. Given that I've never played with or against a competitive tribal list that didn't include some number of those it's an extremely relevant aspect of the card as far as I'm concerned. Otherwise there's not much to analyze about it which, in all fairness, tends to be true of most lands. That is to say that this is exactly where you want to be when you're trying to squeeze in things like Wayward Servant and Grenzo, Dungeon Warden on a reasonable budget but otherwise you can safely ignore it.
From this point onwards I'm going to focus my conclusion on highlighting cards that I believe to be worthy investments and/or key roleplayers in the long-run. For White that's basically only going to be Legion's Landing which will become the de facto 1-drop in token-based builds moving forward. Nothing else strikes me as being particularly noteworthy. Blue doesn't have anything worth writing home about and could easily be ignored without repercussion. The only card that strikes my fancy in Black is Revel in Riches given that it's an extremely uninteractive win condition for Control-based builds in creature-heavy metas. I could very easily see myself casting one on turn ~5 alongside a Massacre into a Toxic Deluge/Damnation only to untap and win on turn 6. Even if someone were to then axe my Revels, no big deal, I'll simply convert my ~15 mana into a win off of an Exsanguinate/Rise of the Dark Realms style effect. Rampaging Ferocidon piques my interest as far as Red is concerned but even then burn-based builds tend to be dubious at best and so my hopes aren't overly high on that card quite yet. It's likely worth acquiring but only just barely. Green doesn't have any true bombs but given that I'm utterly engrossed with Ranging Raptors I'm going to be acquiring them (alongside Ripjaw Raptor) for various Pestilence builds. I don't know why that card appeals to me as much as it does but I can't help but to want to build around it. None of the multicolor cards interest me in the slightest and most of the artifacts are equally unexciting. The only exception is Dowsing Dagger which is going to feel stupidly oppressive in any game in which you cast + flip on turn 3/4 against an open player. Those games will be hard to lose. As far as lands are concerned all of the Checklands are amazing investments and Unclaimed Territory is going to be a staple for budget-minded tribal lists. That may sound overly niche but believe me when I say that you'll quickly find a home for them.
So glad you wrote another set review. They're my favorite thing that gets posted on these boards & I've gone back to the ones you've written many times.
The one card I disagree on here is Dowsing Dagger. It's playable as filler in EDH is you have a deck where you're currently playing Sword of the Animist, but it just seems like way too many hoops to jump through outside of a deck where you are equipping for free, but even then you'd just play Sword of Feast and Famine, or want to give your opponents creatures. In the generic scenario, you probably aren't playing a 1 drop creature, so you probably aren't doing much of anything relevant until turn 5 if your plan is turn 2 creature, turn 3 dagger, turn 4 equip and if you're lucky enough that someone hasn't cast a simple Innocent Blood or whatever by then & your creature won't just be chumped or killed by the person you are attacking maybe cast a 3 or less drop. Sure in the best case scenario you can slam Sylvan Primordial or whatever on turn 5, but you were already doing that more efficiently. It just seems way easier to actually just play Thran Dynamo or Gilded Lotus, especially since if you draw them late at least they just immediately do what they do, and how many 60 card decks do you actually play them in given you want to be ramping turn 1 or 2 rather than turn 4 or 5 (unless we're talking about Hour of Promise or Primeval Titan game winning ramp on turn 4 or 5)?
You should maybe stress that checklands a really good for colorfixing in a 2-colored deck, but suck at doing so in a 3-colored deck. Fetchlands are good in both.
Fetchlands were a mistake and are often the best lands for 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 color decks. Everything is paltry by comparison, even duals. This is why I generally dislike comparing nonfetchlands to fetchlands because that's like comparing Sol Ring to other mana rocks or Ancestral Recall to other draw spells. They're orders of magnitude more powerful than any other alternative.
I'm going to play Siren Stormtamer in my Edric decks but that's too niche to even bother writing about. Ruthless Knave doesn't strike me as being a playable Magic card and I couldn't envision ever playing with or against it in multiplayer. That isn't to say that I'm right, it's that nothing "clicks" in my brain when I read it so I don't have much of an opinion on it. I've played cards like this before (see Flesh Carver) but they never feel broken. Out of curiosity what about the card strikes you as being noteworthy for multiplayer? The ability to function as a ramp + card advantage engine assuming that you have fodder to pitch? I'm not seeing it myself.
For what it's worth we're basically arguing the same thing but we're presenting our arguments in different ways. Neither of us think that the card is top-tier (I didn't give it an A or anything) but we can both agree that it can enable game-winning sequences. Don't get me wrong, I understand where you're coming from and what your concerns are, but try to remember that if you hold every 6 drop to Consecrate Sphinx and every 5 drop to Gray Merchant of Asphodel that everything will seem weak by comparison. That is to say that, yes, I agree, Dynamo is a better card on average. If it were printed today it would get an A+. That being said it's not and it's never going to be (same thing with Gilded Lotus). So, our choice is to either A) dismiss every ramp spell weaker than Dynamo or B) rate them according to their relative worth. I chose the latter hence I why I think that the card has potential. If you put it in your deck and flip it on turn 3-4 you'll probably win. I think we can both agree on that. You're absolutely right that it has drawbacks and downsides, I'm not suggesting otherwise, but the reward does justify the risk. If you want all reward and no risk then you can slam Dynamo in all of your decks and never look back. That's fine too. Still, for people who can't afford them, can't find them, want to play Modern, want to weaker their decks, etc. having access to budget-minded alternatives always helps. For a card like Recurring Insight, sure, I don't care, I'll assume that people can acquire and afford them. They're cheap and "newish" (AND IF YOU SAY OTHERWISE I'M IGNORING YOU LA LA LA I'M NOT AN OLD MAN). Dynamo? It's no stretch to argue that not everyone will be able to get their hands on those.
If it makes you feel any better or helps I'm personally not going to purchase or play Dowsing Dagger in any deck that I ever build or play. I'm totally fine with being boring and playing the same good cards over and over again. Whereas other people say things like "oh that's already in another one of my decks" or "someone already plays that card" you'll never heard that from me because I don't care. I'm the number one advocate of proxing and/or buying staples that you shuffle across all of your decks. Still, my reviews are solely tailored towards people like me. I'm trying to be as all-encompassing as possible.
For what it's worth we're basically arguing the same thing but we're presenting our arguments in different ways. Neither of us think that the card is top-tier (I didn't give it an A or anything) but we can both agree that it can enable game-winning sequences.
Fair enough. I feel like if someone posted a deck list on here you'd wisely advise them to just play 4 Fellwar Stone or Sakura-Tribe Elder instead, and thankfully that's like a buck for a playset. I love how you are always budget minded in your suggestions.
Still, for people who can't afford them, can't find them, want to play Modern, want to weaker their decks, etc. having access to budget-minded alternatives always helps.
I'd rather see Unclaimed Territory in the top 10 for a budget option. Obviously it's not the ridiculously priced Cavern of Souls, but almost every multicolored tribal deck will want them, and as you've already posted it's good enough to make you consider splashing another color. To me that's probably the card I'm most excited about because I'm not getting a playset of Cavern anytime soon...
I agree with nearly all your evaluations but I'm very, very surprised at your evaluations on the flip cards. I don't want to play a single one of these in 60-card multiplayer. None of the effects seem worth the trouble and they are so unreliable (admit it) I hardly want to bother.
I feel like Vanquisher's Banner is worth including. It's not Kindred Discovery (but 2U isn't always easy), but it seems auto include in any casual EDH tribal & something you'd at least strongly consider in red and/or white tribal. I don't like that it's cast, but at it's worst it's a tougher to remove overcosted lord. Given that tribal decks tend to play reasonably costed creatures, it'll draw you 2 cards a turn sometimes. I think it's an improvement over Mentor of the Meek (he always dies on me) or Outpost Siege (not a big fan of cards that make me misplay now or never) in a lot of those decks.
Fair enough. I feel like if someone posted a deck list on here you'd wisely advise them to just play 4 Fellwar Stone or Sakura-Tribe Elder instead, and thankfully that's like a buck for a playset.
No, I think that everyone hating on Dowsing Dagger is grossly underestimating its potential. I think that the card is legitimately awesome when it works and that its only drawback is that it doesn't always work. Take the following draws:
This draw seems bonkers to me. Someone is going to be open and/or not want to chump and you've just cast a Gilded Lotus that basically can't be removed. Note that this draw works off any 1 CMC dork into any 3 drop so by no means does it have to be those exact creatures.
All I had to do was replace Merfolk Looter with Looter il-Kor and suddenly I gain access to a broken ramp spell for my Midrange Control decks. Yep, still seems awesome.
I think that everyone who's completely dismissing this card needs to take step back and realize that it's a 4 CMC Gilded Lotus that dodges virtually forms of removal in any game in which you curve 2 -> 3 -> Dagger. Why that doesn't seem to appeal to anyone but me is puzzling. I also hope that it's abundantly clear as to why Gilded Lotus is significantly more powerful than Thran Dynamo given that you can immediately follow it up with a colored spell. Interaction, permission, removal, threats, whereas most ramp sets you back the net cost of the Dagger is 1 mana which means that you get double spell the turn that you flip it. Don't sleep on this card friends.
I agree with nearly all your evaluations but I'm very, very surprised at your evaluations on the flip cards.
I didn't even rate the Black one (it's unplayable trash) and 2 of them got "D" grades. Legion's Landing got a passing grade because it's reasonable ramp for token decks. I will always cut at least 2 lands in favor of a pair of those because it's strictly better to do so as far as I'm concerned. Growing Rites definitely isn't garbage because its upside is completely absurd and people don't play nearly enough mass removal in multiplayer. I don't care what anyone thinks or says because every shred of evidence that I've seen strongly suggests that people still criminally underestimate its value. Gaea's Cradle is a ridonkulous, game-winning Magic card and even a bastardized version is still plenty capable of crushing tables. I agree that it's being wildly overrated by the masses but when the card works it's broken as heck.
Growing Rites definitely isn't garbage because its upside is completely absurd and people don't play nearly enough mass removal in multiplayer.
Growing Rites is the only flip card I will definitely toss in some of my decks (once the price comes down LOL). I have plenty of creature heavy decks, so for me it wouldn't be a build around & thus in the worst case scenario I waste a couple extra mana for something that replaces itself with a card I want to be casting ASAP anyway.
I'm considering getting a hold of some Primal Amulets as I start to build a Pyromancer Ascension deck. 4 normally feels a hefty price for a cost reducer, but I feel if you're already mucking about with ritual effects (as you often do with Pyro Ascension anyway), it's probably got a home.
You'll have a laugh, too, Prid3... I hit up the Ixalan pre-release with my 13yo godson. He faced someone who pulled together the WB Vampires archetype, let him get set, and then coldly dropped Rampaging Ferocidon on him. The guy pretty much had to scoop.
And I somehow managed to 3-0 the event, despite having an absolute dogpile of a pool... I basically had three duals, a load of removal and Sun-Crowned Hunters, and no-one was prepared for it. TL;DR: Treasure ramp and Sun-Crowned Hunters are pretty good, removal (as always) is underrated.
Search for Azcanta would be my #3. It's a legitimately good card that I wouldn't mind running as a 1-of in any deck that can cast it. It does all kinds of useful things (scry/loot/mill/ramp/draw) at a very low cost.
I don't really understand this mindset. In order for this to be a relevant ramp spell you have to binning cards at an obscene rate and at that point you may as well be playing cards like Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. Presumably your list is already chock full of fetches and cantrips so why waste time with marginal value engines when you can jam Ancestral Recall as a 4-of? I'm not saying that it's laughable to run it as a 1-of or anything, it's certainly a justifiable addition, but if I'm playing a deck with a lot of self-mill I'd much rather slam a Thought Scour or Mental Note to immediately "Black Lotus" my next Dig Through Time. This is why the card doesn't excite me whatsoever; because it's not going to change the way that I build and play my Blue decks. I'm going to keep my curve of Preordain into Thought Vessel into Manifold Insights because I want my ramp spell to be active on turn 2 as opposed to turn 5 and I don't care about drawing 4-5 cards down the road for 18-22 mana when I can cast things like Rhystic Study, Manifold Insights and Trade Secrets to generate similar quantities of CA for significantly less.
I see it as a potential card advantage source for white and red decks. It's slow to be sure, but in general, turn 2 plays aren't great, and 1 mana isn't that much of a set back (you can start activating it once you've curved out). It could also be decent in ramp decks in order to find business and ramp for the big payoff cards.
It's clearly not the greatest, but some decks could really use draw/filtering and early plays.