Conditional mass removal occasionally has its place in hatebear/token decks that flood the board with small creatures. After all, the ability to nuke opposing threats while preserving your own can massively swing losing games in your favor. At 3 CMC it's also easily castable under Sphere/Tax effects such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Vryn Wingmare while are common inclusions in disruptive builds. Unfortunately, the fact that it fails to remove key utility threats makes it a lackluster option in practice. It's still playable as a 1-2 of in decks that can entirely dodge the effect but it's significantly weaker than it looks. I recommend sticking to traditional Wrath of Gods even in decks that field their fair share of creatures because they're significantly more consistent and powerful on average.
Much like Return to Dust this is an exile-based 2-for-1 that permanently deals with multiple threats. This can be especially noteworthy against recursive colors such as Black and Green and/or indestructible bombs such as Blightsteel Colossus. It's obviously more conditional but has a higher power-ceiling when you're hitting 1 of each so it's mostly a matter of preference + meta as to which you should run. It's only usable if you're consistently applying both modes and that'll become self-evident after a couple of games if it isn't already. There's nothing special or noteworthy about spot removal in multiplayer but it's often essential to avoid getting cheesed-out by powerful bombs which is why cards like these will often make the cut in your lists even if they're virtual card disadvantage in 4+ player games.
I've tested this card in various lifegain decks (think Soul Warden etc.) and found it to be a reasonable-yet-unexciting 1-2 of. 4 mana per token is rough and 2 mana for card draw is a big ask when Well of Lost Dreams does it for 1 but the upside of coming down on turn 2 is huge when you're already trying to support 4 CMC bombs like Test of Endurance and Ranger of Eos. Moreover, unlike Well of Lost Dreams it's a 1-card draw engine/win condition/value station that can somewhat seize control of the game if left unchecked. I say "somewhat" because it's too weak + slow to outright win a multiplayer game on its own (it's no Luminarch Ascension) but it can dig into the cards needed to put a stranglehold on the opposition. Not a fantastic card any means but but perfectly serviceable.
While I'm less-than-thrilled to receive yet another 5 mana bomb for White-based token decks the effect is far too powerful to overlook. Traditionally, our go-to closer has been Cathars' Crusade due to its ability to scale wildly out-of-control over a short period of time. Visitation is a legitimate contender and I've been happily playing the first in my lists since its inception. I don't like running more than 1-2 since it's worthless in multiples but Serra Angel is no slouch when you're slamming endless quantities into play. Assuming that you're going wide and dodging Wrath effects I still prefer Cathars' Crusade since it only takes 1-2 turns for that one to clear the table but Visitation is significantly more relevant when you're on the back-foot and consistently losing your board. Raise the Alarm feels like Animate Dead when it's creating an 8/8 vigilant flier and anemic engines such as Adanto, the First Fort start to look and feel obscene.
Otherwise, the card has cute interactions with spells that temporarily create tokens (think Waylay) but that's only relevant for a small handful of cards. The main ones that come to mind are Bitterblossom and Ophiomancer since those are cards that I often find myself running regardless and so I wouldn't be going out of my way to include them. Things like Puppet Conjurer are cute and all, but they're not cards that you're happy to play in a vacuum so these will be fringe pairings at best. I do want to live the Tombstone Stairwell dream but that pairing seems a touch ambitious. Anyway, Visitation should see play in Stax/Prison decks that field things like Smokestack which they support with Bitterblossom style effects.
I've been extremely impressed with this card in White-based token decks and love the bonkers lines that it enables. The CMC is incredibly misleading because it's secretly a 0-3 mana card that instantly swings the game in your favor. Think about draws such as:
On and on and on. It enables so many draws to go from 0-10 in a single turn without further clogging the coveted 5 CMC slot in this archetype. I cannot stress how stupid the interaction with Intangible Virtue is either because when you go Intangible Virtue -> Spectral Procession ->Battle Screech + Venerated Loxodon you outright win unless the table has a Wrath effect. It's also bonkers with Doubling Season since you're doubling your +1/+1 counters in addition to your tokens. There's so many sweet draws that include this card and so I expect it to be heavily played in token decks moving forward.
I maintain that my sister was used as the model for this card. Tell me I'm wrong. I dare you.
This card is absolutely busted and I'm grateful that it's "not a thing" in Constructed so that I could grab them on the cheap. The effect is obscenely powerful in any spell-based Blue deck that cares about its graveyard which, for me, is "all of them." Flashback, recursion, delve, reanimation, I'm always doing something with my 'yard and this a potent enabler that consistently provides an amazing ROI. Heck, it often feels like a Demonic Tutor that Surveils for 2 and has thus largely supplanted Snapcaster Mage in all of my lists. Snappy still shines in builds that feature mass bounce such as Coastal Breach but otherwise it's all Briefing all the time. "Mill 2" would already be reason enough but there's so many reasons why it''s superior. It can cast alternative costs such as Cyclonic Rift and Force of Will. It doesn't target so it isn't hosed by Scavenging Ooze effects. It's fantastic with "top of library" tutors such as Mystical Tutor. You get to surveil before you cast your spell so if you're planning on recurring a tutor you get to see 2 cards first before making your final decision. If you see your target recur a draw spell instead for extra value. On and on and on.
While this card is essentially a strictly weaker version of Young Pyromancer, Monastery Mentor and Talrand, Sky Summoner it has the upside of not being legendary and not requiring a color splash. This makes it ideal for budget-minded and casual spell-based decks seeking to create a critical-mass of evasive threats off of these powerful token generators. Jeskai Ascendancy and Sprout Swarm tend to feel especially obnoxious in these archetypes as they enable you to mindlessly chain a near-infinite quantity of spells into an easy win. That being said it's still an effective threat even if you're simply fielding a slew of cantrips and card draw spells that can naturally chain together. Given that you're already in Blue that isn't much of any ask since you already be fielding things like Preordain and Manifold Insights regardless. 1/1s fliers aren't relevant enough to win multiplayer games on their own so you'll have to find something "broken" to do with them but it's a stellar engine nonetheless.
I don't expect to play with or against spell at any point in my Magic career but I'll never discount "1-card win conditions" that can end games from an empty board. After all, assuming that you can cast + untap with one of these you can figuratively/literally end the game off of cards like Expropriate, Time Stretch and Enter the Infinite. Moreover, you can also employ Haste-based recursion such as Shallow Grave and Corpse Dance to immediately recur + activate your Adepts. This may seem overly convoluted but I often find myself playing decks that seek to curve Faithless Looting/Careful Study into Mizzix's Mastery on Enter the Infinite so it's not a wild stretch to add Adepts and recursion since you're already playing the discard effects. The only issue that I have with this tactic is that it's almost strictly worse than using Magus of the Mind which does the same thing for 1 mana (instead of 3).
I've been low-key impressed with this card in decks that feature threats such as Young Pyromancer, Monastery Mentor and Murmuring Mystic which obviously boast immense synergy with this type of spell. After all, not only are you deploying additional payoff engines but you're also doing it in way that triggers your existing ones. That is, when you copy a Pyro and then copy it again you're snagging 3 exra tokens (per engine) out of the deal that additional creatures wouldn't have yielded. It's also a fantastic "6 drop" for builds that have powerful 5 drops such as Mulldrifter and Peregrine Drake because the ability to immediately cast + JS Quasiduplicate can lead to some nutty sequences as the game progresses. It turns your worst card into your strongest threat and that's nothing to sleep on. The downside is that it only targets your creatures and it's only useful if you have something worth copying. That's why I'd rather field 1-2 over 3-4 because some % of the time it literally won't do anything. Still, the highs are very high even if the lows are extremely low and I really do like what this card brings to "Monastery Mentor" style decks.
Dusk Legion Zealot and Burglar Rat are two cards that I've longed to see in Black for many years and I'm extremely grateful to receive them in back-to-back sets. After all, Black decks frequently require a critical mass of cheap resources to fuel things like Unearth, Viscera Seer, Gate to Phyrexia, Contamination, Grave Pact, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, etc. and so there's a high demand for 1-2 drops "worth playing" in multiplayer. There also aren't many that foot the bill since most of them are too weak and/or too bad in multiples and this has gone a long way to shoring up our curves.
What I will say is that I wouldn't advocate playing with Burglar Rat outside of decks that abuse corpses and/or discard. The piddly 1/1 body is mostly irrelevant and discard becomes obsolete as the game progresses (people have too many or too few cards in hand to care) so you want to have a reason before you start sleeving them up. It's always going to be a solid budget option (4 card slots for 20 cents is a great deal) but this isn't a generic playable that will always shine just because it scales with the number of players.
This card is solid and it's only going to take a single global Lotleth Giant for it to become an oppressive, must-have 4-of in multiplayer Dredge decks. I'm actually extremely disappointed that Lotleth Giant isn't global because I would have played the ink off of that card otherwise. I assume that most players know what Dredge is by now (look it up if not; it's not hard to find) so I won't go over the strategy but this is a fantastic way to bring some additional reach to the archetype without sacrificing too much power, inevitability or consistency. I'll stress that it's only relevant for "true" Dredge decks playing something along the lines of 4x Stinkweed Imp and 4x Goglari Grave-Troll but it's an easy 18-24 damage and 9-12 life in those builds which is stellar given that you're receiving it for "free."
For those wondering, I don't consider this to be a "must play" in MP version of the deck. It's strong, but MP is more about "grind" and less about "aggro/burn" so that vector of the deck loses most of its appeal. Moreover, the current Dread Return targets tend to be things like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite that enable you to overkill by "a lot" so chip damage along the way doesn't always account for much. I will be slamming 4 of these into list if/when we ever get a global version of Lotleth Giant but that ship might have already sailed.
This card is (to the surprise of no one) bonkers. When a 6/6 flample body for 5 is the least impressive aspect of a card you know that Wizards is doing something right! I'm annoyed because of how over-hyped it is for Standard (people don't seem to realize how high the bar for a Black 5 drop is) but from a pure power perspective this thing is obscene and I'm going to be playing mine for years to come.
Much like we've already seen with Griselbrand "free" is right number when it comes activated abilities. There's plenty of cheesy ways to heal/gain life so when you're not gated by mana things tend to spiral wildly out-of-control in a short period of time. Exsanguinate, Gnaw to the Bone, Gray Merchant of Ashphodel and more negate the "cost" and leave you with a degenerate card selection engine that immediately stacks your deck and fills your graveyard for Living End style finishers. Moreover, while your health tends to be a significant resource in duels it's often trivial in multiplayer for a multitude reasons. Aggro is weaker, multiplayer formats often have higher health pools (30 for 2HG, 40 for EDH), combo is the best way to win games, etc. As such your health is rarely pressured in a meaningful way which is why cards like Necrologia can go from unplayable trash (duel) to staples (EDH). As to how you should abuse this card, the options are virtually endless.
On a fundamental level it enables you to stack your draws while providing a gargantuan body that's well above-curve. Ideally you should seek to pair it with decent lifegain but by no means is that required to make the card shine. The thing is huge and the effect is great so "decks that cast Black spells" can reasonably consider giving this card a go. I want to clearly state that before moving on since I sometimes give the false impression that cards are more synergy/combo-driven than they actually are. This card is good. Full stop. It only gets better the more that you support it.
If you want to truly abuse the thing you'll want to look at cards like Gnaw to the Bone, Unburial Rites and Living Death. For Gnaw you can endlessly mill until you hit one, heal back up to full and continue along your merry. It's an obnoxiously powerful "combo" assuming that you're playing a self-mill deck to begin with. Otherwise, Unburial Rites can fill a similar role by recurring things like Thragtusk or Ancestor's Chosen or whatever you want really. It doesn't have to be a lifegain spell by any means, but it's not going to hurt having 1-2 in there as an option. Then there's Living Death which you can fuel, dig for and stack on top of your library at no cost. It's mindless but if your goal is to win games of Magic then it doesn't get much easier than that. You can even mill over things like Cabal Therapy to clear the way so permission is even less relevant than it normally is against you. Clearly Doom Whisperer works with any "graveyard matters" spells and effects, the options are truly limitless, but these are some of the main ones that come to mind.
This card is little more than a terrible version of Living Death so I don't expect to see it played in generic Reanimator builds. That being said it has niche applications in Melira combo decks, especially if you're playing with Modern restrictions. (Buried Alive into) Gruesome Menagerie on Viscera Seer, Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Kitchen Finks is basically a game win so this opens up new options for those builds. Not in the "ultra linear kill you asap" versions of the deck, but moreso for the "I want to crush removal" variations. I still don't know why/when you'd ever field this over Living Death unless you were limiting yourself to Modern-only cards but it's technically an option.
This card is little more than a terrible version of Demonic Tutor so I don... just kidding! I have significantly more respect for this one. Black is one of the strongest self-mill colors due to things like Entomb, Stitcher's Supplier, Buried Alive which fuel payoff spells such as Tortured Existence, Animate Dead, Recurring Nightmare and Living Death. You need to jump through some deckbuilding hoops to make it work but cheap + hard tutors are definitely worth the trouble. It's comparable to Diabolic Intent in that sense which is another card that I highly recommend for these archetypes. The "Black card" restriction is a bummer because otherwise it would legitimately be Demonic Tutor in my Cloudpost/Cabal Coffers decks but I can appreciate why it's in place. It's still a fantastic card in self-mill decks that will see a ton of play moving forward.
Midnight Reaper is a solid card draw engine for your creature-based builds that abuse recursion and/or sacrifice effects. Unlike most alternatives it triggers off of itself and so even if it trades in combat or eats a removal spell it's still a 2-for-1. A 3/2 for 3 is also above-curve for Black and having something "large" to gum up the ground is decent. Still, where this card truly shines in in builds that field things like Viscera Seer, Reassembling Skeleton, Zulaport Cutthroat, Plaguecrafter and other ways to create + abuse death triggers. After all, Plaguecrafter starts to feel bonkers when it's drawing a card in addition to 1-for-1ing the enemy team and the Viscera Seer + Reassembling Skeleton pairing is obscene when each iteration of the loop is netting you an additional card. Sure, the lifeloss adds up, but that's where cards like Zulaport Cutthroat shine. He's also fantastic at digging for things like Living Death which can enable you to recover from large swaths of interaction. On that note he innately offers stellar insulation against mass removal which tends to be your primary concern when you're flooding the board with small dorks.
I want to start by expressing my gratitude to Wizards for the shift from "sacrifice creatures" to "sacrifice something." It started with The Eldest Reborn and we're seeing it again with Plaguecrafter where they're expanding the design space to ensure that these are still relevant cards vs midrange, combo, control and prison decks. I, as a completely unbiased third party, wholly approve of this upgrade for totally selfless reasons.
Ahem. Moving on, I cannot stress how much better it feels to play with these types of cards. Before you'd often find yourself awkwardly sandbagging Fleshbag Marauder vs ramp/control decks and/or being faced with the decision of taking a 2-for-1 vs waiting for a potential 3-for-1 in scenarios where only 1-2 opponents had deployed threats. You'd still jam your removal, that's kinda how Magic works, but it felt bad. Now it never feels bad because you never "miss." No creature? No problem! Lose a 'Walker or pitch a card instead! I'm especially loving the 'Walker clause because otherwise they're extremely annoying to deal with when you're playing Black. Now you can nuke + recur them via The Eldest Reborn and it feels awesome.
Moving on, I love how this card enables back-breaking locks. Recursion + Fleshbag Marauder has always been a trump vs creature decks but it's also worthless vs combo, control, ramp, prison, etc. Now that you can establish a lock for creatures, cards in hand and 'Walkers there's significantly less wiggle room for your adversaries to play around with. This makes all of those Tortured Existence, Oversold Cemetery, Journey to Eternity, Meren of Clan Nel Toth/etc. + Plaguecrafter pairings that much more devastating which I wholly approve of.
Lastly, this should also be the de facto removal spell for discard-based decks that abuse things like Waste Not and Geth's Grimoire. After all, it's a Fleshbag Marauder when creatures are afoot but it's also a form of mass discard if they aren't. This ensures that it's always a relevant draw that's working towards your primary gameplan which makes it the ideal card for the job.
I like this card slightly more than Citywide Bust because it's easier to build and play a deck that curves a mana rock into a Wrath into a slew of 5+ CMC bombs than it is to build something that's low-to-the-ground. I'd still much rather field something like Languish or Mutilate instead because they're more reliable answers that scale better as the game progresses and bear in mind that all of this is assuming that you can't afford the "good spells" like Toxic Deluge and Damnation which trump all of the aforementioned options. It's a fine 2-of if you're looking for something to stabilize the board early on so that you can run out your The Eldest Reborns, Grave Titans and Sepulchral Primordials unimpeded but not a staple by any means. For example, I have no plans to purchase/play them because there's no compelling reason for me to do so given that I already own all 4 of the previously mentioned mass removal options.
Unlike Burglar Rat this card is far too niche to be played in anything but hyper-dedicated discard/denial decks so please don't jam these in your generic "midrange value" brews. It's too low-impact and too much of a liability in the later stages of the game to warrant an inclusion. Rather, you want to be curving turn 1 Vicious Rumors into turn 2 Smallpox into turn 3 Animate Dead or even something like turn 1 Dark Ritual + Waste Not + Vicious Rumors to make this type of effect worthwhile. I'd provide more examples but those are literally the only ones that I can think of; Smallpox and/or Waste Not/Geth's Grimoire decks looking for some extra speed at the cost of having weaker topdecks.
While I believe that Thermo-Alchemist style threats are severely underrated and underplayed (mostly due to the Curiosity combos) this one has 2 major strikes against it. The first is that it only triggers off inst/sorcs and the second is it doesn't deal guaranteed damage each turn. The big butt is nice, it has that over Firebrand Archer, but the fact that it doesn't trigger off of enchs/arts is a huge when the primary appeal of the deck is the Curiosity draws. It's still playable since the Curiosity combos are that good but we have access to significantly better alternatives already.
Otherwise, we often field these types of threats in burn decks filled with Price of Progresses, Flame Rifts and Fiery Confluences. All you need for those is burn + blockers and this brings both to the table making it an ideal addition to the roster. You can also build versions of the deck that employ cantrips, rituals, Manamorphoses and Guttersnipes instead where it accomplishes the same thing (more-or-less). I would obviously always field this over Firebrand Archer in a straight inst/sorc cantrip/burn deck but the second that you start adding things like Ankh of Mishra and Sulfuric Vortex the pendulum swings back the other way. This makes it an extremely narrow card that can largely be ignored unless you're actively building the "one and only" deck where it's relevant.
As a lover of Future Sight this is easily my favorite Red card in the set. It's tougher to break since you don't have quite as much wiggle room when it comes to deck construction but I think that most people overstate the card's "weaknesses." After all, even if you can't play spells from hand you can still run with Frenzy for 3-4 turns before popping it off with a full grip and the risk of hitting multiple lands in a row is no different that what regular decks have to deal with. I already lose plenty of games to flood so how is this any different?
What makes this card awesome is its ability to dominate games when left unchecked. It can feel utterly obscene once it gets rolling because you'll frequently find yourself jamming 3-4 spells per turn totally unimpeded. You have to jump through a couple of deckbuilding hoops to maximize your odds of doing so but it's not a big ask in practice. People often look at these cards and assume that they require things like Sensei's Divining Top but the reality is that you only require a lower curve, some ramp and no "misses." Aka no reactive cards like Fork that you can't blindly jam regardless of the circumstance. Rather, you want to be playing something entirely proactive. Burn, creatures, removal (virtually never a miss in multiplayer), anything that you mindlessly jam. At that point you're able to chain spell into spell into spell and so even though you're going to have some anemic turns on occasion your "good turns" are almost always insane. Moreover, while I'm not saying that you have to entirely build your deck around Experimental Frenzy it obviously doesn't hurt if you're goilg to field it as a 4-of. In terms of "colorless" options your best bets are things like Isolated Watchtower, Scrying Sheets, Fetchlands, Sensei's Divining Top and Treasure Map but adding other colors is often your best bet to truly abuse it.
Izzet is in the same boat. Cards like Brainstorm and Ponder enable you to effectively stack your deck and even things like Soothsaying start to look bonkers. The idea here is that you can endless filter cantrips and fetchlands to ensure a steady flow of cards. it doesn't really matter what you're playing nor what you're trying to do as long as it's something that you can do at Sorcery speed. So you don't want tons of Counterspells and/or other reactive cards that will cause you to brick but rather things like Crackling Drake that you can fire-and-forget regardless of the circumstances.
Marginal beater/blocker/artifact removal spell who can also randomly axe things like Eldrazi and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. This isn't a staple by any means since a 2 mana 2/2 that can sac to kill an Artifact is relatively janky but it foots the bill in a pinch if you need something to flesh out your curve.
This has been the hardest card in the set for me to evaluate and I still don't know exactly where it lands. I love the fact that you get to choose the opponent because it makes this spell straight-up oppressive in various metas and scenarios. After all, some % of us know "that person" who will utterly refuse to take the dmg and a "3 mana draw 3" with buyback is clearly a broken spell. I would play 4 of those in all of my decks. Hell, I would (and do) splash for that card. I've literally splashed Blue to (otherwise) White decks for Manifold Insights alone and this can be even better than that. So if you have one of those players in your groups you need to run (not walk) to the store to acquire these because you'll be playing them until the ink runs off.
That being said it's not all sunshine and rainbows. If/when your meta moves away from aggro and more towards combo/control/prison/etc. then players start taking less damage in general and so 4-8 to the face starts to be less meaningful. I've often found myself sitting in games where everyone was at/near full health holding on to one of these with nothing else to play. What then? Play a Char to the dome? Not cast anything and waste my mana? Both options suck. Part of what makes "good" draw so good is that you blindly jam it whenever you want and this can be abysmal at times.
With that in mind, there are a few general rules to this card. In metas where you can abuse a scaredy-cat it's an A. Play 4 and never look back. In aggressive metas where players are consistent taking meaningful damage it's a C+/B. Ensure that you treat it as a 6 drop as opposed to a 3 drop and adjust your curve accordingly but the card is gas once player start falling to 10 or less HP. Beyond that the card is a D unless you're going out of your way to support it. So, for example, it's fantastic (like a B/A) in aggro/burn builds that open with Vicious Conquistador and follow that up with Eidolon of the Great Revel and Sulfuric Vortex but it's basically an F if your goal is to curve Mind Stone into Chain Reaction. I'm going to list it as a C+/B because multiplayer is often a casual format and I expect most players to be able to abuse it by targeting a newb (that's a huge reason why it's getting such a high grade) but even if you can't it's a total bomb when played in the right builds and circumstances.
While I love this card for Standard I'm less high on it in multiplayer. Small critters are frequently a major liability when people are curving mana rocks into mass removal and most MP decks lack the critical mass of 1-2 drops needed to make this card feel busted. Moreover, if you field it as a pseudo-Ruby Medallion for a spell-based combo decks you become significantly more vulnerable to creature removal which you would otherwise blank (presumably). It's still a decent beater + blocker + mana engine for monored decks (I say monored but what I actually mean is heavy Red) and can power out turn 4 Inferno Titans with some consistency but this isn't a powerhouse or anything along those lines.
Much like Narcomoeba this card has no generic value but it enables some impressive Flash + Protean Hulk piles that are significantly more clean + compact. For example, in EDH you can fetch Torch Courier, Pili-Pala and Grand Architect to generate infinite mana which you can then sink into your Commander (such as Thrasios, Triton Hero) for the immediate win. This only eats a handful of deck slots relative to most Hulk piles and it clearly enables some ridiculously fast wins (as early as turn 1).
Otherwise, it's a great Haste enabler for cards like Hermit Druid, Narset, Enlightened Master and various other "I win when I tap/attack" threats. After all, it's only 1 CMC and you can play it in advance so that's one less mana needed for your combo turn. I'll stress that you still have the option of casting it on your combo turn if needed so it's really the best of all worlds.
This card is significantly better than I initially gave credit for. At first glance it looked like a crappy version of Harmonize but I've actually been winning tons of games off of this beast in my "Elfball" decks. Not strictly Elf tribal or anything, merely decks that field plenty of ramp-based creatures such as Llanowar Elves and Sakura-Tribe Elder. You have to cast 4-5 creatures before he feels actively good but he can absolutely run away with the game if left unchecked. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone but I've been impressed with how consistently he can seize control of the game. People are extremely lazy about fielding mass removal in general which makes these kinds of cards safer than they otherwise appear to be. Don't get me wrong, sometimes he eats a removal spell and you feel bad, but I routinely find myself running one out on turn 3, untapping and going off.
As to which decks should play him, it's mostly Elfball. I don't necessarily mean "Elf tribal" either, you just want your deck to be full of mana dorks and creature-based bombs as opposed to spell-based ramp. As long as you have 26+ creatures that should be good enough because you really do need to consistently slam 5+ critters before he starts to feel significantly better than Harmonize. Otherwise, he's a massive upgrade to things like Soul of the Harvest given that he's a full 2 CMC cheaper and we don't care about the stats. Your only concern is drawing as many cards as quickly as possible and CMC tends to be the driving factor for that. This is especially true when you have to Green Sun's Zenith or Chord of Calling for your engine because you frequently can't win without one and so speed is of the essence.
This effect isn't new or exciting by any means but curving turn 2 [ramp spell], turn 3 Circuitous Route, turn 4 [bomb] is still a fantastic place to be in multiplayer. I like that can it fix for all 5 colors assuming that nab a couple of gates but but even if you don't it's still a strictly better version of Explosive Vegetation which is already a perfectly fine Magic card. I'll quickly note that you don't need to be going deep on Gates to make this card work. 2-4 is more than enough to justify the inclusion.
"Less is more" when it comes to spot removal in multiplayer since 1-for-1s are dubious at best when you're facing numerous adversaries. Still, having reliable answers to problematic threats is often essential if you want to avoid losing outright to powerful bombs. After all, you don't want to lose to the first Crypt Ghast or Consecrated Sphinx that gets cast/cheated into play nor do you want to succumb to oppressive mana engines such as Cloudpost, Cabal Coffers and Gaea's Cradle. They typically force you to field a small quantity of cheap interaction and so it's extremely important that they reliably get the job done.
With that in mind, you want something cheap, flexible and "fast" (instant-speed) and it doesn't get much better than "2 mana kill anything." I'm already extremely happy to field Beast Within in my Green decks and this is a strictly better version as far as I'm concerned. The ramp is a drawback, no doubt, but it's easily offset by the sheer versatility and power of the effect. It removes anything, from anyone and at any time and for a low sum of mana to boot. As such you can mindlessly jam this into your "spot removal slot" and feel extremely satisfied with the choice. It's arguably the (overall) strongest spot removal spell ever printed so you literally can't go wrong with it in any format.
I'm not going to delve deep on these cards but they're all stellar additions to Selesnya token builds. Flower // Flourish is especially noteworthy since it's one of the few 6 drops that still offers value early on which is relevant when you're trying to play ultra-greedy builds that scale wildly over-the-top of your adversaries. Whereas we used to play ~26 lands (or mana sources in general) we can now play 22x Land and 4x Flower // Flourish at very little cost. The other cards are quite powerful as well, but Selesnya tokens has no shortage of powerful 5+ CMC plays so they're all interchangeable.
3 mana 3 damage is a tried-and-true formula that plays well in virtually any multiplayer meta in any format. For example, I'll happily play 2x Anger of the Gods in all of my Red decks as something cheap + interactive that enables me stabilize against fast starts and/or powerful utility dorks. Deafening Clarion is relatively interchangeable with the plethora of alternatives but it's especially useful in builds that feature nukers like Heartless Hidetsugu and Inferno Titan which benefit from the lifelink. It's still perfectly playable even in creatureless shells, I'm not suggesting otherwise, but at that point I'd rather field something like Sweltering Suns (or whatever) since there's no compelling reason to field Deafening Clarion unless you're routinely abusing both modes.
Now dis is an information campaign that I get behind! This card reminds me of Syphon Mind in the sense that it's a powerful card advantage spell that simultaneously hinders your adversaries. This makes it a stellar addition to various Discard/Control shells insofar as you field enough Surveil support to make the recursive effect worthwhile. You don't need to be playing a dedicated Surveil deck or anything but you want to be casting this 3+ times per game whenever possible to get the most bang for your buck.
I haven't actually like the all-in Surveil decks that play wonky cards like Whispering Snitch and Nightveil Sprite. The payoff isn't large enough to offset the lack of overall power of your cards. I'm absolutely loving Discovery // Dispersal though and from there you only need a couple of additional Surveil cards to make Disinformation Campaign a house. So this is another "less is more" effect that heavily rewards for playing a small number of individually powerful cards/effects as opposed to building towards a parasitic set of synergies.
While this entire cycle is perfectly playable this is hands-down the strongest. It's cheap, it cantrips, it has a huge butt (survives Anger of the Gods), it flies and it kills stupidly quick in the right shells. I routinely see these hitting for 10-12 by the 6th-7th turn of the game which feels absurd. People aren't even doing anything special or warping their decks either. I'm talking ABC Blue decks that field classic such as Thought Scour, Manifold Insights and Treasure Cruise in addition to the typical suite of removal/permission. It counts spells in exile too which is obviously bonkers for things like Force of Will, Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time which you should already be playing. And like, really, what's the worst-case scenario? Someone Doom Blades your Elvish Visionary? Boo hoo! That's what makes this card so freaking powerful. The nightmare-case scenarios are trivial and the upside of having an evasive, cantripping "Mortivore" is bonkers. It's going to to be a staple in spell-based Izzet decks for years to come.
A strictly worse Eternal Witness is still an Eternal Witness and I expect this card to see a reasonable amount of play as a result. This is bolstered by the fact that it's significantly cheaper ($ wise) and has a bigger body which makes it ideal for casual, midrange value decks. I'll note that the "permanent" restriction is significantly less relevant when the card itself is a creature because that's typically what you're going to be recurring regardless. It also still enables the resurrection trains of Findbroker for Findbroker, Findbroker for Animate Dead, etc. that lets you cheat the bulk of your graveyard back into play. Beyond that it's a fantastic budget option for Birthing Pod decks since this tends to be the ideal threat when you're playing with cards like Evolutionary Leap, Journey to Eternity, Recurring Nightmare, Diabolic Servitude, etc.
Much the Selesna token cards I won't spend too much time analyzing these cards individually since they're all solid additions to Golgari self-mill decks that don't require much explanation. Izoni is surprisingly comparable to Grave Titan since the upside of being able to trade creatures for cards is extremely relevant by the time that you're looking to cast her. I frequently find myself jamming one, passing the following turn and then using her to draw 4-5 cards at EOT. She also trigger all of your "sacrifice matters" cards like Grave Pact which are some of your strongest payoffs in these types of shells. I don't play more than 1-2 copies since her power-level fluctuates wildly based on how good your draw is (and you don't want your 6 drops to suck on your weaker draws) but I like the first. Molderhulk has also been a stellar 4-of in my "Stitcher's Supplier, Satyr Wayfinder, Jadelight Ranger" decks since I'm almost always casting one on turn 5 and recurring something like Memorial to Folly or Mirrorpool to start an obscene value train. Turn 4 Hulks are also possible on your stronger draws but significantly less common. It legitimately feels like Primeval Titan at times (weaker but you get the idea) and I'm glad that some of these uncommons are off-the-charts powerful. Lich has been the least impressive card of the lot but assuming that you jam one on turn 4-5 and play another 5-6 turns of Magic he can easily seize control the match through sheer card advantage. Unfortunately, he's basically just an awful version of Doom Whisperer because I'm much more interested in binning a ton of cards and abusing Gnaw to the Bone than grinding people out the fair way. Lich requires more work, more time and offers less of a payoff so his primary appeal is his cost ($ wise) compared to Doomy. Izoni and Hulk are fantastic though so those are the major ones to focus on.
Much like Golgari Findbroker this card is "fine." It comes down for 3 mana to destroy a troublesome permanent and still leaves you with a body to gum up the ground. it's also relevant for tutors, recursion, card draw, etc. which are commonly found in Abzan/Selesnya builds. It's a pseudo-upgrade to Reclamation Sage in Selesnya decks that don't care about Elves but even then it's a marginal boost at best. 4 life is meh and you don't want to be casting 4/3s for 3 so the other modes don't bring much to the table. It's still free value assuming that you don't care about the Elf tag but the reality is that I'm not even excited to field Rec Sage and will only field a maximum of 1 copy in my "Green Sun's Zenith" decks (decks with tutors). I actually field 0 copies more often than not (I prefer Bane of Progress) so even that's a stretch.
Lazav is interesting. He has all of the makings of a powerful card (cheap, good colors, immediate impact, big butt, scales well) but in practice he often plays like an Armored Skaab because his ability is harder to abuse than it looks. Not only do you need creatures in your GY but they also have to be cheap and not reliant on their ETB triggers. So he's great if you can copy a Crypt Ghast or Oracle of Mul Daya or whatever but it can't be things like Mulldrifter. I'm been largely unimpressed with him in practice and prefer to field other things instead. Fellwar Stone, Dimir Signet, Baleful Strix, Search for Azcanta, there's simply better things to be doing on turn 2.
As a lover of Yawgmoth's Will I was hoping that I'd be able to find something interesting/powerful to do with Mnemonic Betrayal but unfortunately I haven't been able to think of anything worthwhile. It has a couple of plausible modes but none of them have felt especially powerful in practice.
The first is as a ramp spell in formats like EDH. Assuming that you're in Grixis or Sultai you can field plenty of mass Artifact removal (Vandalblast, Seeds of Innocence, etc.) which enable you to steal everyone's Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Fellwar Stone, etc. The format is loaded with fast mana so it's easy to chain a ton of it together following a wipe. This clearly works in any format where fast mana is employed but EDH tends to be the primary multiplayer format where that occurs. This is by far and away the most viable use for the card in my experience since these sequences are often hitting on turn 5-6 and generate obscene quantities of mana while simultaneously denying it from your adversaries. It's an extremely powerful strategy and I highly recommend it.
The second possible function is a "combo finisher" in Wheel decks. Assuming that you can force each player to draw + bin a ton of cards then all you need is a deck full of rituals to chain off into a win. This tends to be trivial in Windfall decks because the first will typically draw into the second (and subsequently into the third, etc) so you can basically spend your opening turns chaining Wheel into Wheel into Wheel and then once the GYs are loaded you go for an easy Mnemonic Betrayal win off of cards like Rite of Flame, Cabal Ritual and Mana Geyser. You also don't have to worry about binning your Betryals because that's what cards like Recoup are for. I'll also note that Waste Not is bonkers in these decks because not only does it provide you with an alternative win condition but the sheer quantity of mana that it generates off of Wheels is obscene.
The final mode of this card is a generic ramp finisher for Control decks. Think Villainous Wealth. You Control the board, build up a ton of mana and then steal everyone's key spells and effects for yourself. There's no compelling reason to field it over a plethora of more powerful + more consistent alternatives except for the fact that it's "fun." It's not a guaranteed win, it never kills the same way twice, you never know what it's going to do, etc. Some players love those kinds of cards and the unique experiences that they bring to the table which is the primary reason why I mention this. I would much rather jam an Exsanguinate or whatever myself (and so that's what I'm going to do) but I don't fault anyone for disliking non-interactive kill conditions.
This is my favorite card in the set in terms of gameplay. The card is absolutely bonkers and it typically feels like you're playing some unholy hybrid of Inferno Titan and Consecrated Sphinx when you stick one. I love the fact that he can't be countered because it makes him an ideal breaker for the mirror and the fact that he triggers off of spells played by each player (yourself included) is ridonkulous. I'll almost always pair him with Brainstorm and there's so many scenarios where you can do things like (assuming turn 9-10) cast Niv, cast Brainstorm, draw a card + ping, draw 3 cards + 3 pings and then protect him from removal with a Counterspell while drawing 2 more cards and getting 2 more pings in the process (1 for your spell, 1 for theirs). That's often your worst-case scenario. Then there's the games where people don't have removal or you answer their removal with permission and needless to say the game doesn't last long from there. The card is spectacularly powerful and I envision playing him for the rest of my magic career as the de facto Izzet finisher.
+1 draw a card
-3 kill something
-[Big Number] win the game
Is about as a generic as it gets when it comes to 'Walkers and we've seen it countless times before. They're all playable-yet-unexciting options for midrange/control/ramp decks given that they survive mass removal and generate decent card advantage over time. They can also randomly win games with their ultimates albeit extremely unlikely in practice. I'll concede that I massively underestimated Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (who fits the same mold) because I blindly assumed that he'd be equally unexciting but I've actually played with Ral and he feels more like an Ob Nixilis Reignited than a Teferi. He's still totally reasonable option as a 1-2 of in any spell-heavy list but he's not a "must have" like Crackling Drake or Niv-Mizzet, Parun.
Dimir has always had a bit of a hole at 3 CMC and Thief is a reasonable inclusion for midrange/control shells. We already have Nightveil Specter as an alternative which has the upside of being able to hit lands but Thief is significantly more resilient to removal since you can still cast the cards even after it bites the dust. It also isn't gated by color requirements so you'll always get solid value regardless of who you swing at. This makes it extremely powerful in practice since it's basically like jamming a Gonti, Lord of Luxury for free every turn starting on turn 4. I don't mind not being able to hit lands and so the biggest factor for me on the Specter vs Thief debate is Dark Ritual. I prefer Specter in DR decks since jamming one on turn 1 and hitting lands is stellar but otherwise I'll opt for the Thief unless I'm also fielding Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and/or Gray Merchant of Asphodel. It's the superior alternative all other things being equal. Card is great and you blindly run 4 in any Dimir list and feel relatively good about it. The only risk is that it will die to removal at no benefit, which certainly happens, but the upside is high enough that it's still worth playing these types of threats.
This card actually reads "suspend 1: you win the game" and is one of the most mindless combo enabler that I've ever played with. I call it "Storm training wheels" because literally anyone of any skill level can stumble into a win after untapping with one. First you'll cast a cantrip, then you'll cast a ritual (which is doubled), then you'll cast a draw spell or a tutor (which is tripled) and suddenly every possible line wins the game outright. X spells, Storm finishers, random burn like Fiery Confluence, it literally doesn't matter what you use to end the game since suddenly everything gets there. It's also stupidly forgiving because I've purposely cast my spells in (basically) the least optimal sequence imaginable and it's still easily good enough to secure wins. This is primarily because of cards like Manamorphose which are utterly broken once they're being copied 3+ times. You suddenly have "infinite" colored mana and "infinite" cards so it becomes nearly impossible for your mistakes to get punished.
The only real downside to this card is that it's expensive and vulnerable to removal. That's bigger than it sounds since you typically need something "broken" to win with Storm decks in multiplayer and if your "broken" card gets removed then winning becomes nearly impossible. That's my primary concern when building and playing TYS lists; it's not going to be a game one way or another. Either I untap and (easily) win or I don't and (easily) lose. You can somewhat mitigate this risk with permission but protecting 6 drops with permission isn't fast or easy and you can easily getting beaten down out by random dorks if you durdle around for too long. It's extremely polarizing in that sense which isn't ideal. The card is still utterly bonkers from an "I want to win games" perspective but assuming a balanced meta filled with removal/permission/etc. then it loses most of its luster.
While this card is reasonable as a generic cantrip/removal spell it shines in discard-based shells that abuse things like Waste Not, Disinformation Campaign, Geth's Grimoire and The Eldest Reborn. After all, the Discovery portion of the card is ideal for recurring Campaigns to generate obscene quantities of card advantage and Dispersal is at its best when you're forcing your adversaries to bounce + discard their expensive bombs when they have no other cards in hand. Otherwise they're free to pitch lands/low-impact spells which is still decent but sub-optimal. This makes it a windmill slam 4-of in the "Surveil deck" by which I mean any deck with 4x Disinformation Campaign and 4+ additional Surveil cards.
The Izzet version of Sphinx's Revelation isn't quite as powerful as its predecessor but it's still an obnoxiously mindless win condition for Control decks. As much as I hate on Elixir of Immortality the card does have a home in very specific "draw your deck" Control builds because it's easy to build something that's pure removal, permission and card draw with 1x Elixir as its only "win condition." The idea here is that you also field 4x Expansion // Explosion and worst-case scenario you win by recycling those ad nauseam. Unlike Rev, Expansion is even solid in the early game since it can copy ramp/tutors/card draw/removal/etc. and it's also a Counterspell in counter-wars between other Blue mages. Not in the sense that you can stop what they're doing, but you can protect your own spells from their permission which is relevant. I'll note that, much like Rev, you're not forced to cast Expansion for X=10 or more. I frequently jam the first at X=2 to kill something and draw some cards and you can always ramp it up from there. Eventually you'll be firing them off at X>=8 at which point they'll endlessly chain into one another. This tactic isn't a fast way to win games but it's extremely reliable since very few spells and effects can interact with these types of win conditions.
Even setting Golgari's Standard dominance aside this is still one of my favorite cards in the set. It has amazingly versatile and powerful play patterns that excel in multiplayer formats in all shapes and sizes. After all, "Duneblast" effects are stellar at controlling the field and Soul Salvages are ideal when you're playing protracted games of Magic with/against midrange/control/ramp shells. I actually really like the Soul Savage aspect of the card and find myself constantly using both halves. Clearly it's weighted towards Finality given the power of mass removal in multiplayer but the ability to recur multiple threats is insanely relevant when opposing Control decks are nuking your key threats and enablers. I'm also the type of player who likes using all of their mana each and every turn and so I'm more than happy to recur random dorks if it'll set me up to succeed down the road. I absolutely adore this card and highly recommend jamming 2-3 in all of your Golgari shells. 4 is overkill since neither mode is broken (Find is conditional and Finality fails to kill throngs of relevant threats) but the first 2-3 copies are no-brainers.
Artifact + Land
Much like Fellwar Stone and Coalition Relic this is an absolute staple in 3+ color midrange/ramp decks and so I'm glad to see it reprinted."3 mana ramp 1" is below-curve and typically wouldn't make the cut but the ability to ignore color requirements (more-or-less) pushes this well into the "actively good" category. It's a fantastic way to ensure that you're slamming powerful 5-6 drops ahead of schedule (Dark Intimations and Niv-Mizzet, Parun for example) which is exactly where you want to be in multiplayer.
"Shock Lands" is one of the most powerful land cycles in the entire game and is only surpassed by Fetchlands and ABUR Duals in terms of raw power. After all, not only do they ETB untapped and tap for multiple colors but they're also Fetchable given that they possess basic land tags. Many cards such as Misty Rainforest, Nature's Lore, Skyshroud Claim and Sylvan Primordial only state "Forest" (as opposed to "basic Forest") so you can happily nab these instead. The fact that you have to take 2 to play them untapped is obviously a slight drawback (and that's why they're below ABUR duals) but I'll stress that it's basically irrelevant in multiplayer. Aggro is significantly less competitive when you're tasked to defeat multiple adversaries and you're often playing high HP formats such as 2HG and EDH that give you a sizable health buffer to work with. You also have the option of playing them as "Guildgates" if you don't need the mana immediately and they'll never dome you for 6+ damage when drawn in multiples like Painlands and Mana Confluence can. They're eternal staples that will be played until the game's eventual demise making them one of the single greatest investments that you could possibly make. True duals aside there's nothing better than a mix of Fetches and Shocks (and random goodies like Exotic Orchard and Battle Lands) so from a pure cost-to-benefit ratio you can't argue with the sheer value that Shocks bring to your collection.
GRN will go down as one of the most influential Izzet sets of all time due to the induction of cards like Mission Briefing, Expansion // Explosion, Experimental Frenzy, Crackling Drake, Niv-Mizzet, Parun and Thousand-Year Storm. They're all going to be staples for years to come that should revitalize the color pairing. It was also fantastic to Black, Golgari, Dimir and Selesnya which all received sizable buffs to popular archetypes. Things like Disinformation Campaign and Assassin's Trophy are monstrously powerful cards that pull you into their color pairings. White is the only color that truly "lagged behind" as it didn't receive any noteworthy playables outside of multicolored cards. Even then most of them have direct replacements so your decks will build and play the same regardless. It's still a fantastic set overall however and I've been having an absolute blast jamming GRN cards in all multiplayer formats.
I agree with most of this, but I think you should take another look at Underrealm Lich simply for its interaction with sylvan library. Replacing draws has always been good with library, and this lich brings one of the strongest draw replacements in the game to the table. I won't be playing Izoni or Molderhulk in any of my decks, but underrealm easily makes it into Savra, and maybe even my Meren deck. (the meren list is super tight, I'm not sure if I can afford the cut).
I agree with most of this, but I think you should take another look at Underrealm Lich simply for its interaction with sylvan library. Replacing draws has always been good with library, and this lich brings one of the strongest draw replacements in the game to the table. I won't be playing Izoni or Molderhulk in any of my decks, but underrealm easily makes it into Savra, and maybe even my Meren deck. (the meren list is super tight, I'm not sure if I can afford the cut).
1-2 Libraries and 0-1 Liches right? Not the most consistent pairing. I don't disagree that Lich is powerful if he survives, especially if you combo him with additional draw engines. Doesn't have to be Library either. Things like Deathreap Ritual can also be nuts, especially if you've got something like Viscera Seer and Ophiomancer going. My issue with the Lich is that he's a 5 drop who needs help in a world where I don't have much incentive to waste extra time/resources on expensive value engines. After all, my primary fear is that he gets Cyclonic Rifted, Toxic Deluged, Terminus'd, etc. or that he provides value too slowly to compete with cheaper/faster alternatives. "Lack of stuff" is rarely-if-ever my problem when I'm playing BUG because there's no shortage of powerful card advantage spells/engines and so your bottleneck tends to be mana/time moreso than "access to cards." I'll be fine in any game in which I draw 2 or more so I don't care if it's Library + Lich or Survival of the Fittest, Evolutionary Leap, Recurring Nightmare, Journey to Eternity, Deathreap Ritual, Birthing Pod on and on and on. I also vastly prefer the cheaper options because they're faster and more durable which all the more reason to exclude expensive + conditional alternatives such as the Lich. When you cast him on turn 4-5 he literally doesn't do anything beyond block and there's more that you can be doing on those later turns to surge ahead of the pack.
For what it's worth, I also don't fret too hard on the gradings. Lich isn't an A nor is he an F/D/C-. That we can all agree on. C/B+ is still a wide range but I'm not going to lose sleep if someone else grades him a C+/B- or even a B+ if they really like the card. I don't see myself ever playing with him, but he's good enough to make the cut which is where I have my Cs.