It's that time again, time for a brand new set to be released! Dark Ascension has been released in paper for quite some time, but with the release of MTGO happening now, it's time for me to get my review of the set in terms of how it plays into EDH/Commander in full swing. Without further ado, lets begin.
For those who aren't familiar, here is the rating system I will be using for the cards. Please note, I have stopped rating every card from a set, and instead will only mention ones I feel are necessary to mention, the cards that are obviously only playable in other formats will not be included.
1 - This card shouldn't see much, if any play in EDH. Either very limited uses to one or two specific generals, or just bad.
2 - This card might see a little play, and it's not totally unplayable, but by no means should it see tons of play.
3 - This card is solid. Will see a respectable amount of play from decks in it's colors, and isn't too limited in it's strategy.
4 - This card will see a large amount of play. Bordering on becoming a staple for that color, the power level of this card is obvious, and it's something decks want.
5 - Something that will become a staple of that color. These cards are cards that are simply good enough to be played in every deck of that color regardless of strategy.
Archangel's Light : Not bad at all in terms of the shuffle effect. Also, two life per card in this format is pretty solid, as graveyards very frequently will hit in the 12-20 range without much difficulty. I wouldn't suggest playing this in a deck where you're trying to utilize your graveyard for combos, or various other reasons, but in a good chunk of decks, this might be a viable option to gain some life lost through the early turns, as well as shuffle some powerful spells back in to be re-tutored or re-drawn.
Curse of Exhaustion : Rule of Law effects are already common in the format, either for various combo purposes or just all-purpose prevention of doing overly broken things. I like this as an option to stop that pesky Erayo, Soratami Ascendant player, or perhaps even stalling a Riku of Two Reflections from having their explosive turns for a while.
Increasing Devotion : I think this card will see some play, particularly in the token strategies. Rith, the Awakener , Rhys the Redeemed , among the others will love this card, even though they're just humans, which aren't a viable deck theme in the format as of now. The decks packing Titanic Ultimatum and similar cards don't care too much about which creature type the tokens are, so long as they get huge to run people over.
Requiem Angel : Not too awful, the tokens can be Skullclamp 'd, which, given this card is in white, which also has Stoneforge Mystic , could be incredibly relevant. Not the size beater you want for a card in the seven drop slot of your mana curve, but with the right recursion engines, could very easily generate large amounts of damage in the air with a little help from equipment and/or Overrun effects, or just generate chump blockers every time one of your threats gets destroyed.
Sudden Disappearance : I see this being utilized by decks trying to abuse blinks to take advantage of come-into-play triggers. Most of these decks are in the Bant colors, utilizing Venser, the Sojourner on cards like Eternal Witness , Karmic Guide , Reveillark , and so on. If this is the style a deck has, then this card is a must-play. That said, it can also be used to clear the way for a lethal swing, even getting through Propaganda effects. I can see a lot of potential in this card for the right deck, but it's not a staple for white without the use of some form of effects to abuse the blink.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben : Not awful for a bear, but that said, it's still a bear, which aren't ideal plays in the format. I can see this being in a deck like Grand Arbiter Augustin IV , and perhaps a few others, but in general, it's a weak body, with a tax effect that will go unnoticed after enough turns have passed.
Thraben Doomsayer : Another card that seems good for token decks. So long as you're not trying to be tribal, and just want tokens, this guy is pretty good. The fateful hour trigger will nearly never occur, as in this format, it's rare that you're alive below that life total, since most damage is dealt in big chunks. That said, a free token for Skullclamp , chump blocking, or whatever other reason isn't bad, and combine him with a Seedborn Muse , and you have yourself a nice group of guys after a few rotations of turns.
Beguiler of Wills : This guy is a card i've been excited about throwing into my Azami, Lady of Scrolls deck. The effect doesn't end at end of turn, it doesn't end when it dies, you just get the dude. It's also a wizard, and wizards that do things make that deck a lot of fun to play. Outside of that deck, i can't see this being terribly played. Perhaps, it could see play in something like Momir Vig, Simic Visionary , but the majority of blue decks won't usually have the creatures present on the board to make this a viable option; especially since it's a 1/1 in the 5 drop slot. If you're in a deck that has blue, and runs a good amount of creatures out onto the board, this guy should be included for sure. I really want to rate this guy higher, because he's absolutely nutty if he stick around for a few turns. The requirement of being creature-heavy combined with being blue, is just a lot to ask short of a few select decks, forcing the rating to be lower. If i'm rating this guy specifically for Momir, he's probably a solid 4. If for Azami, a 5 for sure. In general though....
Call to the Kindred : Tribal, Enchant Creature, seems weak at first glance. Pretty much, it seems weak for the second and third glances too, however, it is adding to the potential of a Blue and Black zombie deck becoming viable in the format, so i'm going to be keeping my eye on the potential deck strategies that can allow me to play Blue/Black zombies, since I know i'm not the only person who think this would be cool to have around the format.
Counterlash : This card, is completely and utterly bonkers. The amount of power potential in this card is surpassed by very few spells in the format. Counter your mana ramp spell, cast my Tooth and Nail or Time Stretch , counter your Primeval Titan , play my own, or drop my Blightsteel Colossus into play. The list goes on and on. It pains me deeply that I couldn't immediately rate this a 5, because when i first saw it, it was the card I was most excited for in the set. After a thorough discussion with a good friend, and fellow EDH player, i've decided it still is a 5. There are enough lines of play, where this card is just that strong. One thing i have to point out, that we discussed, is this: The power level of Counterlash is directly proportional to the power level of your deck. If you're on a budget, and you don't have powerful spells/permanents in your library (and therefore hand at the time of casting this), this card will not do the wonderous things that it can do. If you're deck is full of mostly 4s and 5s types of cards, this card will very frequently allow you to do ridiculously broken things. One other primary point that I want to make sure i mention that was discussed, was how deep into blue a 5 color deck has to be to fit this card into it's 60ish non-lands. If a 5 color deck is running 40 lands, and 60 non-lands, with 5 colors and then artifacts/colorless spells, that's approximately 10 of each. Now, assuming you have some sort of theme, some of those colors will be more heavily prioritized over others. Factor in the fact that some colors are stronger than others, and the numbers differ further. After a pretty in-depth conversation about it, we decided personally, that you don't have to be unreasonably deep in blue even in 5 colors to see this card played in the majority of 5 color decks. The decks where we don't think this card could be fit into, are so few, that they're considered outliers, and aren't running many counterspells to begin with.
Curse of Echoes : One of the more hilarious cards in the set, in discussion, it was decided that this card is pretty adept at shutting down two things in particular. Blue decks, from using counterspells (as each other player gets one, to counter such things), and black decks, from casting Exsanguinate . Aside from that, it's very....meh.
Dungeon Geists : I adore this card for standard, and have since i saw it, but in this format, Control Magic just seems superior in every way. I'd rather just steal the annoyance and use it against my opponents than keep it tapped down and have a small body to show for it. Oh, and it's a spirit. If it were a wizard, it'd be slightly more playable.
Geralf's Mindcrusher : Weak body for a 6 drop, but the ability isn't awful. Particularly for something like The Mimeoplasm where you're seeking to abuse graveyards, but even then, it's not that great. The decks that want this card are too few to be very viable, but if you're in one of those decks, go for it.
Griptide : Hinder , Spell Crumple , and Spin Into Myth make this card unplayable.
Havengul Runebinder : First and foremost, this is a wizard that does something, which alone, makes me like it. Secondly, this is on the list of potential cards for the imaginary Blue/Black zombie deck for the format. So while it's not overly playable now, i'm keeping an eye on this one as well. If it were more than just your graveyard, so you could use it to counter things like Beacon of Unrest , and not just get value for your dead stuff, we'd have something more important.
Increasing Confusion : Mill still isn't viable in this format, with all of the shuffle effects that are played. If you're in a metagame where those aren't seeing play, and you happen to have a deck that's on the mill plan though, this is for you.
Mystic Retrieval : Call to Mind has already been seen in various decks, giving it flashback took it from fringe-playable to actually playable in some decks.
Soul Seizer : I can't really find a viable reason to run this over Control Magic or even Mind Control . Giving it a full turn to be killed, on top of forcing it to connect, and on top of having to connect, having to connect to the player you want to steal from is just too many clauses when i can just pay the same cost (or less) and have the effect i want without jumping through the hoops of this card. Also, it's not even a wizard.
This wraps up the White and Blue segment, stay tuned for the rest of the set to come soon. In the mean time, may your deck never beat itself, and may you never have to mulligan.