Thursday, August 8, 2013

The "Epic" Uncommons of M14

So, as you may have seen earlier this week, I named and rated my top five uncommons from M14. That's all well and good, but we're in the realm of M14 now, so it's time to move forward. M13 had some ace uncommons, cards you'd often take over all but the biggest bombs in draft. Does M14 have cards of the same caliber? It's tough to say for sure this early in the format, but there are certainly a few early favorites. Here's my list of the top uncommons in each color, rated against each other. Enjoy.

5. Black - Doom Blade

Doom Blade might actually be better than some of the other cards on this list, but it doesn't have that "epic" feel to it. It's of course very powerful; it's a strong piece of removal that has a very manageable mana cost. But as far as a card with a broad enough effect to call "epic" sir. As far as other potential dark horses that might shine as the format advances, I could see Blightcaster or Vampire Warlord proving to be very useful in the right decks. But as far as something as strong as Vampire Nighthawk was? No way.

4. Red - Young Pyromancer

Flames of the Firebrand is actually back in M14, and, truthfully, I'd take Flames over Pyromancer in a vacuum. But it's no fun to re-hash the previous one, so let's talk about the new one. Young Pyromancer is part of a "theme" of this deck, which is basically, Chandra is going to mess you up. Having a mono-red deck or combining red with some effective blue or black removal/control cards, Young Pyromancer gets a ton of work done. Red is actually pretty strong at the uncommon level, with Battle Sliver and Shiv's Embrace also being very useful cards in draft. Flames is still the champion, but there's plenty of potential here.

3. White - Serra Angel

Serra Angel has been reprinted about eighty quadrillion times, but it's been good every time, and this time is no different. It's another repeat from M13, but this time there's no Oblivion Ring to take the crown. Banisher Priest has a similar effect, but it's limited to creatures and, more importantly, the Priest itself is a creature. A big part of the strength of Oblivion Ring (and Journey to Nowhere, it's creature-only counterpart) was that it was an enchantment, and drafters often don't have enchantment removal, outside of their sideboard. Creature removal is far more common. So, this time around, I'll go with the under-costed 4/4 flyer with vigilance. The only other uncommon that looks to be worth mentioning is Wall of Swords, another reprint. It can block all day with 5 toughness, and with 3 power, it can make your opponents very wary of swinging.

2. Green - Briarpack Alpha

Late in the M13 life cycle, I realized that Yeva's Forcemage was better than I was giving it credit for. You almost always make some use of the +2/+2 he gives to a creature, and then he's still a 2/2 body. Well, Briarpack Alpha eats Yeva's Forcemage for a light afternoon snack. It's a 3/3 instead of a 2/2, which honestly would make it already worth the additional 1 colorless mana it costs. But the thing that makes it just blow everything else away is that one extra word on the card: FLASH. It's 2/3 of a Giant Growth that also gives you a 3/3 creature at instant speed. Kalonian Tusker and Enlarge will almost always have value in drafts, and I could see Voracious Wurm being a powerhouse if the deck lends itself to that. But Briarpack Alpha to me is ahead of the rest.

1. Blue - Opportunity

Blue's uncommons are ridiculous. There are six different cards I'd consider at pack one, pick one (though with varying levels of satisfaction). Air Servant is a big flyer with a useful effect, Warden of Evos Isle is a Wind Drake+, Water Servant does all the things I loved about Watercourser and just does them better, Phantom Warrior will always play in a blue deck, and Wall of Frost buys blue decks the time they need to work their magic/Magic. But my pick is Opportunity. Drawing four cards feels as strong as drawing an entirely new hand, because it's basically that much. Six mana is a lot, but here's the best part: it's at instant speed. So you can leave up the mana for a counterspell or Disperse, and then if you end up not needing any of them, you cast Opportunity for four more cards, and your opponent concedes. Seriously. The more I've seen Opportunity played in M14, the more I'm realizing I probably under-valued Inspiration when it came around in Return to Ravnica. Sorry about that, Inspiration.

As far as an overall feeling, M14 feels way weaker than M13 on a power level. My hope is that it's part of a grander scheme by Wizards, where the effects they're focusing on (enchantments, lifegain, slivers?) get amplified in the Theros block, creating a new style of deck for Standard play. I'm interested to see how things play out in drafts over time as far as color balance. One of M13's great strengths was that each color had enough strong, problem cards that you could win playing any colors. Hopefully, despite being a little less exciting, M14 will offer the same balance and excitement in draft play.

So that's my take on the M14 uncommons. Thoughts? Questions? Applause? Hatred? Feel free to light me up in the comments, for better or worse.

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