Is M15 the best core set ever printed? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes! There are so many interesting new cards and some very cool reprints (Chord of Calling anyone?) that I don’t really know where to begin.
Okay, how about…
It’s general knowledge that Wizards had people from outside the company design some of the new cards (easily recognized by the respective reference at the bottom the text box) such as Aggressive Mining or Shield of the Avatar. Some of them are cool, others not so much, but their most important feature is something else entirely: they bring a certain freshness to our beloved game. You see, for someone who has been playing Magic for as long as I have, it can be hard to find new things exciting because they often seem similar to things we’ve seen before. Theros block was a perfect example of this. Strive, for instance, was very reminiscent of kicker or replicate, and inspired reminded me of the untap ability from Lorwyn block. However, it’s hardly surprising that things become a bit repetitive after such a long time. I mean, consider this: Wizards has been developing cards for about 20 years now! And every single year, we get a new block with three sets, in addition to which they also publish extra stuff like the Commander precons or Planechase. Luckily for us, they seem to be aware of this and constantly hire new people or do stuff like M15 where they involved people from the outside in the development process.
Well, did it help? Uhm, I don’t know. Why don’t we take a look at…
Just to make it clear: what I say here is my own thoughts about some of the individual cards in M15. Also, you won’t find every card here, only those of which I think I have something interesting to tell. If a card isn’t listed here, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think it’s bad. For example, Chord of Calling is actually very good. However, it’s a reprint that has been talked about so much already that there is nothing I could add that hasn’t been said before.
Okay? Then here we go!
Aetherspouts – At first glance, Aetherspouts seems unimpressive. Then you start considering its tactical implications, and suddenly it becomes a lot more interesting. Seriously, either you get rid of one or more annoying things for good, or your opponent draws a few cards they’ve already drawn before and thus doesn’t get any new stuff. Also, if the situation is right, this could be an absolute blowout, resulting in numerous creatures leaving the battlefield, thus opening the way for other players to attack that opponent. I’ll definitely give this thing a whirl! However, if your play group favors control decks, Aetherspouts will probably lose a lot of value as control decks tend to attack with one or two creatures only. But imagine someone committing to an alpha strike…
Ajani Steadfast – Everybody’s favorite leonin really seems to dig his support role, doesn’t he? Now he even starts to actively help out other planeswalkers! His first ability is actually better than it looks as the combination of first strike and vigilance allows you to attack without fear of losing your creature. And there should always be an opponent who couldn’t field enough power on his side of the table to kill your attacker despite its first strike, so you should be good. Ajani’s two negative abilities are nice in multiplayer games as well, especially his ultimate which should make it extremely hard to kill you. Back from his trip to greener pastures, Ajani is ready to bolster your army once again. His problem is that without this army, casting him is rather pointless. As almost all other Ajanis before him, this one must be protected as he is obviously an altruist who only cares about others and not about himself. And here I thought cats were selfish little buggers…
Avacyn, Guardian Angel – I don’t get it. Why is everybody comparing this card to Avacyn, Angel of Hope? That makes absolutely no sense because they have completely different applications. Oh, the name you say? Alright, now I understand! In this regard, I’ll say that Sacred Foundry is clearly better than Sacred Mesa or Soul Foundry.
Avarice Amulet – As our esteemed Wally D. already said in his M15 Commander review: “Oh, by the way, put this on your commander. He doesn’t die, he goes to the Command Zone.” That’s kind of cheeky and ensures that you remain the only one to benefit from Avarice Amulet. Just replay your commander when it bites the dust and keep drawing cards. I won’t lie though: This card will never ever find its way into a non-Commander deck of mine.
Battlefield Forge, Caves of Koilos, Llanowar Wastes, Shivan Reef, Yavimaya Coast – There seems to be a certain amount of hate concerning these lands that I frankly don’t understand. First, if you don’t need colored mana, they also produce colorless. And believe me, if you’re not playing more than two colors, you won’t need colored mana all that often, so investing a few life points during the first few turns of the game to further your board development is well worth it. I’ve been playing pain lands since they where first printed in Apocalypse, and I seriously can’t remember a single land making me lose more than 2 life in the course of a game. Give them a try, they might be better than you think.
Chasm Skulker – If you’ve played Lorescale Coatl, there is no reason not to play this guy as well. It might be exactly what the blue control player needs – a card with the ability to buy them a lot of time. Follow it up with a Brainstorm to grow a huge monster, then watch it explode into a small army when it dies later on.
Chief Engineer – Is it just me or does anybody else also think that this card feels awkward? Convoke and artifacts? Oh, I understand the story this card wants to tell well enough: the more people work on a machine, the faster it’s finished. And from that perspective, it’s actually well-designed. Still, it has that funny vibe to it that I can’t really grasp, let alone describe, but which makes me look at it with suspicion. Also, imagine a Chief Engineer trying to tell an Assault Zeppelid, a Johtull Wurm and Dromar, the Banisher how to build an Omen Machine… Oh well, never mind.
Constricting Sliver – Journey to Nowhere sliver! In all seriousness, my Sliver Queen Commander deck (to be found here if you are interested) isn’t a sliver deck, but this guy has his slot guaranteed. By the way, can we please stop that annoying discussion about the new looks of the hive? I too think that the old appearance of the slivers was an iconic quality that defined the tribe, but from a perspective which takes another characteristic of theirs into account (namely their adaptability), it makes perfect sense that slivers should take other forms as well. If it makes it any easier for you, try to think of them as slivers in disguise. Ha, imagine they were the Transformers of Magic. But not that Michael Bay crap – that is horrible. Urgh, really, this man should get accused of crimes against humanity…
Encrust – “… and its activated abilities can’t be activated.” A permanent foil to activated abilities, even only those of creatures and artifacts, should merit a second glance. How often have you sat at a table, staring at Stalking Assassins, Citanul Flutes or Mimic Vats, wishing they were gone? Encrust might just be what you need. I know it’s neither new nor exciting but it’s removal in a color that doesn’t have too much of it.
Eternal Thirst – This artwork really makes me want to know what’s going on. Who is that dark angel? Why is she doing this? I hope I’ll find out in the future because c’mon, it’s time for another fallen angel, don’t you think? I’d love to hear her story. And what about the rest of the card? Well, who cares?
First Response – This reminds me a lot of Angelic Accord in that it is an enchantment that requires you to jump through a few hoops in order to make it work. And the most you’ll ever get is just one 1/1 every turn. However, this may be exactly what is strong about it – it looks a bit weak, so everybody might just as well ignore it. First Response looks interesting but I’m not sure whether it is good enough. For three mana, I’d say yes. Sadly though, four might just be a tad too expensive.
Garruk, Apex Predator – Considering that he has a freaking four abilities, seven mana is quite appropriate. Still, casting him and then activating only one ability is hardly worth it, so you’ll need a few turns before Garruk’s newest version pull’s its weight. If you can protect him for a while though (which he gladly helps you with, by the way), he’s a force to be reckoned with as all of his abilities can come in handy in any given multiplayer match. Having the option of killing any creature or planeswalker is cool, as is cranking out 3/3 creature tokens with deathtouch (as a +1 ability, no less!), although there’s a slight overlap between those two. The ultimate is interesting but limited to a single player, which makes it a political tool. Reaching a planeswalker’s ultimate is normally what every player wants, but I’ve been in situations where I wouldn’t have wanted to give that emblem to any opponent at all. So it’s important to check whether Garruk, Apex Predator is good enough without his last ability – which of course depends on your metagame. If your playgroup plays with lots of creatures, he has the potential to be great. If not, he might not be worth the investment. Be that as it may, I’m excited and will at least try him out!
Genesis Hydra – Sorry to disappoint you but this is no Genesis Wave. Not even close! Then again, getting this with five or more +1/+1 counters as well as another at least medium-sized creature is already a fair deal, so it’s up to you whether you like it or not. I’m not much of a fan as the hydra itself a basically a vanilla beater, meaning that the other permanent you get with it needs to provide versatility. It feels somewhat like cascade with a little more control over what you get.
Hornet Nest – Yes, this is it! Finally, I’m going to build that insect deck I’ve been planning for years now. Seriously, I’m really excited about Hornet Nest! My first idea was to combine it with Pestilence which is rather silly considering that every activation after the first one kills all the tokens you got before. But how about everything that worked with Stuffy Doll and friends? Cards like Blasphemous Act or Shivan Meteor for example are very cool alongside Hornet Nest.
Hushwing Gryff – No way I’m ever playing this card in multiplayer games. Don’t misunderstand me, this critter is quite powerful at what it does. However, I myself do love me some ETB effects, so I’d hate to see this on the other side of the table. It would steal too much of my fun. Just imagine a card that basically transforms all of your cool creatures into stupid and boring vanilla beaters. Well, Hushwing Gryff has the potential to be that card, and that’s not cool.
In Garruk’s Wake – A card that costs that much mana better wins you the game. And In Garruk’s Wake can do that. However, before you reach that nine mana, it sits in your hand doing absolutely nothing. And considering that Plague Wind isn’t my cup of tea, this one is not going to fare any differently. If Plague Wind appeals to you though, In Garruk’s Wake should be right up your alley. Its power certainly can’t be denied. Many a Commander player should be happy to see this.
Jace, the Living Guildpact – Enemy of the Guildpact must be feeling pretty stupid right now… By the way, the newest iteration of Jace isn’t as terrible as many people claim. Sure, he could be better. So what? His two minor abilities allow you to smoothe out your draws and do something against troublesome permanents. How can that be bad? His ultimate? Well, it’s one of the weaker ones so far but fits perfectly into what blue does. In addition, Jace 5.0 starts out with a loyalty higher than his mana cost which is always nice to have on a planeswalker. So if you ask me, the worst thing about Jace, the Living Guildpact is the art…
Jalira, Master Polymorphist – This is a card you can build a deck around and have a lot of fun with. But we all know how Polymorph decks work, and that’s not the only thing that’s interesting about Jalira. Ladies and gentlemen, this is an instant-speed sac outlet – in blue. With a Polymorph stapled to it that can randomly improve your own board position. Or not so randomly, depending on your deck. Jalira, Master Polymorphist is one powerful girl who seems very promising.
Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient – Copying an activated ability for a single red mana? Sign me up! There is so much artificial awesomeness out there that it could be highly problematic to build a deck around Kurkesh. Just to whet your appetite: Altar of Shadows, Contagion Engine, Executioner’s Capsule, Birthing Pod, Door to Nothingness, Trading Post, Angelheart Vial, Basalt Monolith, Whip of Erebos etc. The list goes on and on.
Liliana Vess – WTF?! A planeswalker of the very first batch? Here in M15? What’s going on? Well, be that as it may, the original Liliana actually is quite alright. Her +1 ability is negligible, granted, but I’ve seen her tutor four times in a single game because we other players couldn’t get rid of her. Yes, I couldn’t believe it either back then, and yes again, the guy who played her won that game. The lesson? In the right deck, this version of Liliana can still be a power player. Never underestimate her just because she’s old and newer iterations are considered to be more powerful.
Military Intelligence – The name is awesome, but this card feels so very, very unblue. It would have been perfect in white, especially since white’s card draw leaves so much to be desired. And even though Wizards have clearly stated numerous times that according to the color pie, white is and shall remain the worst color in terms of drawing cards, this still feels like they missed a great opportunity here.
Necromancer’s Stockpile – Wow, this little enchantment grants cycling to all your creature cards!. As if that wasn’t enough, if these creature cards are Zombies, you even get a free creature as well when you cycle them. I love engines like that because they make your deck run smoothly. Just discard the fatties that are clogging your hand and reanimate them later on. You’re already playing black, so that reanimation part shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Nissa, Worldwaker – In contrast to Jace, the Living Guildpact who is better than people give him credit just because they are used to Jace always being powerful, Nissa is overhyped. Have you realized that everybody keeps talking about her second ability? Yeah, because it’s a good one, I know. It essentially makes her cost only one mana and ramps you from five to nine on the next turn. Nice! But what about the rest of the card? Isn’t that worth talking about, too? Well, from a multiplayer angle, activating Nissa’s first +1 is something I’d want to do only rarely. Board wipes do happen more often than not in multiplayer games, and since the land you transformed into a creature remains a creature indefinitely, every Day of Judgment or kicked Breath of Darigaaz will also destroy your land. Her ultimate is actually better than it looks. Compare it to Sarkhan Vol‘s: the dragon mage produces five 4/4 dragon tokens with flying. Although Nissa’s land creatures don’t have any form of evasion, you should be able to get a lot more than just five. Depending on your deck, the number should be somewhere between ten and fifteen and should easily get the job done. Unless someone casts Day of Judgment or a kicked Breath of Darigaaz… To sum it up, of course the new Nissa is good, but her current price tag is not justified.
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled – Let’s be honest – there won’t be many occasions when Ob Nixilis is going to extract those 10 life from someone. Then again, if he prevents them from searching their library for one or more cards because they don’t want to pay the life and/or sacrifice a creature, that’s already great for you as it means they probably won’t get what they want. Either way, this demon on his quest to regain his planeswalker spark seems powerful. Now I really want to know what the planeswalker version of Ob Nixilis would look like.
Phytotitan – Big green mushroom man sitting on the toilet…
Polymorphist’s Jest – In my comment to Wally D.’s M15 Commander review, I said the following regarding this card: “Polymorphist’s Jest is another addition to blue’s arsenal of mass destruction but this time, it costs only three mana! I mean seriously, even if you kill only a single creature with it, permanently killing something is nothing blue has ever excelled at. And the blowout potential is definitely there.” I still stand by that assessment and am looking forward to turn EVERYTHING to frog! Also, the flavor text is hilarious!
Reclamation Sage – For 60-card multiplayer, this is yet another tool for green to destroy noncreature permanents. Every toolbox deck is going to love this card. I’m not sure what to think of it in terms of Commander, though. It’s cool in decks that abuse ETB effects, but in every other deck, I’d definitely prefer Acidic Slime, and probably Indrik Stomphowler, too.
Resolute Archangel – I’m so not looking forward to encounter that card in Commander decks led by Roon of the Hidden Realm or Karador, Ghost Chieftain. Ironically enough, those are the guys my copies of Resolute Archangel are going to hang out with. Ha! Joking aside, you can count on this angel becoming the reason for a lot of complaining in the future, so be warned.
Scuttling Doom Engine – Is this the second coming of Wurmcoil Engine? Hardly. But it is difficult to block and even domes an opponent for 6 when it dies. However, it’s probably better in duels than in multiplayer as it puts a lot more pressure on your opponent if you can attack every turn, which you might not want to do if there is more than one other person sitting at the table.
Soul of Innistrad, Soul of New Phyrexia, Soul of Ravnica, Soul of Shandalar, Soul of Theros, Soul of Zendikar – For the most part, I really like the Souls, especially Innistrad, Shandalar and Theros. Zendikar is a bit boring for my tastes, Ravnica comparatively underpowered (although the flavor of the multicolored City of Guilds is cool). Well, and Soul of New Phyrexia? This card seems to be all the rage among Commander players right now, and I just don’t understand why. It’s a good card, no question, but seriously, having to keep up five mana all the time for the possibility of an opponent casting a removal spell? That seems a bit greedy to me, even in Commander.
Spirit Bonds – This looks awesome! I’m going to play the hell out of that card! Roon and his ETB cronies are definitely looking forward to having a few guardian spirits protect them.
The Chain Veil – From a flavor standpoint, I absolutely dig this card. It’s a nice design! But playability-wise, this is never ever going to come near any deck of mine. So terribly narrow!
Xathrid Slyblade – I love the flavor of this card: the assassin stays hidden until it’s time to pounce, then returns to the shadows. However, that artwork is just bad. And what’s going on with the bat? Why is it there at all? I don’t get the composition here.
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard – Oh man, Yisan is sloooooooooooooow… However, I’m convinced that he can fuel a deck all on his own if you can manage to keep him on the table. He’s also not limited to green creatures only (compare him to Green Sun’s Zenith for example). And don’t forget that after the third activation, you’ll get your creatures at a discount. Tutoring for a Kalonian Hydra and putting it onto the battlefield for a total of three mana? Hell yeah!
So, there you have it. Another set, another review. What do you think about M15? Are you as excited as I am? Or is it just another core set for you? Let me know in the comments.
So, until next time! May new cards fill your hearts with joy!