Dark Ascension Review Multicolored, Artifact, and Land
Welcome everyone, it’s that time of year again. The Dark Ascension set has been fully spoiled and that means that it’s time to talk about the new cards. For the most part I write these reviews for the new players at my shop to help them develop their card assessment skills, but that doesn’t mean most of my readers don’t enjoy hearing my ideas on the new cards as well.
Also Mages and Sages is have another Sealed Box Tournament on February 5th, so I’ll be adding advice at the end of each part of the review articles for those playing in that event. With that said, let’s start the review.
Other reviews in the set: White, Blue, Black, Red, Green, Artifacts, Multicolored and Lands.
Diregraf Captain – 1UB – Creature – Zombie Soldier – U – Deathtouch. Other Zombie creature you control get +1/+1. Whenever another Zombie you control dies, target opponent loses 1 life. 2/2
The worst of the four lords in the set. Makes your zombies hard to kill but only makes them useful if they die. Yeah, no.
Drogskol Catain – 1WU – Creature – Spirit Soldier – U – Flying. Other Spirit creatures you contol get +1/+1 and have hexproof. 2/2
Best lord in the set. Seeing this in pack one will make me play Spirit tribal unless my rare is something worth big money. As for Standard, it’s fighting with Geist of Saint Traft for the slot in the deck but it still might see play in Delver Blade.
Droskol Reaver – 5WU – Creature – Spirit – M – Flying, double strike, lifelink. Whenver you gain life, draw a card. 3/5
This draws me two cards per combat, gains me six life, and flies when means it’s great in Limited and Commander, but that casting cost is just too much for any other format.
Falkenrath Aristocrat – 2BR – Creature – Vampire – M – Flying, haste. Sacrifice a creature: Falkenrath Aristocrat is indestructible this turn. If the sacrificed creature was a Human, put a +1/+1 counter on Falkenrath Aristocrat. 4/1
Commander and Draft yes, but it is a lot of work to make the pump ability work outside of Commander because for a good human sacrifice you need white in the deck. By white I don’t mean just a little, we are talking a lot of white. Just treat is in draft as a 4/1 that will never die to mass removal.
Havengul Lich – 3UB – Creature – Zombie Wizard – M – 1: You may cast target creature card from a graveyard this turn. When you cast that card this turn, Havengul Lick gains all activated abilities of that card until end of turn. 4/4
This needs the reminder text, “You still need to pay that creatures casting cost,” as part of the rules text. In draft this is a great pick if you are playing against any blue or black deck. In Constructed it could be sideboard tech verses Tempered Steel. I just don’t see this being part of any deck other than Dredge style decks to make this work.
Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells – 2RG – Creature – Human Werewolf // Creature – Human – Werewolf – M – Whenever this creature enters the battlefield or transforms into Huntmaster of the Fells, put a 2/2 green wolf token onto the battlefield and you gain 2 life. At the beginning of each upkeep, if no spells were cast last turn, transform Huntmaster of the Fells. // Whenever the creature transforms into Ravager of the Fells, it deals 2 damage to target opponent and 2 damage to up to once target creature that opponent controls. At the beginning of each upkeep, if a player cast two or more spells last turn, transform Ravager of the Fells. 2/2 // 4/4
All this says to me is, “Pay four, make two dudes and gain two life.” Which is great in Limited and Constructed because any time you get two for the price of one you gaining an advantage. I can see this being a great card in Limited because it gives you more combat options and pads your life for the race to the win, but in Constructed we have better werewolves in the four-drop slot. I mean if you are playing werewolves you don’t want to have them constantly flipping around which brings us to my favorite uncommon in the set.
Immerwolf – 1RG – Creature – Wolf – U – Intimidate – Other Wolf and Werewolf creatures you control get +1/+1. Non-Werewolf creatures you control can’t transform. 2/2
This is the card that werewolves needed to break into the Constructed formats, and is my favorite lord based just on flavor. Yet, it takes only the third seat when it comes to drafting. Dark Ascension only has seven out of thirteen flip cards as werewolves, and Innistrad has thirteen of its flips as werewolves. Well this may seem like it is a heavy balance it only breaks down to 53% and 65% odds that any pack will have a werewolf. This means that an average draft will have about fourteen total werewolves floating around along with the eight non-were wolves, three of which are only in the Inn packs. Translation, wolf tribal is the long shot deck in draft, but it still is a lot easier to build and play then the Dredge deck that you could be building with the zombies.
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad 2WB – Planeswalker – Sorin – M – +1: Put a 1/1 black vampire creature token with lifelink onto the battlefield. -2: You get an emblem with “Creatures you control get +1/+0.” -6: Destroy up to three target creatures and/or plaenswalkers. Return each card put into a graveyard this way to the battlefield under your control. 3
It’s just like Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Sorin is a mythic rare in a set that is only going to have four months of drafting and only cost four mana. Yes, he is enemy colors and we have some very bad mana fixing, but trust me there is a deck that works around him and I have a feeling that mana fixing is going to get very easy next block. All the off color flash back is just the same as having an all multicolored set in a block. We are due for some more duals in eight months. Until then Sorin is going to do his best to impact Standard even with the bad mana base, and if you don’t take him in draft you just wasted your money because he can get you four more free drafts.
Stromkirk Captain – 1BR – Creature – Vampire Soldier – U – First strike. Other Vampire creatures you control get +1/+1 and have first strike. 2/2
The number two lord for draft and will see a lot of play in the BR vampire deck that will be coming soon to Constructed. First strike is just such a powerful ability to have because it let’s you dorks survive so many fights they should have lost in combat. Also in Draft online I’ve been having a lot of luck with vampire tribal because of how deep this colors are with removal and bomb rares.
Alter of the Lost – 3 – Artifact – U – Alter of the Lost enters the battlefield tapped. Tap: Add two mana in any combination of colors to your mana pool. Spen this mana only to cast spells with flashback from a graveyard.
I think R&D was scared to not include the ETBT and flashback only clauses to this card. With the Lich this would have been broken if it didn’t only help you cast flashback spells. Entering the battlefield tapped doesn’t let you race ahead on tempo by getting a free spell off this coming out. In the end it’s been nerfed enough that it went from a card that would be good, to simply a Block and Limited mana fixer for the flashback deck.
Avacyn’s Collar – 1 – Artifact – Equipment – U – Equipped creature gets +1/+0 and has vigilance. Whenever equipped creature dies, if it was a Human, put a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying onto the battlefield. Equip 2.
As a fashion statement, I love chokers. I find them hot and I think this equipment is going to be hot as well. Not having to tap to attack is good, hitting harder is also good, but it’s the replacement when the wearer dies that pushes this over the top. It lets you chump for another chump, or just gets you another beater with evasion. Also it gets you something to do against the werewolf deck on turn one. This might just be my fall back draft pick when I don’t see anything else that is good in the pack. Once the swords leave Standard this and Runechanter’s Pike are going to be the top two equipments.
Chalice of Life // Chalice of Death – 3 – Artifact // Artifact – U – Tap: You gain 1 life. Then if you have at least 10 life more than your starting total, transform Chalice of Life // Tap: Target player loses 5 life.
Hmm, I have the combo for this one; use an animate effect to turn it into a 3/3 dork, Xenograph to make it a Human, cast Drogskol Captain and then Moonmist to transform Chalice, tap to deal five, blink Xenograph with Venser to call Spirit so the Chalice now has hexproof. Tap until they are dead. Translation this is just too much work to be good in Constructed. Now in Draft it has a workable combo in BUG Dredge decks. If you have this out mill until you have Gnaw to the Bone ready to spring you at or above 30 with this out then use along with Spider Spawning to win. Granted, this means it just gets to be a win-more card in the deck, but it help you stay alive until you can start fueling up you zombies and will give you a finisher in case you don’t get Spider Spawning.
Elbrus, the Binding Blade // Withengar Unbound – 7 – Legendary Artifact – Equipment // Balck Legendary Creature – Demon – M – Equipped creature gets +1/+0. Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, transform Elbrus, the Binding Blade. Equip 1. // Flying, trample, intimidate. Whenever a player loses the game, put thirteen +1/+1 counter on Withengar Unbound. 13/13
I don’t thing they are talking about the “I lost” game with this one because it’s not an Un-set card. No, this has Commander/Multiplayer card written all over it. Also with Stoneforge Mystic decks running around in Legacy look to see this pop up in the format as well. In Limited the casting cost is going to keep it from seeing play until the end game, but if you see an Invisible Stalker hit the table you better start playing to god you have an answer to this if they have it. Because the game is over if you don’t. I would take this in draft and then take every unblockable or flying dork I see.
Executioner’s Hood – 2 – Artifact – Equipment – C – Equipped creature has intimidate. Equip 2.
Throw the switch Mr. Garrison. “I’m suppose to be anonymous, that’s why I’m wearing the hood.” Well, next time leave Mr. Hat at home. Well it isn’t a first pick in draft it is a good late pick because it makes your creatures unblockable if you are facing an off color deck. This wont make any waves in Constructed at all.
Grafdigger’s Cage – 1 – Artifact – R – Creature cards can’t enter the battlefield from graveyards or libraries. Players cant’ cast cards in graveyards or libraries.
At first I thought this was a big STFU to Dredge players, but it’s not. Well, it might slow us down it doesn’t turn our decks off. We can keep Dredging to fill our graveyards and flashback Ancient Grudge to kill this and combo off in one turn. You need to remove our graveyards to kill us, this just holds us back as if you are holding up a cross to a vampire, sooner or later you arms are going to get tired. Granted, it does cause issues to Pod decks built around Undying and Persist, but again we have answers and can tutor them up at any moment once our decks are online and ready to kill. In short, this is cute and does help buy you time, but in the end you are just waiting to die. (Yeah, brian fart on my part about flashbacking Ancient Grudge. Still Dredge can just wait out until they cna cast it from hand out deal with it with other anit-hate cards that can bounce this after setting up the graveyard to win. All you need to do is be holding the bounce or kill spell for the cage and take care of it at the end of their turn after getting the deck ready to explode. Sorry about my misstake.)
Heavy Mattock 3 – Artifact – Equipment – C – Equipped creature gets +1/+1. As long as equipped creature is a Human, it gets an additional +1/+1. Equip 2.
Monkeys can use tools, but humans use them better. All this does it make a dude better or superpower a human. It’s nice Limited equipment because of this, but has no use outside of the format.
Helvault – 3 – Legendary Artifact – M – 1, tap: Exile target creature you control. 7, tap: exile target creature you don’t control. When Helvault is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, return all crads exiled with it to the battlefield under their owners’ control.
In Constructed Karn and Spine of Ishtar are much better in the seven-drop removal slot as they answer everything. In limited this becomes a bomb for the RG decks as long as you are also packing Anceit Grudge. Just use this every time they hit one of you dudes with a removal spell to stockpile them, then at the end of one of their turns blow it up and send in the army.
Jar of Eyeballs – 3 – Artifact – R – whenever a creature you control dies, put two eyeball counters on Jar of Eyeballs. 3, tap, Remove all eyeball counters from Jar of Eyeballs: Look at the top X cards of your library, where X is the number of eyeball counters removed this way. Put one of them into your hand and the rest on the bottom of you library in any order.
In every category this is a home-run, but Limited is the format for this card to really shine. The goal is to have enough counters on it so you can just pick up you deck, find the card that will turn the game around, then stack your deck as you put it back, and then win the game. I even plan to but one in my Relentless Rat Commander deck just because if somehow I get all my Rats into play and they get killed I can just win by searching out Memory Jar and stacking the deck with a seven card combo on top. Totally, good to the game technology.
Warden of the Wall – 3 – Artifact – U – Warden of the Wall enters the Battlefield tapped. Tap: Add 1 to your mana pool. As long as it’s not your turn, Warden of the Wall is a 2/3 Gargoyle artifact creature with flying.
Hmm, colorless mana ramp you can use until the next turn, but also an extra blocker as long as you don’t tap it. Good, for Limited, but Constructed has better options.
Wolfhunter’s Quiver – 1 – Artifact – Equipment – U – equipped creature has “Tap: This creature deals 1 damage to target creature or player” and “Tap: This creature deals 3 damage to target Werewolf creature.” Equip 5.
Man that equip cost just ruined this for Constructed, which is good because this kills werewolves in all formats. I’m happy this has ended up as Limited sideboard jank and my wolves are free to eat face in all formats.
Evolving Wilds – Land – Tap, scarifice Evolving Wilds: Search your library for a basic land card and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library.
I’m so happy to see this back in Standard, Block, and Limited. It’s a budget fetch land that should have really never left with Rise of the Eldrazi. The same is true of Teramorphic Expanse. Hopefully, this is going to have the room to shine in Standard without having the Zen fetch lands around. With only one enemy colored dual land of each combination in Standard, Block, and Limited this card is going to be serving overtime to fix our mana bases. Instead of like last time this was around it is going to be a solid four-of in all decks, and it will continue to be in Commander decks and budget decks for older formats.
Grim Backwoods – Land – R – Tap: Add 1 to you mana pool. 2BG, Tap, Sacrifice a creature: Draw a card.
I can see this getting played in Limited simply because if you dork is just going to die in a chump block you might as well dig for another dork or something to turn the game around. It’s the new Modern Dredge that is going to want this as a sac outlit to get zombies off Bridge from Below and an extra Dredge draw. Just do it at the end of the other players turn to sac a Bloodghast to Dredge Dakmor Salvage to repeat and beat next turn.
Haunted Fengraf – Land – C – Tap: Add 1 to your mana pool. 3, Tap, Sacrifice haunted Fengraf: Return a creature card at random from your graveyard to your hand.
It doesn’t take much to break this card in Limited, just crack it when ever you best dude is the only guy left in the graveyard. In a Dredge build for Limited and Block you will already be exiling the big blue dorks to cast other big blue zombies so this leaves only the utility dorks for this to return to you hand. Wont see play in Standard unless used with Moorland Haunt to get max value to thin out unwanted targets.
Vault of the Archangel – Land – R – tap: Add 1 to your mana pool. 2WB, Tap: Creatures you control gain lifelink until end of turn.
Goes right into the Sorin token deck for Block and Standard, and wins Limited games when you get to use it. Nice all-star utility land.
That’s the end folks. In short order this is my favorite part of the set, both for flavor and how useful the cards are going to be to play with. The tribal lords have given Draft and Standard some fun new decks to play. Sorin is a chase mythic rare I’ll be happy to crack every time. Having Evolving Wilds back for another year is sweet, because even this level of fetch is awesome for building a two, or more, color deck. R&D, take an “at-a-boy” out of the petty cash fund for this part of the set.
Jeffrey Carmichael II
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