Oath of the Gatewatch: Playing to your Weaknesses – Blue
(NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
As for my rating system, I’ll be using a new format this time around. After a lot of feedback, I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:
- 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
- 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
- 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
- 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback.
- 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around.
Blue had no shortage of playable Eldrazi cards in Battle for Zendikar limited, and it also had some decent tempo cards and formidable flyers at common and uncommon. I also really liked any of the cards with Awaken on them. Playing blue made you a double threat. It allowed you play removal that became land creatures and also filled the skies with tons of flyers. It was easily one of my favorite colors in limited, but how will the new cards from Oath of the Gatewatch affect everything? Before checking them out, please be sure to briefly check out my previous article about BFZ’s blue cards. If you have a good handle on the cards, then by all means continue.
As far as flyers are concerned this time around, OGW isn’t pulling any punches. This card is basically two creatures in one. It’s a 5 mana 3/4 flyer, which is one of the biggest non-rare flyers in the format, and when it dies it becomes a 3/3 land elemental. You don’t get better value than this at uncommon. Cyclone Sire joins an already impressive UW flyers archetype and makes it even better. If you’re playing blue you’ll probably want to draft this first. This card is much better than Wall of Resurgence in white, but together they’re pretty damn good. Great in any blue deck, and perhaps even worthy of a splash.
RATING: 4.5 Stars
Another decent flyer, but nothing special unless you’re able to play a 1 mana spell like Rush of Ice before it and play it on turn 4. Still, a turn 4, 3/3 flyer is pretty good. If I saw a few of these going around the draft table, I’d probably grab each one of them. UW Flyers is going to be a force to be reckoned with between all the sphinxes, eldrazis, and birds in both sets. Having a few on your side will be worth it. The more the merrier.
RATING: 3 Stars
Moving onto the Eldrazi cards, Thought Harvester is put in a rather interesting position. It doesn’t have Ingest like many of the previous blue Eldrazi creatures, but it does have the ability to put cards into exile. This can come in handy if you’re building a UB or UR Eldrazi deck in limited and want to maximize your ability to play processor cards. Sometimes you aren’t able to push through any damage with Ruination Guide or Sludge Crawler but still want to have exiled cards to play Wasteland Strangler or Ruin Processor with. That’s where the Harvester comes into play. With two sets to build from, you should have no problem putting together a well balanced ingest/processor deck. Thought Harvester works great in that kind of deck, but even without that synergy you’re still getting a 2/4 flyer that will block a lot of cards while still giving incidental advantage through attrition. Worth playing, and you shouldn’t draft it too late or somebody else will grab it. I’d take it around my 5-6th pick if it was passed to me at that point.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
A 2/3 flyer for 4 mana is okay, but being able to give another creature flying when it attacks is a definite plus. It’s main deck playable in limited, and if you have a decent amount of colorless mana to consistently use its ability it could be even better. This will of course be in a blue/x flyers deck, but if you’re running Blue/X eldrazi this card could become a huge pain for your opponents. Giving a card like Walker of the Wastes or Reality Smasher flying can end games VERY quickly. If it looks you’ll be playing with a number of colorless cards, grab as many of these as you can!
RATING: 3 Stars
Blinding Drone is a good tempo card for this format, though I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to use his ability in a sealed environment. It forces you to play wastes if you want to use its ability consistently, which means you’ll probably want to play mono color if you can (blue or black perhaps?), but it’s not unforeseeable to play it in a 3 color (UR + Colorless) deck either. In draft it should be a little bit easier to build a deck with him in your 2 spot, but for the most part I think you’ll see Blinding Drone showing up in that 22nd or 23rd card slot in your limited deck. If you’re light on removal effects or want to really push the number of tempo effects in your deck then use it.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
If I was going to use a common card with a Wastes-based ability, it would probably be Prophet or Distortion. It’s not that bad if you have something like 1-2 Ruination guides in play, and it works well with new cards like Ruins of Oran-Rief as well. Card advantage is important in limited, and this effect can make an otherwise horrible late game draw into something useful. Just as with Blinding Drone, a good card for the last few slots in your deck, but not necessary if you have something better.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
Moving onto the spells in OGW, I like the different modes of Sweep Away. There are no restrictions as to which creature you can use it on, so targeting an Awakened land and returning it to your opponent’s hand is perfectly fine. Throwing an attacking threat back on top of their library and effectively “time-walking” your opponent (making them use another turn to play their previous card) is also a good effect. It has great synergy with a card like Thought Harvester in play if you can put it on top of their library and then exile it with a colorless spell. I think Sweep Away will see a decent amount of play in limited as one of the better tempo spells.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Grip of the Roil is another good tempo card in OGW limited. It keeps a creature tapped for 2 turns and also replaces itself with a new card when used. Instant speed, good mana cost, plus a cheaper surge cost when played after another spell. I think the tempo + card draw effect will make this card highly sought after in draft so grab it as early as you can. Aggressive decks like UR Eldrazi or evasive ones like UW/UB flyers will benefit the most from it.
RATING: 4 Stars
Roiling Waters is much heavier than the other two spells above, but it still has a powerful effect later in the game. Bouncing your opponent’s finishers/Eldrazi and drawing 2 cards is a good way of changing the momentum of a game and giving you a chance to get back in the fight. Being a sorcery hurts it, but I would definitely play this if I was in blue. I would pay 4-5 mana to be able to return 2 creatures to a player’s hand, so tacking on 3 more mana to draw 2 cards is totally worth it. Not first pickable in draft, but I think if you already have a few blue cards in your pool grabbing this around your 5th-6th pick wouldn’t be bad.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Other Cards that Might See Play
- Cultivator Drone – good card if you’re playing a deck with a lot of colorless abilities, but otherwise not worth playing.
- Slip Through Space – I could see this card doing some serious damage if you’re playing with a number of heavy hitters in your deck. It won’t be great in faster aggro decks, but it would be great alongside decks using fragile “glass cannon” creatures that can easily be blocked and killed.
- Containment Membrane – good pseudo-removal early on, but only if the creature is already tapped. Works great if you’re playing Blinding Drone.
- Gift of Tusks – I can’t decide if this card is better used on offense or defense. I’m going to guess it’s better to turn their big creature into a somewhat more manageable 3/3 elephant, but I’d rather play something a little more permanent that doesn’t give the creature a chance of surviving.
Coming Up Next
Blue-based flyer decks were hard to deal with in BFZ, but now they’ll be an absolute nightmare. If you don’t grab a few for yourself or have a plan to deal with them they’ll make short work of you. UR and UB Eldrazi decks should also fair much better this time around than before. They were alright in BFZ limited thanks to cards like Vile Aggregate, but the range of abilities Oath’s Eldrazi give you along with the sheer number of Devoid creatures to choose from should give your opponent’s a bigger headache this time around.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back soon for this series’ continuation! Black will be up next, so don’t miss it!