Most Controversial Commons and Uncommons in War of the Spark Limited

24 Apr 2019

The newest Magic set, War of the Spark, is upon us and it's bringing an army of planeswalkers to limited. For over four years, with each new set, the limited playing community has been coming together to put together the community limited set review. There players like you (yes, you!) can rate how good each card will be in sealed and draft.


When hundreds of players give their opinion you can expect some disagreement. Even the least controversial card in the set doesn't get the same score from everyone. And it's hard to get less controversial than Kraul Stinger:


There's no debate about what you get with this card. Still, how useful a deathtoucher is on the ground — and how good a grey ogre is in the curve — varies from set to set. So some players think this card will be an important part of holding off giant zombie army tokens, enough that seeing one draws them into green. Others place it a bit below average. Nonetheless, the difference is small.


But just how controversial is Kraul Stinger, exactly? You could ask the question this way: If I asked two random participants what grade they gave the Stinger, how much, on average, would their grades differ? This is the controversy metric in the  community limited set review. And according to this metric there are some cards the community just can't agree about at all. In this article we are going look at the 8 most controversial commons and uncommons — as voted on by you, the limited playing community. For each card I'll start by summarizing the controversy, looking at the average community grade and then offering my take... 


...which, given these cards, is guaranteed to be controversial.


8. Interplanar Beacon

The controversy: There are a lot of powerful planeswalkers running around in War of the Spark, and Interplanar Beacon may kind of help you cast some of them. It's hard not to be a tiny bit disappointed that the currently highest rated planeswalker actually can't actually be splashed off an Interplanar Beacon:

On the other hand, Interplanar Becaon does allow your opponent's mono black deck to unleash this bad boy:

So how does the community rate Interplanar Beacon? Is splashing planeswalkers (and buffering your lifetotal) going to make it an integral part of the format? The community is down on Interplanar Beacon and given a below average rating.


Community grade: C-


What I think: I don't have a very high bar for land cards. The cost for including them in a limited deck is usually pretty low. However, War of the Spark is a set with a lot of powerful multicolor cards which is going to put player's manabases under increased pressure. Consequently, a colorless land is going to hurt more than normal.


Because of the limited number of cards that Interplanar Beacon can help you cast and the cost of playing colorless lands in War of the Spark, I think the Beacon is going to spend most of its time in the sideboard. And when it makes the main deck, the player snapping up the multicolored walkers shouldn't have to pick this very high.


My grade: D


7. Heartwarming Redemption


The controversy: Decks that can run on only a handful of lands - usually aggressive decks - can find a way to use Heartwarming Redemption. Being able to pitch a hand of lands to draw more action is a nice effect. It's hard to see any other uses for Heartwarming Redemption because red/white in War of the Spark doesn't seem to have many ways to abuse the pitched cards. 


So what does the community think of Heartwarming Redemption? How good is instant speed card cycling in a boros deck? The answer seems to be below average.


Community grade: C-


What I think: Flavorwise, Heartwarming Redemption is a solid "A+". Seeing Big McLargeHuge retiring to the big gym in the sky with his childhood friends was a surprisingly affecting moment.

Kudos to the story team — War of the Spark is full of these great flavor gems.


That said, this card is only okay in draft, and I'm only ever looking to pick up one. I've had enough Collective Defiances rot in my hand in cube to know that taking a turn off to mini-wheel away one's hand doesn't actually feel amazing. That makes it a pretty low priority, and a below average grade. I'm going with the community consensus here.


My grade: C-


6. Dovin's Veto


The controversy: Dovin's Veto is poised to make an impact in older formats, but in limited it's really just a hard to cast negate.

That said Negate is a cheap card that can always find targets - it will happily keep removal spells, combat tricks, artifacts, enchantments and planeswalkers from affecting the board. The liability of holding a dead card while your opponent plays more creatures is what makes Dovin's Veto controversial. So how did the community rate it? The consensus seems to be that Dovin's Veto is a below average card.


Community grade: C-


What I think: For me Negate is a prototypical D+ card — not embarrassing to run in a maindeck, a roleplayer out of the sideboard — but one which won't always make the cut. In some formats Negate can inch up a couple grades. A format with a lot of planeswalkers would be a good candidate for just the kind of format where Negate might be better than average, but the hard to manage casting cost is working against Dovin's Veto.


Because of it's restrictive cost, I'm going to say Dovin's Veto is not going to be a high pick.


My grade: D


5. Gideon's Sacrifice


The controversy: One way or another Gideon's Sacrifice can lead to some epic blowouts. The controversy seems to stem from which way those blowouts are going to go. The possibility of instant speed removal makes casting this dicey, but the possible upside of decimating opposing boards has led some players to think Gideon's Sacrifice might be an underrated gem.


So is Gideon's Sacrifice potential upside worth the risk? The community is overall down on it, and thinks it will be a borderline playable that will mostly spend time in the sideboard.


Community grade: D+


What I think: While in my imagination this enables you to do some powerful things, the amount of times that's going to actually happen in practice seems really small.


To illustrate let's talk about all the things that have to go right to make Gideon's Sacrifice worthwhile. First, you have to have a reasonably even board state to make use of Gideon's Sacrifice. If you don't have decent attacks or blocks to begin with Gideon's Sacrifice isn't going to help you. Unfortunately, having a card like Gideon's Sacrifice rotting in hand is exactly the kind of thing that keeps you from getting to good board states.


Second, you have to have an expendable creature or planeswalker, which again works at cross purposes to having a good board state. An advantage for Gideon's Sacrifice is that the uncommon planeswalkers naturally count down to being sacrifice fodder.


Third, you have to make sure the chosen sacrifice survives until damage. Things can go very bad for you if your opponent has an instant speed removal spell. Because of the wording on Gideon's Sacrifice you can't really play around this possibility.


Occasionally all three of these things will happen and Gideon's sacrifice will be worth the two cards you spend on it, but I'm not convinced that the risk here is worth it.


My grade: D


4. Arboreal Grazer


The controversy: As we just saw, extremely cheap cards can get folks imagining some best (or worst) case scenarios. Playing this card on turn one to kinda sorta ramp out one of the format's several three mana planeswalkers on turn two does sound spicy—especially when it comes with a body on the ground to play defense. But every turn after that this effect is way worse.


So does the community like the upside of ramping into something juicy early, or does the Grazer's modest stats offer too little to get excited about? The consensus is that Grazer is mostly going to  be on the outside looking in, and is only sometimes going to make the maindeck.


Community grade: D+


What I think: Arboreal Grazer does too little for me to actually like it. It does enough that I'm not going to give it a straight unplayable 'F'. Sometimes, it will keep a little flyer from harassing one of your planeswalkers and/or be valuable as sacrifice fodder, but for the most part this is a horrid topdeck late in the game and not much better earlier.


For me the decider will be just how big the average amassed army gets. If Bolas's zombies tend to group as 1/1s or 2/2s, this might slip in. But if the packs are 3/3 or bigger most games, I doubt the chump block will be worth a card.


My grade: D-


3. Emergence Zone


The controversy: Emergence Zone is the second situationally useful colorless land on our list. Giving things flash is a potentially powerful effect, letting you pull tricks like casting creatures as surprise blockers, or using sorcery speed sacrifice effects in response to removal.


However the cost here is high too - you only get one shot to do it and it's going to cost you a land. Which come to think of it is pretty flavorful to represent Bolas's building smashing planar portal. The plus side is that this ability is tacked on to a land so it's not going to take up a precious spell slot.


So what did the community decide? The consensus was that Emergence Zone is a below average card.


Community grade: C-


What I think: Despite the fact that I'm usually pretty forgiving on lands with marginal abilities, I can't bring myself to like Emergence Zone. As I've mentioned before there's a higher number of multicolor cards versus a regular set (two cycles of powerful uncommon cards versus just one in a normal set) so the cost of adding a colorless land is just a little bit steeper than normal.


Unlike regular old flash creatures that can turn an ambush into a two-for-one, if you do have an Emergence Zone on the battlefield your opponent is going to play around it. This isn't always bad; maybe they won't attack for fear of a surprise blocker. Unfortunately I don't like the play pattern that encourages.


Let's imagine you do have Emergence Zone in play, a creature in hand and enough mana to activate Zone and cast your creature for surprise blocks. If your opponent plays cautiously what are you going to do — not cast the creature at instant speed? You only get one shot, and you don't advance your board every turn you don't take it.


I'm out. I don't think I'm going to play Emergence Zone.


My grade: F


2. God-Pharaoh's Statue


The controversy: If you really need a self-aggrandizing victorious effigy, Nicol Bolas has got you covered. Flavorwise statue does two things you'd expect of a ruthless dictatorship, smothering opposition and slowly squeezing the life out of your opposition.


However, this card only really slows down decks that haven't dumped their hand by turn six. The life loss effect is nice as a hard to interact with finisher, but it's going to be of limited use unless your game goes really, really long.


The controversy is whether an expensive card that doesn't interact with the board is going to be worth it? Community says that God-Pharaoh's Statue is going to be below average.


Community grade: C-


What I think: I see two different places you can use God-Pharaoh's Statue. One is as a way to win a control battle, making your opponent's expensive and reactive spells very awkward to use while relentless pressuring their life total. Honestly, I'm not sure I like that strategy as there seem to be plenty of Planeswalkers that can fill that roll, and the statue's lifeloss only hits face.


The other use I see is as a curve topper in an aggressive deck.  Dropping a statue is a great way to make sure that your opponent has a hard time stabilizing. Again, this isn't something the statue does particularly well, but I'm going to guess this is going to be a stronger way to use Nicol Bolas's monument - as a six mana Curse of the Pierced Heart.


However, there is no disputing that the most awesome use for Statue is when you realize it is the most expensive non-rare artifact in the set:

That said, I will mostly be relegating Statue to my sideboard.


My grade: D


1. Ashiok, Dream Render


The controversy: Ashiok is the only uncommon walker to make the most controversial list, and it's not surprising given Ashiok's abilities. The static ability here is geared toward constructed players as there are a grand total of 3 non-rares that Ashiok can stop. However, the story equity is high for all those times that you completely ruin your opponent's day:

However, aside from the rare times that Ashiok wrecks a Nissa's Triumph, the main event is Ashiok's milling ability. The only deck that can possible use Ashiok is one that can stabilize the board and needs a hard to interact with win condition. Assuming planeswalkers are hard to interact with...


Is there going to be a deck like that in War of the Spark? Will Ashiok have the support to erase opposing planeswalker's minds? The community is split, but on the whole it's pessimistic and thinks that Ashiok is below average.


Community grade: C-


What I think: My first take on War of the Spark is it's going to be most similar to Dominaria - where decks can do powerful things but don't often run you over. In that environment Ashiok players should have the space and time necessary to take full advantage of the Dream Render's milling ability.


Because Ashiok is only one piece of a controlling deck, and not necessarily a key piece I can't quite put it in the 'B' range, but I think it is going to better than average.


My grade: C+

Those are the 8 most controversial commons and uncommon cards in War of the Spark. What cards am I wrong about? Where is the community misjudging the cards? Do you have a better read on the environment? Let us know: rate the cards yourself.


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