War of the Spark is coming to draft and sealed events near you and that means players around the world are gearing up for a new limited environment by participating in the War of the Spark limited community review. There players like you (yes, you!) can grade each and every card in the new set and see how your fellow limited players's grades compared. If you haven't had a chance to submit your grades you can follow the link to express your opinion on the new set.
As a small aside, this will be the beginning of the fifth year of the limited community review and it's all thanks to the support and participation of players like you. Thank you for submitting grades, sharing the links to the review and these articles, and just visiting the site. This project would literally not exist if it wasn't for your continued support and the time and energy that you, as a community, have invested. Thank you.
Let's get back to talking about cards. Sometimes the cards are uncontroversially and undeniably awesome, for instance check out the newest Liliana:
The Dreadhorde General is one of the least controversial cards in War of the Spark. There's mostly only a minor quibble over whether she should be rated as an "A+" or just a regular "A". She's going to be drawing you cards, commanding your undead hordes and thinning the ranks of the living, all for the reasonable cost of six mana.
You could measure just how uncontroversial Liliana is this way: If you took two participants at random from the community set review and compared their grades, you would, on average, see only a small difference. This is the controversy metric, and as you would expect Liliana's controversy score is very low.
However, according to this metric there are some cards the community just can't agree about at all. Last time we looked at the controversial commons and uncommons in War of the Spark limited. In this article we are going look at the 8 most controversial rares and mythics in War of the Spark - 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. Command the Dreadhorde
The controversy: Command the Dreadhorde's ability to resurrect any number of planeswalkers and creatures from any graveyard is certainly powerful, but the cost of the such power is a whole lot of damage. Even modest resurrection attempts are are going to cost a nice chunk of life on top of the already high six mana.
The controversy here is just how often in the new format you will be able to freely spend the large chunk of life Command the Dreadhorde demands. The community is optimistic that you'll have the resources to spend on animating the dead and gave this card an above average grade.
Community grade: C+
What I think: I really don't like this card - it's expensive at six mana. It's situational since you actually need to have worth while targets. And finally, the damage means that even getting enough mana worth of creatures to make up for Dreadhorde's mana cost is going to cost you six life.
It might be that War of the Spark ends up slow enough and value driven enough that Command the Dreadhorde is still worth it, but I'm going to start skeptical - and will probably have my own planeswalkers brought back to life to terrorize me for my hubris.
If you do plan to Command the Dreadhorde I think you could always do worse than inviting some giants to the party:
But the real payoff is this gal:
Which will make Command the Dreadhorde insane. Other than specific interaction I'm not too high on Command the Dreadhorde.
My grade: D
7. Finale of Devastation
The controversy: Green Sun's Zenith was a constructed powerhouse for a while, so it's not hard to see why players would be excited for a more flexible variation for just a single G more—and with a super powerful late game kicker. But dreams of tutoring up just the right creature work a lot better in constructed, when you can curate a toolbox, than in limited.
The controversy seems to be whether the flexibility of Finale of Devastation is worth the increased cost. Community says "yes" and Finale of Devasation is a card most players are willing to move into green for.
Community grade: B-
What I think: Even my best cards start to look a little bit worse if they cost an extra two green mana. If you have an unbelievable bomb maybe you can get some use out of this, but for cheaper creatures the value starts to dip a lot. Getting a two mana Elvish Mystic off Green Sun's Zenith isn't bad, but a three mana Elvish Mystic isn't doing it for me.
Kudos if the bomb you get with this is a certain prismatic dragon (which we may see a little later):
The tutoring flexibility is still nice, but I'm still thinking this might just be avearage.
My grade: C
6. Single Combat
The controversy: Having access to a powerful board wipe in limited is a luxury few decks have. Single Combat still let's your opponent have access to his best threat, but you get to keep your best creature/planeswalker too and have those fight one on one for a whole turn cycle.
Community grade: C+
What I think: The main appeal of Wrath effects (and their cousins like Single Combat) is that they can allow you to win games that no other card could save. So the power here is undeniable. However, it's hard not to envision situations where Single Combat just can't get your opponent's single problematic permanent off the board.
The risk is big enough that I can't be too high on Single Combat, but the unique effect and the ability to sculpt your game plan around this card is enough to have me pick it over most generically playable cards. I'm going to start Single Combat at 'C+' just like the community consensus.
My grade: C+
5. The Elderspell
The controversy: Obviously the dream with the Elderspell is to be facing down a board full of opposing planeswalkers, drop a Nicol Bolas and then cast an Elderspell to power you directly into the Dragon-God's ultimate.
Unfortunately, the more likely scenarios are that your opponent is beating you with good old fashion plane-bound creatures, in which case Elderspell might be a complete blank. That said, War of the Spark limited will have a healthy population of planeswalkers to dispatch and play, so the upside that Elderspell could seriously change the loyalty on the board has enough people excited to give The Elderspell high grades. The overall consensus is that The Elderspell is an above average card and a solid include in any black deck.
Community grade: C+
What I think: Finding a way to kill planeswalkers feels like it's going to be an important part of War of the Spark limited. Nothing can do that quite as spectacularly as The Elderspell, so I'm going to take it and play it, but I'm going to take it below good creature removal spell which puts a ceiling to the kind of grade I give it.
My grade: C
4. Parhelion II
The controversy: This card will obviously put you pretty close to winning the game if you get to resolve and attack with it. But getting there takes 8 mana, double white, and another 4 power worth of creatures—which isn't a board state a ton of decks will often produce. Expensive, game-winning cards are a staple of the controversial list, so it's no surprise that the community was split on how to rate this flying fortress.
Community grade: B-
What I think: The fact that you have to jump through so many hoops to get Parhelion II to work means I think you are going to end up losing more games to having this card be uncastable or un-crewable then you are going to win by hitting your opponent with a giant flying anvil.
This might be a powerful enough card and a slow enough format that you can find a deck for it, but I'm not going to prioritize taking it.
My grade: D
3. Karn, the Great Creator
The controversy: Karn is back and once again fits nicely into an artifact heavy deck. The controversy is that there doesn't appear to be any such deck in War of the Spark limited. While some think that Karn might just have some tricks up his sleeve for limited, the plurality of players gave Karn an 'F', and the overall community grade wasn't much better.
Community grade: D+
What I think: I think Karn is probably an 'F', but I always like to try to theory craft ways that you could potentially use the controversial cards. It does fetch one of the handful of rare artifacts you might have drafted, and if you do have a target to animate you get pretty good stats to protect Karn for a whole turn cycle, and going up to six loyalty on turn 5 isn't nothing.
Maybe the "nut" draw here is something like turn 3 Mana Geode:
Turn 4 Karn, animate Geode to keep Karn alive or chip in for three damage. Untap, -2 Karn, fetch God-Pharaoh's Statue out of your sideboard and play it?
That does leave you in a fairly good position, but it feels like those pieces just won't come together with any regularity. However, I'm holding out hope for beating someone with an animated statue of Bolas, so I'll keep Karn out of the 'F' range for now.
My grade: D-
2. Bolas's Citadel
The controversy: Bolas's Citadel offers you great power, but at a steep cost. The ability to play cards off the top of your library is one that can quickly bury an opponent, but the Citadel puts a hard limit on how many spells you can cast - your life total.
At six mana this power doesn't come cheap but the ability to move through your deck might help you overcome this initial cost - especially with the ability to play lands from your library with no additional life cost.
The controversy is whether Bolas's Citadel can make up it's steep initial investment. The community is overall positive and thinks Bolas's Citadel will be an above average card.
Community grade: C+
What I think: I quite like Bolas's Citadel. At the very least you can use it to clear lands off the top of your deck, and that level of extra card draw might be good enough to win a game of limited.
To me the ability to play a small spell or two from your deck is just gravy, and I really don't think that most games are going to get to the point where you can just throw ten nonland permanents at your opponent, but sometimes games go long and this ability will be a real way to close the game.
If War of the Spark is a faster format than I think Bolas's Citadel is going to have to go down a few grades, but at the moment I'm going to take it early and look to bury my opponent in value.
Ironically his is the second six mana black rare on this list that I feel compelled to say will be hilariously solid with Bulwark Giant:
My grade: B
1. Niv-Mizzet Reborn
The controversy: Niv-Mizzet is the most controversial card in War of the Spark - and for good reason. He's a powerful evasive threat with just about the most difficult mana cost imaginable. Oh and he can draw you ten cards - although the odds of that happening in limited seem fairly slim.
All the ingredients of a great card are here, but that mana cost has most players thinking that Niv-Mizzet is actually just unplayable - the most common grade for the card was a straight 'F'. However, there were enough hopeful dissenters that the community average is simply below average.
Community grade: C-
What I think: Personally I think if you want to cast Niv-Mizzet there are enough tools to do that in War of the Spark. The obvious one is the one with Niv-Mizzet's face on it:
But between green and artifact mana fixing it feels like you can pilot a legitimate 5 color deck in War of the Spark, in which case Niv-Mizzet should probably be in your deck. In which case let me introduce you to the cards that will be Niv-Mizzet's new best friends:
Centaur Nurturer feels fantastic - it provides a good blocker, recoups early life loss and then let's you cast your splashed bombs (like Niv). And when you need to get those last few pips the other key card feels like it will be this:
Which slips on to the board, draws you a card, and let's you cash in one of your powerful haymakers. The other nice thing about the 5 color deck, is since you are going to be on the lookout for multicolor cards to splash, Niv-Mizzet's card draw effect might actually net you a card or two. If I open Niv-Mizzet I'm going to be drawn toward this archetype, which I guess means I'm putting it in the 'B' range.
My grade: B
Those are the 8 most controversial 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.