Gatecrash’s prerelease weekend is underway, and by all accounts, it’s somehow even huger than Return to Ravnica’s. Local game stores across the world are running out of guild boxes and there’s still another day of tournaments left. So, if you won’t get the chance to make it to the prerelease and want a glimpse of what the set will play like, or if you’re going tomorrow and want to prepare yourself for what’s to come, here is the second part of my spoiler analysis of Gatecrash’s white cards, continued from last time.
Hold the Gates – The cycle of Gate-dependent cards in this set seems to demonstrate that the common ten-card cycle of guild lands is no longer to be sniffed at. Without any Gates, Hold the Gates is an overcosted Serra’s Blessing (which, to be fair, can still be relevant in Limited aggro-versus-aggro matchups). Used with them, it makes your creatures very, very hard to kill, something of interest to both the white guilds of this set (it compensates the Boros for the fragility of its aggressive small creatures and makes sure the Orzhov’s extort creatures stick around and can shrug off even blocking huge threats). If either of those strategies appeals to you in Gatecrash Limited, you will like this card. Otherwise it will annoy the living hell out of you.
Holy Mantle – Spirit Mantle that grants an additional +1/+1. Ordinarily I’d say that two extra mana for that on an Aura would be way too much to pay, but protection from creatures is essentially unblockability plus unkillability when blocking plus some other marginal protective abilities, so it’s fine as a way to make your creatures hard for aggro decks to deal with. Definitely still way overcosted for Constructed, but it’ll definitely end games in Limited.
Knight of Obligation – Wow, this is way better than Pillarfield Ox. Orzhov loves this even though it’s only got 2 power for four mana since a) it has fat toughness, b) it has extort, and c) it has vigilance, which means it can attack to create pressure and force opponents to either lose an aggressive weenie by blocking it or take an extra whittling-down of their life total to the tune of 2 per turn, and then still be able to hold off small or midrange threats during opponents’ combat phases. Orzhov is shaping up to be a very slow and very dangerous guild, and if you like control, now is probably the time to get into white-black.
Knight Watch – Unfortunately, white tends to be weak in terms of its midrange nonflying creatures, and 4 power for five mana is often as good as it gets for the color in Limited. Since the tokens have vigilance, you’ll get two consistent blockers out of this spell, which is something.
Luminate Primordial – This is, of course, an obvious attempt to appeal to Commander players, given its huge mana cost and effect and multiplayer functionality. This one isn’t nearly as finisher-ish as some other members of the cycle, but the other Primordials seem focused more on killing off one player in a multiplayer game, while this one is good for protecting you against all of them.
Murder Investigation – If you can’t get removal-proofing, then removal insurance is the next best thing. Played on its own, you’ll only get real value on this card if you enchant one of your midrange creatures with it, which means that despite the low mana cost and token production ability, weenie aggro decks won’t want it. There is some Johnny appeal here with pumping the creature this is attached to, sacrificing it, and then taking advantage of the fact that the number of your creatures has increased even though your total power has stayed the same with a Glorious Anthem-type effect.
Nav Squad Commandos – This has probably one of the more underwhelming battalion abilities among all the creatures in the set, but at least it’s costed such that in an aggro deck the trigger is nearly guaranteed to go off. Another illustration of white’s midrange problem; a 4/6 creature with effectively-vigilance for five mana is still pretty good if you can fit it in your mana curve.
Righteous Charge – Most people probably won’t realize this is a reprint, since the original comes from a weird place: Portal Second Age. It’s good for a cheap, poor-man’s Overrun; it might have you alpha-striking by turn 4 or so in Limited weenie aggro. The flavor text is worth a smirk if not a chuckle.
Shielded Passage – Hey, it’s Indestructible Aura! I am shocked that card hasn’t gotten a functional reprint until now (it’s one of the few Legends cards that’s stood the color-pie-and-playability test of time, though it definitely cannot be reprinted without a name change because its name now technically contains two lies).
Smite – I have always, always liked this card. It encourages blocking, which deepens combat strategy, it feels extremely white, and it’s just downright effective in a measured-pace aggro deck versus either straight rush-aggro or huge-creature ramp or reanimator decks. Plus its name is fun to shout at your opponent with righteous anger as you cast it. Definitely a good reprint choice.
Syndic of Tithes – This is the extort bear, and that’s reason enough to play it even if you’re not running extort.dec. Even really fast white aggro decks such as the stereotypical Boros build can benefit from the kind of life total advantage – two-life swings per spell for a mere one mana, remember – this generates even while it has on-par power and toughness stats for its mana cost. If you’re running white in Gatecrash Limited, you will almost certainly want to play this.
Urbis Protector – What the hell happened during the development of Avacyn Restored that this card went missing from the design file? Seriously, this card feels like it should be called Thraben Protector, what with being a small white Human Cleric that generates 4/4 flying Angel tokens and that synergizes perfectly with blink effects. Anyhow, this is 5 power for six mana that’s hard to block and that works well with populate, so Selesnya decks will want it come Dragon’s Maze Limited.
Zarichi Tiger – How unsettling is the flavor of this card? Enough so that I wrote a whole article about it. In playability terms it’s a disappointment – nigh-worthless as an attacker, too expensive for its stats to be effective defensively, and its activated ability isn’t really worth the cost.