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    by Stephen Murray
    Thursday 14th January 2016

  • Hello friends! With the pre-release coming up, you'll be finding set reviews and sealed deck all over the place. I'm sure I'll be doing something on constructed fairly soon too, but not-so-secretly I'm most excited for 2 Headed Giant. I'm sure plenty of people will be playing 2HG for the first time, or at least aren't too familar with the intricacies of the format, so I thought I'd go over the set with it in mind.

    I will make an effort to state how these ratings compare to regular sealed deck too, so don't worry if you're not playing actual 2HG! Most cards that are good in one kind of sealed will be good in the other, but if it's not I'll try to be clear!

    First, here are some general rules of thumb that go for most 2HG limited situations.

    1) Board stalls tend to happen, since blocking usually favours the defending players because they can choose blocks. This makes evasion even better than usual.

    2) Vanilla ground creatures lose lots of value. Any creatures with abilities are better than usual. As an example, if you had the choice between an Umara Entangler and an Ondu War Cleric, you'd avoid the Entangler because a 2/1 Prowess would be obsolete very quickly, whereas the Cleric will still be useful through most of the game. You can tell they balanced this set for 2HG since nearly every creature has SOME sort of ability when it can no longer attack.

    3) Situational cards are better than usual. Cards which are usually sideboard cards because the opponent might not have say, red or black creatures, are almost certain to have targets. One example in this format is Tears of Valakut. The opposing team will always have some great fliers to kill, so you might as well put it in your deck.

    4) Cards that don't affect the board are also better than normal. Because you have a team mate who will hopefully play blockers if you aren't doing so, cards like Witness the End, counterspells and so on get better.

    5) You can play fewer lands than in normal decks. Because the format has a free mulligan to seven and games tend to go on a bit longer, you are more readily able to play less land to mitigate flooding out since many games are wars of attrition. Typically you are safe to just play one less land than normal unless you are desperate for enough different coloured sources.

    6) Removal is great as always, and you should hopefully be even more selective with it than normal during a game. Don't play that 2 damage spell on their ground 2/2, because hopefully you will play something bigger than that. Save it for a flier or creature with a sweet ability!

    7) Milling your opponent is a much better strategy than normal. Typically, cards like Tome Scour are just unplayable in regular sealed, but relating to point 4), with someone else to block for you it's sometimes viable to just focus on defence and deck an opponent. Note that you only need to make one opponent lose the game for their team to lose!

    In this format there aren't really a lot of this kind of effect, but it does mean that if you are ingesting, pick one opponent and focus on them. Preferably the blue player, since they are more likely to have card draw in their deck and thus increase the mill clock.

    8) When in doubt, read a card carefully to see who it effects!

    9) Build decks that compliment each other whenever possible! Don't make one deck full planning to go to the long game mill plan and the other a fast aggro deck.

    That's all I can think of for now, so with those in mind, let's talk about this set in particular.

    Since the set is designed with 2HG in mind, there are quite a few abilities that aleviate some of the usual issues. In particular, if you have a lot of support cards, even the "bad" cheap creatures can be okay. If your opponents are putting lots of counters on things, if you aren't doing so or removing creatures, the game could spiral out of control. Still, you'd rather have a 1/3 flier than a 2/2 nearly all of the time because it's an even better recepient of counters.

    The prereleases will be played with 12 packs in a team, not the usual 8. This means it's much more likely you can build a pair of really synergistic decks. Examples being one deck full of high-toughness defensive cards while the other deck has lots of discard, removal and counterspells. Or one deck full of very cheap fliers and the other deck with nothing but support cards and protection for them! Or 2 decks with every cheap creature, every haste creature, and every way to sneak in damage like Mighty Leap and multiple Consuming Sinkhole.

    I'm rating all the cards with Colourless requirements as though you will either be essentially 'splashing' colourless or playing one dedicated colourless/X deck. I don't know how often you will be able to make 2 decks that can reliably use those effects, so I'm going to assume you will be able to use the abilities 'most of the time' if you are putting them in your deck. If you get a ton of effects in one colour though, I can totally expect to see people playing a Blue/<> deck with 7+ colourless-producing lands, essentially playing a '2 colour deck'.

    I'm going to assume that every Surge card can be cast for that cost the vast majority of the time, and that you get to Support for maximum value too. If you can't do either of these things, then it sounds like you're getting crushed in this particular game!

    Okay, on to the actual cards!


    Deceiver of Form

    This card looks like a lot of fun, but I don't think it's unbelievably strong or anything. 7 mana for an 8/8 is definitely good but I'm not sure how many sweet creatures there will be left in your deck by the time you play it to do something awesome with it. I think you'll almost always put it in a deck unless you have a pair of REALLY aggressive decks that hope to end the game by turn 6. Even if you aren't hitting anything great, you still get to pseudo-scry which is nice.

    At it's best if you have a Scion-themed deck, where almost any creature will upgrade your squad. If you live the dream and turn your board into multiple Bane of Bala Ged, please tell me so I can high-five you at your earliest convenience.

    Eldrazi Mimic

    A 2 drop I can get behind! In both 2HG and normal sealed, 2/1s will get outclassed or blocked by Scions very often, but this one can just stay back until you make it stronger. Will be great in nearly every situation - assuming you put enough fatties in your deck - and doesn't even need actual colourless mana!


    Note: the opponents share their untap step, so you don't get to untap it twice on their turn or anything.

    This card is pretty awesome, pinging utility guys to death and drawing cards until they play something massive you want to hold at bay. It's actually slightly worse in 2HG because the actual 5/5 body is less likely to be useful, but it still seems great to me.

    Kozilek, the Great Distortion

    Well, you need to build your deck around it to cast it to be sure. 10 is a lot, but at least by that point you should have drawn 2 of your colourless sources. Not nearly as good as Ulamog though by comparison, which always will remove their best cards from play and essentially win with one attack, this one can be chump-blocked a certain amount if the opponent has enough fliers to finish you off.

    I would find it very hard to resist playing it to be sure, but you need a LOT of mana sources and a pair of decently defensive decks to make Kozilek work.

    Kozilek's Pathfinder

    Evasion, hurrah! Well, it's not the best evasion ever, assuming you might only be able to activate the ability once or twice, with double the amount of blockers it will be harder to get through. If you're playing fairly expensive ground guys though, this is one that you will want. The threat of activation will prevent the opponent from attacking at all if you have been sufficiently damaging in the early game.

    In regular sealed, I can see this being one of the most important top-end common cards in the set, letting you steal wins with a 5 power unblockable guy is pretty nice.

    Matter Reshaper

    Needing colourless on turn 3 is tough unless you commit one deck to have all of the colourless mana. But if you can play it on curve, then there's basically nothing more you can ask for from a 3-drop. Against normal decks it will hit fairly hard until it becomes outclassed, then you get to trade it in for a card. Or, if the opponents are playing aggro decks, then it'll trade nicely for whatever monsters they play for value.

    As far as 3 drops go, still pretty excellent value if you can play it even late game, so I don't think I'd ever cut if my deck had even 5 sources of colourless. (say, 5 lands/mana guys and some Scions)

    Reality Smasher

    Oh boy! A 5/5 haste is just huge for 5 mana, and it's even hard to chump block. This card is just bonkers in 2HG and regular sealed alike. Obviously if you have a pair of aggressive decks it's perfect to top off your creature curve with this, but even in the most defensive of decks you don't get a much better rate.

    Note: it only makes opponents discard to target it. Feel free to use your combat tricks on your buddy's Reality Smasher!

    Spatial Contortion

    This effect is just superb. Very versatile, cheap, instant, can't ask for more. If you can cast it reasonably, then you'd play as many as you could get. Goes extra nicely with a friend with good blockers, since cheap removal punishes anyone trying to use pump spells to get through. While you can use it as a make-shift pump spell of your own, be careful you don't accidentally take extra damage by casting it at the wrong time.

    I.e. if you need their 3/3 flier dead and you can't punish them for playing an instant support card on their turn, just play it while they are tapped out, otherwise you can eat tons of damage.

    Thought-Knot Seer

    I think this card will be great in any limited format. While there is certainly the risk that the opponent will be empty-handed, then kill it for value, most likely if you draw it any time in the early-to-mid-game you will take a great card in exchange for a random card.

    In 2HG, it's even better, since knowing what tricky instants are in someone's hand is more valuable, and the opponents will have even more powerful bomb rares between them to take! Also, the chances of both the opponents having no cards in hand at most points in the game are quite slim. The 4/4 body is less likely to dominate the board, but for a mere 4 mana it's pretty nice.

    Walker of the Wastes

    Well, it's obvious what deck this goes in! If you have a deck that really focuses on colourless, this will be good in it. If you have even 1 Wastes in play it's above average, 2 is pretty huge. 3 Wastes seems quite unlikely, but you never know. I think I'd want 4 actual Wastes in my deck because I get excited about having it.

    Having said that it's definitely aimed at formats with more control over your Wastes count. Don't feel bad about cutting this if you only have 1 Wastes in your deck, a 4/4 trample for 5 is not all that exciting, especially in 2HG. Everyone is likely to outclass it with higher-rarity expensive cards.

    Warden of Geometries

    This is no Kozilek's Channeler for sure. It is fine though if you can make use of it. A 2/3 body is very unimpressive but it does help gum up a board, and any card that produces colourless can only improve the more colourless requirements you have.

    I think in 2HG, with 12 packs, you will hopefully have better sources of colourless than this, but if needs must, then you will begrudgingly put this in your deck and it'll do work.

    Warping Wail

    In regular sealed, this is fairly hit or miss. The Scion-making ability isn't useful most of the time, and it's quite easy to never have a good chance to cast either of the other modes. In 2HG though, if either opponent has a good sorcery in their deck you'll have a good chance to stop it.synergistic your deck gets. You do need quite a lot of colourless in your deck though, this is a really terrible card to topdeck your land to cast on turn 10 or such.


    Eldrazi Displacer

    Unbeatable! Well, not quite, it doesn't protect itself. however if you don't have a removal spell for this, this card messes with so many things I'm not sure what you're supposed to do. It's a tapper, it lets you re-use ETB effects (support creatures!), saves your team's creatures from removal, breaks up their +1/+1 counters, basically everything.

    In 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 play this seems really incredible, but at least you have more chances to remove it in team play, and have a good shot of removing it immediately. If you can't use the ability, well, why not, put some colourless sources in there! But seriously the opponents will likely want to use a removal spell on it immediately just in case you were to draw a colourless land.

    Affa Protector

    A 1/4 in 2HG pretty terrible. 1/4 things are best at defending against 2/1 creatures, but there aren't going to be all that many of those, and there are quite a few high-toughness cards with evasion in the set you can play instead.

    Still, you do need *something* on the table before turn 4 if you're setting up for a long game, so if you have no other options or are desperate for things to Support, you can sign up for some Standing Troops.

    I think this is also pretty bad in 1 vs. 1 sealed, but at least you can sideboard in that format so it can come in when appropriate.

    Allied Reinforcements

    You don't want this card very much in 2HG unless you have a LOT of high-number support cards or are very Ally focused. 2/2 creatures will be blanked quite easily and they can't block very effectively. They don't even have vigilance!

    Call the Gatewatch

    I would need to have multiple Planeswalkers in my deck to want this. So basically, I won't want this.

    Dazzling Reflection

    This kind of effect is fairly low value even for 2HG so I'm not Awed by it. However! It's absolutely perfect against pump-spells. If you are low on instants I'd absolutely consider playing one of them, but I'd prioritise combat tricks that can be used more offensively to trade your creatures for better ones.

    Expedition Raptor

    Evasion is great, and 5 mana for 4/4 worth of creature is totally fine considering 2/2 of it flies and 2/2 of it virtually has haste (preferably on other fliers). Of course you can't have too many 5 mana cards in your deck so it's very believable that you might end up cutting it if you have a lot of amazing 5 drops. However, the more Support cards you have the easier it is to build up a dominating board position with even the durdliest of ground creatures, so this seems great.

    It might be slightly difficult to extract maximum value from this in regular sealed play, but it seems really solid.

    General Tazri

    Well, a 5 mana 3/4 draw an Ally is acceptable I suppose. Obviously if you have an incredible Ally like Tajuru Warcaller then this is excellent but if you're just finding a normal 3/1 or something like that I wouldn't get too excited. A 3/4 is very weak for 5 mana, and the other ability just isn't happening. If you have multiple Relief Captain though, now we're talking.

    If you can activate it in some unique set of circumstances though, go nuts!

    In regular sealed a 3/4 for 5 with value isn't nearly as embarassing, and would be totally fine to cast it as long as I'm finding anything that's decent. Ideally Warcaller still, but my standards would be lower.

    Immolating Glare

    5/5 would play any number of these unless our decks are 100% all-out aggressive. Hits all the evasion guys, the huge guys, and massively punishes other tricks when you gang-block things. Still great in regular sealed, but it's a bit easier to be dead for large portions of the game there.

    Iona's Blessing

    In normal sealed play, I know more than most that sometimes you just need to suit up a body and hope they don't blow you away with removal. In 2HG, the chances of this happening are very slim. The payoff is fairly low for just a risky card, and the fact that you can play it on your team mate's cards if you have nothing doesn't make up for the times you get punished for playing this (which will be most of the time).

    Isolation Zone

    Fantastic. Obviously you don't want to be casting this early, but answers everything no-questions asked. It also helps that as a 4-cost card it evades the set Naturalise (Natural State) so it will very rarely be killed at an unfortunate time. I would probably play all of these I get, in 2HG or regular play. Well, okay, maybe 20 would be too many, but you know what I mean.

    Kor Scythemaster

    There aren't too many things that deal 1 damage to creatures in this format, and it is pretty hard to block. There are a lot of 2/4 creatures running around, but this only needs a single +1/+1 counter to be acceptable quite late into the game. I'd be fairly happy with it if my deck was even vaguely aggressive, but if you're expecting your decks to block I'd leave it out.

    In normal sealed decks this seems like a solid playable, nothing to get excited by. I think if I was in a position to cut this, my deck would have to be very good.

    Kor Sky Climber

    This is a perfect example of a useful 2HG early creature. It's something to throw out early to defend yourself with or chip in a couple of times as needed, and then when the board is filled up with beef it provides a nice mana sink or threatens to jump up and trade with a full-time flier.

    Linvala, the Preserver

    Unsurprisingly the mythic Angel is amazing for sealed deck. Naturally it's great in limited if you can ever cast it, and it's even slightly better in 2HG because there's more chance at least one of your opponents will have more creatures than you and it ignores your team mates squad even if your *team* has tons of bodies overall!

    Make a Stand

    Unfortunately doesn't work with your team mates making it a bit inflexible. You are a bit more likely than average to get involved in large-scale combat with multiple creatures though, so it's one to look out for. If your white deck ends up with something like 20 creatures then this is a nice one, but any lower than that and it becomes of questionable utility.

    Makindi Aeronaut

    Now, a 1/3 flier, even an Ally, is nothing to get excited about. Indeed, with 30 life, that's a 30 turn clock, that's terrible! Or is it?

    A 1/3 will be much more likely to deal 4 or more damage over a game than a 2/2 would by itself, and can act as defense against enemy fliers reasonably well. However, this card skyrockets in value with the combination of Support and team mates. It has a high starting toughness so it quickly becomes very difficult to kill, and it is nice and cheap so it comes down early enough to receive counters from every Support card.

    In regular sealed much of the time you'd be happier with a slightly larger ground creature, but in a team format where this can get permanent boosts for free every couple of turns, I can't ask for more in a 2-drop.

    Mighty Leap

    An acceptable combat trick for aggressive teams that doubles as an acceptable finisher too. It helps that you can play a low land count deck with this and pair it with a slightly bigger aggressive deck so you actually have decent things to Leap into the air, unlike many white-based decks that can't do much better than a 3/3.

    It doesn't excel at any role, but if you need tricks this is a decent one due to the flexibility.

    Munda's Vanguard

    This is clearly slow to get going, but it seems pretty great. Given a couple of turns it will break open any board stall, and is a must-kill for the opponents. Fine in controlling decks because it makes any random creatures you played for blocking into real threats, and great in aggressive decks since this + time will overcome any number of 4-toughness creatures.

    Slightly worse in singles play because casting a Sea Snidd on turn 5 isn't very powerful and can leave you somewhat defenseless until it gets going, but still good. The slowness gets mitigated somewhat in 2HG because your friend can block for you until you get going!

    Oath of Gideon

    Pass on this one in any kind of sealed unless you really really need more Allies. 1/1s are almost nothing without help, and these will need supporting multiple times before they become useful.

    Ondu War Cleric

    As a 2/2, this doesn't really do anything, but it does at least have a useful ability that doesn't cost any mana. I would hope not to have to play any of these if I could help it in normal decks, but as usual circumstances might force you to if you are all-out aggro or desperately need something to play on turn 2.

    Relief Captain

    This card seems incredible. Building with cards like this in mind, between you and your buddy you should get an impressive amount of power and toughness from this card for a mere 4 mana. If you have multiples of these, suddenly aggressive decks are very viable, and you'll play every creature that costs 3 or less you can get your hands on.

    In normal sealed getting all 3 counters seems ambitious, but still very playable with just getting 2 counters. 1 counter is a bit mopey so I'd want a very high creature count.

    Searing Light

    Shoots down evasion guys fairly well, but be warned, I intuitively wouldn't want to play more than 1. There are a lot of ways to pump power in this set at instant speed, some permanently, so it's entirely possible that you'll never actually get a chance to cast this, or if you do you get destroyed by instant Support. I might be wrong on this one for sure, but it's situational in a bad way, not situational in a 'devastating when it works' good kind of way.

    In regular sealed you're more likely to be getting into brawls on the ground with Grizzly Bear-sized creatures so it's a bit better there.

    Shoulder to Shoulder

    This card is great! Your teammate can play creatures for you so you never lose out on counters, and it's just a very low-risk but relatively high-reward card. You get a card back no matter what happens, is good early to apply pressure and good late to power up your evasion cards while digging through your deck.

    You have to expect a lot of these at your prerelease either way, but especially in 2HG. In 1-on-1 play I still like it, but it's much more of a burden to have to play guys out first for the bonus.

    Fortunately it's not an instant, even though it might feel like it should be. Don't try to play it at end of turn!

    Spawnbinder Mage

    Perfect for defensive decks. A 2/4 shuts down most ground attackers early and the cohort effect nullifies their best guy latter once your 2/4 + other random ally are outmatched. High toughness guys are naturally pretty good to get Support counters too, so I'm even happy enough in somewhat aggressive decks to have this since you can use it to push through damage late on.

    Steppe Glider

    Another card that makes things jump! It's almost like they knew flying was a really powerful effect in 2HG, huh?

    This 2/4 Flying Vigilance Helicarrier for 5 isn't super or anything, but the ability here is excellent. With a few stray Support counters on your random ground dudes, you threaten to rule the skies with an iron fist on defense or swarm in through the air on offence.

    This card is less valuable in regular sealed play because of it simply having less things to launch and not defending very well against cards which are more acceptable in 1-on-1 play like 5 mana 4/4's.

    Stone Haven Outfitter

    Just say no. There aren't a lot of playable equipment so the textbox on this card is very likely to be blank in any given game. This is a prime example of a 2/2 that will be outclassed on turn 3 and then never do anything again.

    That said I would asolutely love to open 3 of these and like 6 equipment and go wild, but I don't see it.

    Stoneforge Acolyte

    I guess this is a way to find Stoneforge Masterwork if you've got a real theme deck going on. Otherwise, I wouldn't waste a slot on this card if you're using it to find Bone Saw or something.

    I think this is slightly more acceptable in 1 on 1 play since a 1/2 is a tad more likely to get in a few times and it's harder to get cheap guys to Support.

    I suppose these last 2 cards are the kind of creatures that are unplayable right up until you have the kind of deck that makes them amazing is what I'm saying, and the cut-off for amazing deck is a bit higher than people would like.

    Wall of Resurgence

    I love this card! Shuts down basically every ground creature and gives you something to attack them with too later on. Honestly there aren't too many things that punish you for waking up a land on turn 3, since you can just refuse to endanger it in combat until it is no longer required.

    Having said that, if you have an expensive hand and absolutely can't afford to have the land killed off, you are allowed to not use the ability since it's a may.

    Wow, there are a lot of cards in this set. Hope you can join me next time as I run through the next batch!

    Stephen Murray


    Best Gaming Performance? Top 8 World Magic Cup in 2012 as part of Team Scotland, 2 Pro Tour top 50s and 3 time National Champion.

    Favourite Format? 2HG Draft

    Favourite Deck? Competitively, Living End. Casually, any deck with Armadillo Cloak and Savage Beating.

    Lifetime Pro Points: 62