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  • 2HG SET GUIDE - BLUE & BLACK

    by Stephen Murray
    Friday 15th January 2016

  • We're back! To pick up where left off last time, I continue with my 2HG-focused set run down starting at blue!

    White and Colourless can be found here

    Blue


    Abstruse Interference

    In one-on-one play, cards like this are usually very bad, even when they make you draw a card or make the opponent discard a card irrespective of whether you manage to counter anything. Here, you don't even exile anything, and you just get a Scion. So, I expect this card to be bad again.

    HOWEVER! It's actually playable in 2HG. It's so, so much more likely that you'll get to Force Spike an important spell with two opponents. They've got to play big things sometime, and when they do, you'll get 'em!

    Okay, it's still not *good*, but don't just immediately sort it unto the unplayable pile either. It will almost always trade for a card that costs more than it, and the ability to leave mana up to threaten other instants is a valuable thing.


    Blinding Drone

    Now here's a 2-drop! Assuming you're heavy in colourless sources to use the ability later on, this gives you something to play early and blank good cards later.

    Everyone knows tappers are valuable in limited, but the only concern is that you might end up constrained on colourless sources later on if you have multiple colourless abilities and spells that need casting. In 2HG, you should hopefully have access to all the lands you require to make these great.


    Cultivator Drone

    Make sure you read this ability! You can't use the mana on everything!

    *ahem* This card does exactly what you want. It's a random body that stalls out the ground, lets you use your sweet spells and abilities, ramps out fatties etc. Being a mana cheaper than Warden of Geometries makes a big difference, so you can probably play as many of these as you like without being too slow.


    Deepfathom Skulker

    Slightly on the pricey side if you're behind, but this spirals out of control very quickly.

    Note: you only draw a card from your own creatures, but you can make other creatures unblockable. Usually your team-mate's things obviously, but can surprise a Breaker of Armies!

    Anyway, even slightly expensive evasion is still evasion, and if you have some fliers out to peck them with you can even slam this down, draw a couple of cards and not care too much if your opponents remove it on their turn.

    It can't turn around a losing game, but it breaks open a game that's remotely close to even.


    Dimensional Infiltrator

    You know, I don't like to call 2/1 creatures 'bombs' since they tend not to help too much while behind, but this card is actually absurd in 2HG. 2/1 fliers for 2 are naturally great because it's an evasive 2 drop. The flash part is useful because you will indeed be holding up mana for tricks much of the time, and occasionally you might need to ambush a 3/2 flier.

    But in addition to these nice things that would make it an auto-play regardless, there's this ability. Not only does it make it very difficult to kill with enough mana, but it also provides a legitimate route to victory. Since you 'may' return it to your hand, you can just keep on exiling cards in a board stall to deck people fairly quickly. You also get to mess up scry!

    It sounds a bit silly to tout 'exile one card at a time' as a fearsome decking strategy, but games *do* go long, and a 2 mana all-round excellent card that can conceivably win the game by itself in a stall is quite excellent.

    It's also great in regular sealed too, even if the decking part is a bit more difficult most of the time.


    Gravity Negator

    A totally fine flying creature. The fact that it needs to attack to make things fly does mean it's not as good as the other cards that do similar things, since a decent amount of the time the opponent will be ready to make it a one-way trip.

    As always though, evasion is good in 2HG, and the ability is actually a fair amount better than normal too. When something like this attacks in a normal blue deck, you tend to have a lot of fliers anyway, or small defenders, which aren't always that important to make fly.

    With a team-mate on hand however, maybe they'll have some big green guy that can't attack into the wall of enemy blockers, and throwing big beasts at the enemy face is much more appealing.


    Prophet of Distortion

    This is really slow, but I can see it being playable. It's a mana sink and a very cheap thing to receive Support counters, but on the other hand there aren't too many things it can actually block.

    Still, it forces the opponent into action. If you have one deck just full of instants and hardly any creatures, this is actually just perfect for you since you can just keep leaving up mana all game without fear of wasting it.

    I think in normal sealed it'll just depend on how many cheap removal spells you get. The 1/2 body isn't very useful and 4 mana per card is fairly expensive, so the earlier you get to do something + draw a card the better.


    Slip Through Space

    This card will never be terrible since it cycles, but I don't think it's amazing. With life totals being 30, slipping through to deal 4 damage or similar isn't really that effective if it's not the finishing blow and you aren't backing it up with more evasion. On the other hand, the more things in your deck that trigger on playing colourless cards, the more this is good just because you get to activate some abilities, with the 'unblockable' part almost being an afterthought!


    Thought Harvester

    Oh boy! Even if you're not actively trying to play every colourless card you have, a 2/4 flier is pretty nice, and will incidentally mill a few cards. If you ever get more than one of these out, the enemy library is in true peril. Thought Harvester just does it all, being decent at attacking, blocking, and forcing the opponent to deal with it in a board stall, lest they slowly get milled out.


    Void Shatter

    Counterspells are excellent in 2HG, and exiling cards can stop a few creatures from doing shenanigans. 3 mana is kind of a lot to hold up early on, but there's nothing you'd want to draw more from the mid-game onwards, since it stops all kind of brutal cards from just destroying you.

    It might be 90% Cancel, but Cancel is great in 2HG.

    In 1-Headed Giant, Cancel is fairly unimpressive, but gets the job done. Naturally, if you're deploying threats it can be hard to leave up 3 mana at the same time, but as always in sealed you need to deal with opposing bombs. This does that!


    Ancient Crab

    Well, uh, gotta block with something, and this crab is a giant enemy for opposing ground forces. It's certainly not exciting to have though, since if the opponent just has all fliers this will never be able to block or deal damage.

    I like this better for regular sealed, since it'll be more likely to be relevant against random medium-sized monsters.

    I do *want* to beat some people up with a heavily Supported Crab though.


    Comparative Analysis

    The Surge cost isn't really a big improvement. It's fine, being able to help out your team-mate with a couple of extra cards is really nice if they are struggling to hit lands or spells. Still, upgrading from Inspiration to Divination (since mostly you will Surge from your friend casting a creature or similar) isn't really a huge upgrade.

    On the plus side, you can also target your opponents to deck them!

    For regular sealed play, I am very unexcited by Inspiration.


    Containment Membrane

    The Surge cost on this effect is excellent. 1 mana is so cheap it makes it very easy for on say, turn 5, to have your friend play something, you play this and a 4 mana creature for a huge board swing. This card doesn't solve every problem, it's much better if you're either on the defensive or racing and not great if the opponent is holding back. But hey, if they can't attack you, then you must be winning, right?

    Similarly, in regular sealed it will be very easy to play this for 1 mana in the mid-game. There aren't a lot of ways to be punished for playing this, but consider sideboarding it out if the opponent has a bunch of untap effects.


    Crush of Tentacles

    This card is bananas in 2HG. A 5 mana 8/8 token is pretty nice, and returning all the permanents can be unbelievably strong if you've fallen behind. Ideally, you want your team-mate to trigger surge by either playing something very cheap so they can deploy more threats that turn or with a spell that doesn't effect the board in any way, like Pulse of Murasa.

    In single-player land, Crush is much more difficult to activate, but worth it if you can. Just casting it without surge seems pretty substandard, since the opponent will almost certainly be able to rebuild faster than you, by virtue of being able to untap with all their lands first.

    Just be aware that it'll mostly be an 8 mana spell for the most part, and build your deck accordingly!


    Cyclone Sire

    A nice, solid 3/4 flier. It's not particularly large or anything so it might struggle to get through the legions of 2/4 fliers without some Support, but you'll always want to play it. That it leaves some value on the table when it dies is nice, what with it being another creature that's hellish for small ground creatures to fight through.

    I can't imagine not wanting to play this in basically every sealed format, and this is no exception.


    Gift of Tusks

    I love it! In a game with 4 players, it's almost certain you'll get a good use out of this at some point. Whether it's making your opponent's unbeatable rare small enough to be removed, a giant flier falling out of the sky mid-attack into your awaiting hordes of blockers, or even saving one of your own valuable utility creatures from a small removal spell, this will always be useful. I'd always make room for it.

    I also love this effect in normal sealed since it's so tricksy. It is a fair bit harder to get value from it, but in sealed everyone always plays their powerful rares, one way or another you can answer most of the bomb creatures with an application of Tusks.


    Grip of the Roil

    Crippling Chill, is that you? Great for racing with your fliers, can't really complain that the Surge discount is minimal.

    There is a certain limit to how many cards like this that you put in your deck, after all if all you're doing is buying time, the opponent will still have their creatures and you might draw nothing much. Ideally you want to be attacking the opponent while their guys are chilling out. I'd play a couple in defensive strategies, but you could probably play any number of them if your decks are sufficiently aggressive!


    Hedron Alignment

    Noooooooooooooooo. Don't do it. Noooooooooooo.

    Jwar Isle Avenger

    Here it is, probably the best common in the set for 2HG. A 3 mana 3/3 flier is huge for the cost, and you should be able to play it turn 3 every game. In fact, if you have one of these and your opponent only has a 2 drop, please make sure not to save it to Surge this out.

    Yeah, there are quite a lot of defensive cards in the set, but playing one of these on turns 3 and 4 puts the opponents under so much pressure, you don't need much Support to push them over the edge.

    By comparison, this is honestly pretty mediocre in regular sealed. Oh, sure, a 5 mana 3/3 flier is totally fine, and I'm sure plenty of times on turn 5 you'll get this and a 'free' 2 mana creature, but there's a big difference between 3 and 5 mana especially when there's hardly even anything on the ground that's the same size as that on turn 3.


    Negate

    Negate is faaaantastic in 2HG. Everyone is playing all of their removal spells, so you get to protect your best creature cheaply and effectively, and lets you rumble into combat with very little to fear. The best part is when you get to counter any of the very powerful cards like Crush of Tentacles, Roiling Waters, Fall of the Titans or any other spell that would otherwise ruin a perfectly stable board state for you. I would play 5 Negates if I could.

    Not in boring sealed though, though I'm basically always happy to play one and actively look to sideboard them in against opponents with multiple big targets.


    Oath of Jace

    You don't really end up ahead on cards with this, so it's probably just worse than Comparative Analysis. I suppose it is fine, if you're struggling for lands/spells early on it will help you hit drops on turns 4 and 5, but I wouldn't go out of my way to play this.

    The best use for this in general is just to hold it as late as you can and discard 2 lands late game.


    Overwhelming Denial

    Unusually, this is a card where the Surge cost might easily not come up very often even in 2HG. I suppose it makes it very good against opposing counterspells on your team-mates big threats, but against their cards it's usually 4 mana.

    4 mana counterspells in 2HG are still pretty excellent, wouldn't think twice about playing it.

    On the other hand, 4 mana counterspells in normal sealed is rather a lot. It's okay, in that eventually you'll be able to hold it late game, but it's really not very good to be holding up 4 mana for the vast majority of the game.


    Roiling Waters

    This is really expensive, but I think if your deck is able to reach 7 mana, it's pretty good. You get to bounce their 2 most expensive creatures, make them waste a bunch of mana while you hit them and refuel whichever of your team's decks has the best late game top decks.

    Honestly I think this is one of the harder cards in the set to evaluate since it's totally possible it's simply too expensive for what it does. But it could also be a total bomb, and win the game every time it's cast! I do know it's very punishing on anyone that's stumbled on land drops, and 'draw 2 cards' is a great line of text. It is definitely best if you are a tempo-y deck that can take advantage of the reduced blockers. As a defensive measure, it's not really too impressive.


    Sphinx of the Final Word

    Well, uh, this certainly crushes the mono-blue mirror matches. A giant unkillable flier is going to be great in most contexts, and this is no exception.


    Sweep Away

    I like casting Time Ebb. This is pretty close to it. Knowing that this card exists should give you pause about attacking with your 1/3 or whatever on turn 3 if you haven't hit your 3rd land yet.

    You can't use this to actively mana screw people if they don't let you, but it's still awesome. The best use is punishing the opponent for casting spells mid-combat, but more or less any time you cast this you'll be happy. It's not completely dead if they refuse to attack you either, which is nice.


    Umara Entangler

    This is an example of a creature that is probably serviceable in normal sealed, and pretty miserable in 2HG. While you may have a ton of spells in your deck, most of them are likely reactionary and thus bad at activating prowess. You might manage to hit them once by causing them fear, but once the 2/4s start coming down this card will be staying home most of the time, staring jealously at the monsters doing battle in the sky.


    Unity of Purpose

    This card terrifies me. Supporting 2 guys and untapping at instant speed as the potential for incredible blow outs, and even on offence the fear of this can easily cause some bad blocking times for your opponents.

    I like that it's basically perfect for a spell-heavy deck. You get to just keep passing with your counterspells, combat tricks and removal spells open, then if the opponents don't do anything worth your time, you get to draw a card while building up your team-mate's board!

    I still like it in regular sealed, but again it's harder to keep 4 mana up while progressing your own board, and also more difficult to keep multiple creatures in play in general.

    Black


    Bearer of Silence

    'Edict' effects are a bit hit or miss in regular sealed deck. The problem is that often, you won't actually hit anything good because the opponent will have some disposable weak things to sacrifice. Especially in a set with plentiful tokens!

    This card neatly sidesteps this problem by being a perfectly serviceable 2-drop on it's own when the effect isn't worth the mana, but additionally in 2HG you are much more likely to be able to hit a good creature from one of the opponents. Unless you have a hand with only 2 land in it, and you have a pair of aggressive decks, I'd recommend holding onto this until you can use the ability every time. Assuming you have the colourless sources somewhere, of course.


    Dread Defiler

    This is definitely a fine card to have as your top end, since it can give you a fair bit of reach and is probably big enough to trade for multiple creatures when it attacks.

    I don't think it's insane or anything, since your graveyard hopefully won't be overstocked because your creatures will still be alive, and your deck is actually full of removal spells. There's also the fact that many of the removal spells exile things, so the ability probably won't be activated that often.

    It does make things tough for the opponent if they can't evade your blockers though, grinding through a squad of ground creatures suddenly becomes very painful for them. Likewise if you have a deck lacking in evasion you can charge your creatures at the opponent and you will get some damage in via this.


    Essence Depleter

    A perfectly serviceable creature if you have the sources required to use it, completely unplayable without. A 2/3 will definitely be on blocking duty most of the game, but slowly draining people out during a stall is very useful.


    Flaying Tendrils

    You might think that this won't kill too many creatures, but cards like this are amazing in 2HG. Between you and your team-mate, it's much easier to work together with someone to set up a combat or series of spells that lets you kill multiple creatures with minimal losses of your own.

    In addition, if your opponents are on the 'very aggressive' double deck pairing, this card is twice as good on turn 3 too! More than twice even, since you can cast this, destroy 3-4 creatures, and still add something to the board since your ally can play things after you. You always play this, you can make it work even if *you* are the aggressive decks, since you can throw everything into an attack and then finish off all their bigger guys before deploying more threats!

    In singles play, it's still fine but not nearly as dramatic when it works. You also don't want it in your aggro decks because you'll have fewer expendable monsters on your own.


    Havoc Sower

    The pump effect makes it one of the best Hill Giants in the set if you need some 4 drops. If you can't use it at all, or maybe only have 2 sources in your whole deck, you can probably do better than this.


    Inverter of Truth

    Well, uh, it certainly is a big flying guy, but that's a doozy of a drawback. I don't think it's completely unplayable, in the sense that in certain decks Learn from the Past is not completely unplayable. If you have a deck with 15+ removal spells, card draw and so on, you can ensure you win any attrition match up on turn 20 when you increase the size of your deck, which is now full with gas.

    You can also theoretically play it in very aggressive RB decks with enough burn spells in it, especially if you have a ton of ways to give it haste, so it acts like a Ball Lightning and finishes them off.

    It's very risky though, if the opponent just has a bounce spell or some tapping effects you're doomed.

    I'd leave it out most of the time, unless you are very prepared to make it work. Having a team-mate can help with this, since they can perhaps hold on to multiple counterspells to make sure nothing bad happens to your 6/6.


    Kozilek's Shrieker

    Hey look, another normally acceptable vanilla creature that would be unplayable in 2HG without access to colourless. Noticing a theme yet? Menace isn't amazing though, and you probably need to activate it multiple times in a turn before it will have enough power to trade for 2 creatures, so it's still nothing exciting.


    Kozilek's Translator

    Fortunately for all these other black cards that need colourless, this card can do it for you. It is slightly taxing on the ol' life total if you need to activate it constantly, but if you're giving evasion on your turn and tapping something on theirs, you should be coming out ahead.

    A 3/5 for 5 isn't going to be beating up many people, but it does block acceptably well, so no complaints really. If you've got a ton of lands or cheaper colourless sources, you can cut this, but if not you gotta do what you gotta do to play your spells.


    Oblivion Strike

    Wow! Considering how common removal has looked recently, this is a step up. It's not instant, the only real downside, but this deals with basically everything no-questions-asked. Play as many as you can get no matter what limited format you're playing. Try not to waste them even if you have 5, there will always be bombs that need exiling.


    Reaver Drone

    Totally useless in all but the most extremely all-in aggro pair decks. Even if you have mostly colourless creatures to prevent the drawback, it simply becomes irrelevant too quickly.


    Sifter of Skulls

    While it only works on your own team, if you are a creature-heavy deck you should get some decent value out of this, and lets you chump-block for days if not dealt with. If you're a very spell-heavy deck though, don't be fooled by the rare symbol. A vanilla 4/3 is very unimpressive in 2HG, so if you have 5 or less creatures, you can do better.

    By comparison, I can't see me ever cutting this is a normal black sealed deck, since you almost always have enough creatures to extract some value.


    Sky Scourer

    Much like the 1/3 flier in white, a 1/2 flier for 2 is much better in a 2HG sealed format that normal. It will attack for 2 quite often, and again this is a perfect card to pick up some Support counters from you or your friend.

    In normal sealed you need to be very aggressive to make use of this, I think. You probably can't simultaneously play enough devoid cards to pump it regularly while also playing one of the Support colours to make this deal enough damage, unlike in 2HG where you can delegate a friend to +1/+1 counter duty.


    Slaughter Drone

    Add it to the list of cards that really need colourless mana. If you have some, then it's acceptable, if you don't, please don't put it in your deck. Have you seen how many 2/3s and 2/4s and larger creatures there are?


    Unnatural Endurance

    A very cheap versatile spell, great! Any spell that can save a key creature from combat damage or (some) removal is alright by me. As long as at least one deck has a bunch of creatures in it, I'd always be happy with one of these.


    Visions of Brutality

    This card is just perfect, I love it. Aggressive decks will play any number of these, and be delighted to do so. Early on it's basically Pacifism on big blockers, and later on you have twice the amount of chumps to throw in the way of a gigantic monster, so they can't just kill you with the creature regardless.

    Sadly you don't really want this at all if you have defensive decks, since if you're not pressuring their life total then they'll just keep hitting you with the creature and force you to deal with it, assuming they can deal any other damage to you at all.


    Witness the End

    A key example of a card that becomes pretty awesome in 2HG. With double the opponents, you should be able to get 2 cards with this every time, and hopefully hit the player that's low on lands so you always hit spells too.

    As you move into the late game, you quite often want to make large attacks, and these can clear the way so you can stop worrying about tricks. I would play several of these in any team that can cast them!

    By comparison, this effect is usually just 'playable' in normal sealed, since it doesn't effect the board and can be a terrible top deck.


    Corpse Churn

    I don't like it too much. Much of the removal in the set exiles, so there's no certainty you'll be able to get back your best creatures. Doesn't provide card advantage, often actually useless, just don't play it.


    Drana's Chosen

    Very slow, but you'll get there eventually. 2/2s are essentially bricks in 2HG, but once you get to 7 2/2s things start to look more dangerous. This also makes it very difficult to ever die to ground creatures after it gets going. There aren't a ton of Ally creatures in black, so most likely you'll end up with this if you play most of your non-devoid black cards in some kind of colourless-free BW or BG deck.


    Grasp of Darkness

    Kills basically everything, either immediately or as a combat trick. Fantastic in any limited setting, not much else to say.


    Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

    TRAITOR!

    This card is unreal if it survives. Turning every dead enemy creature into a 2/2 is nice enough value considering there are twice as many enemy creatures as normal, but being able to feed them to Kalitas and make a huge lifelink guy is amazing. Once it's a 7/8 it's basically impossible to race, so make sure you have as many answers for cards like this as you can.


    Malakir Soothsayer

    A 5 mana 4/4 still doesn't impress me much. But, she does have the touch, drawing cards repeatedly is one of my favourite things, so even if she doesn't get to attack very often she still holds the fort while you draw your way to good cards.


    Null Caller

    The above caveats about creatures being exiled and not in your graveyard still apply, so if you have something like Dread Defiller you can give this a miss. Otherwise I'd be happy enough to run it, might as well make some use of the graveyard while randomly clogging up the ground.


    Remorseless Punishment

    Okay guys, this is another card with the 'Punisher' mechanic, where they get to choose which modes are least bad for them. You only want this deck if Lava Axe is a card you actively want in your deck. If it is though, and you have some aggressive decks, it's actually way better in 2HG because you can chose who gets hit and the discard option is better too. Targeting the player with no creatures and a bunch of removal spells will probably get you at least '5 damage, they discard 2' out of the deal, which seems fine.

    Don't bother if you are not interested in playing a Lava Axe in your deck though. If you are far behind, losing a third of their life total isn't that much of a problem.


    Tar Snare

    It's not a very exciting removal spell most of the time, but with your spell and your team-mate's creatures combining forces, this will be like a poor-person's Grasp of Darkness most of the time.

    I would quite happily play 2-3, but if you are just overflowing with actual good removal like Grasp and Oblivion Strike and strong creatures it's not unforgivable to cut some.


    Untamed Hunger

    It's a trap! You might think you can make this worthwhile, but the bonus is so small the pay off for landing it isn't remotely worth risking the very incredibly likely outcome that you will just get 2-for-1'd immediately.

    In regular sealed it's still pretty miserable, but at least you might be able to slap it on something to sneak in your last creature if your deck is weak.


    Vampire Envoy

    Great! There will be so many fliers for this to block, and can chip in while they don't have fliers too. The life gain is minor, but very welcome considering it's an Ally and can be tapped for fun and profit with random Cohort abilities.

    Oh, and another great Support target too.


    Zulaport Chainmage

    Let's be real here, the Giant Cockroach is absolutely never getting to hit them for 4. What it does do though is sort of be evasion if you have a bunch of random creatures in your deck, and trades for 4 toughness creatures that are attacking you.

    You shouldn't go near this card in 2HG if you don't have a lot of buddies to team it up with, whereas it's relatively okay in normal sealed. Sure, 4/2 for 4 isn't good still, but it's at least easier to clear away all the blocks to sneak in a couple of times.



    So far, white, blue and black all have quite a few strong cards for team play, but nothing too extremely good or masses of bad cards. All confirming that this set is indeed balanced for 2HG!

    Join me in the next instalment for colours that traditionally are much worse in 2HG, Red and Green.

    Stephen Murray



    @JechtMurray


    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