This week we’re going to take a look at all the commons in Dragon’s Maze. We’ve got a long way to go, so let’s get after it!


Boros Mastiff—As a 2/2 for two, aka a “Bear,” this pup is unexciting but fine. His battalion ability is pretty unimpressive, though. Most of the other Boros Legionnaires have some way to protect themselves when everybody starts swinging in as a team—first strike for Wojek Halberdiers, being a 3/3 for Boros Elite, maybe pinging away a one-toughness blocker for Bomber Corps—but this doggy, not really. Maybe he gains you a couple of life as he dies, hopefully trading with another two-toughness guy—but more likely he hangs back on unimpressive “D” because your opponent dropped a 2/3, of which there are—ha, ha—legion. As a point of comparison, consider Ajani’s Sunstriker, the 2/2 WW lifelinker from M13. He was good, but mostly because he was often getting one or more exalted triggers when he swung in alone.


Haazda Snare Squad—I actually like this guy. A 1/4 for three blocks a lot, as we’ve seen with Basilica Guards; and its special ability seems very synergistic with Boros’ predilection for attacking. Tapping down a guy for W is what you’d expect to pay for this effect anyway, so making it conditional with the Tripwire Team attacking seems fine. I guess it all depends on whether or not your opponent can reliably stack up enough blockers on this guy to kill him. With a tapped-down big guy, though, and needing to block your other battalioneers in order to not die, I’m not sure they will be.


Lyev Decree—I don’t love one-time effects like this. Ghostform was sometimes playable in AVR, if you had, say, a Tandem Lookout paired up with somebody else, but AVR was a dumb format. Long story short, I don’t think this effect is worth a card; it’s not even a definite finisher if your opponent has out more than two creatures.


Maze Sentinel—I broke down all the Sentinels last week. This one seems like one of the middle-quality ones. A vigilant Seige Mastodon with another toughness tacked onto it is decent, but not at six CMC. If you have a ton of gold guys it gets better, but how many gold guys are you really having in a deck? And how bad do you want them to be vigilant?


Riot Control—OK, a white Fog. That’s interesting. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t prevent creature-combat damage—it only prevents damage to you. At any rate, you never maindeck this—or any—Fog, but I’ll definitely sideboard one in. The lifegain probably doesn’t matter, but it’s a nice bonus, and in some situations it maybe buys you even more than the one turn Fog usually buys you.


Steeple Roc—If this cost 3W, I’d be sold—but a 3/1 flier, first strike or no, for five CMC is too pricey. And don’t forget that Electrickery and Izzet Staticaster are back in the format, even if they are going to be restricted to one pack’s worth. This might’ve been better in Gatecrash, but in full-block draft I think this bird is a junker.


Sunspire Gatekeepers—This guy seems great. A 2/4 for four may be just average, but if you can reliably have out a couple guildgates, four power and six toughness across two bodies—for four mana!—seems awesome. Hipsters writer Zach Barash previously sank his teeth into these guys, though, so I’ll defer to him for deeper analysis.


Wake the Reflections—This seems unplayable. They couldn’t have made it an instant? I guess if you have the nut populate deck this could be amazing—a 3/3 centaur for W would be cool as hell—but keep in mind you’ll be picking this in your first pack, aka two full packs away from RTR’s Selesnya goodies. Pick it up 14th-pick and maybe try it out, but it does stone nothing if you don’t have a token.


Hidden Strings—So you get double the effect of Hands of Binding (plus the untap clause, which probably isn’t super-relevant for Limited), minus half the duration. Is that worth it? It’s actually an interesting question. Given that whichever permanents are tapped are going to untap as normal on the next turn—unlike Hands of Binding—the first cipher casting of this spell (and every subsequent cipher casting) is pretty much only going to be used to untap stuff. So two of your guys get vigilance? In Dimir? That doesn’t seem great. Maybe we will find something weird and combo-y to do with this, but right now I don’t see it.


Maze Glider—One of the better Maze Dudes. I can see slamming this on turn six and suddenly getting in for a ton of evasive multicolored damage. Costing six is pretty steep, though; I think a lot of the time, by the end of the draft, you’ll have found one or two better six-drops to fill out that slot in your curve.


Mindstatic—This is straight-up terrible. What’s the point of this? Is there some flavor reason for “6”? Why not “30”? Just makes no sense. Maybe it would be fine if it cost 2U, but it doesn’t. It costs freakin’ FOUR. Why don’t they just make it a sorcery? (NB: That’s a joke.)


Murmuring Phantasm—Yeah! Defender deck let’s go! I like this guy because he comes down a turn earlier than Hover Barrier, and blocks unleashed Rakdos dudes just as well. Keep in mind this is high levels of durdling, but full-block draft feels like it’s going to be a durdlier format. I also agree with Lazav’s flavor text.


Opal Lake Gatekeepers—Again, it all depends on the gate thing, and whether or not a 2/4 is a good creature size (RE: the latter, I’m pretty sure it will be, so the quality of this card is left riding on the gates). This sort of incidental card draw is pretty sweet.


Runner’s Bane—A weird card for common. Does it fall off if the creature’s power ever exceeds three? (Update: It does.) And why isn’t there a period after “less”? Anyway, this seems like a weird combo of Ice Cage and Claustrophobia. The latter was awesome all the time, despite its restrictive mana cost (1UU), and the former was fine some of the time, depending on how many tricks or targeting abilities your opponent’s deck was stacking. I wouldn’t be looking to maindeck this, but I could see bringing it in again Orzhov or Dimir or other low-power guilds.


Uncovered Clues—I don’t like this. Best-case scenario, I think you are running, what, 11 creatures and 12 spells, of which this is one, and a couple of others are probably enchantments (i.e., not instants or sorceries). So cast this, scry four, and find—what? One spell? Maybe two? That’s just bad. (Although the mana cost is OK.)


Wind Drake—Thoroughly unexciting. An easier-to-cast (for some decks) Vassal Soul, which wasn’t all that great (if memory serves) in RTR. But if you want two power in the air, though, this is the baseline bear.


Bane Alley Blackguard—I love this guy, for his weird power and toughness, for the art,  for the pronunciation of his name (“blaggerd”), and for the only-flavor-text text box. Takes me back to the old days of Forces of Nature. Now, he’s definitely not good. Concordia Pegasus wasn’t all that good, and he flew. But sometimes you’ll want a two-drop that stops two-power creatures, and this guy seems fine. I’m sure I’ll run him.


Fatal Fumes—At first this seems pricey for what will in many cases be a Shock—and it is—however I believe you’ll often be able to get people by gang-blocking a bigger guy and using this to take it down (while not losing any of your creatures in the process). I wish (and think it probably should) cost three, but it’s a decent and easy-to-cast removal spell.


Crypt Incursion—This is strictly sideboard material, and maybe not even then. You could bring this in against the Golgari deck, but I’d rather just beat them more quickly by playing an actual card.


Hired Torturer—My favorite card in the set, bar none. The flavor and the strange little effect of revealing a card at random is amazing—and his stats aren’t bad either. A 2/3 for three is fine—which, granted, he has defender; but you can start Shocking your opponent with him once you’ve gummed up the board with the Torturer and your other Grixis defenders. I am 100% going to try to make this guy the centerpiece of a defender deck. Also he’s a rogue, so he blocks those damn Deathcult Rogues.


Rakdos Drake—Non-unleashed, Rakdos Drake is terrible, as a 1/2 flier for three. Unleashed he starts to get better, swinging past Wind Drakes and Vassal Souls—unless, of course, they have two of them, in which case this guy is getting double-blocked and eaten. The more I look at him, in fact, the less I like him.


Sinister Possession—Ugh, terrible card. I guess it’s better than Guildscorn Ward, which I had played against me twice (two times) this past weekend at a GPT in Connecticut. But this will never kill your opponent, and it won’t stop your opponents’ creatures from attacking or blocking unless doing so would kill them—in which case it won’t, and you would probably win anyway. Great art, though.


Ubul Sar Gatekeepers—Seems great. A free kill (or post-combat-shrink-and-kill) is one of the better effects you can have. Again, this all depends on whether or not you can reliably get the gates you need. How many is enough? Five? At what point does having too many gates start to hurt you? Do you decline to play this guy (and his kin) on turn four if you don’t have two gates?


Maze Abomination—As I said previously, I think this guy is the best of the Maze Dudes. A 4/5 is mad beefy, and deathtouch just makes him nearly unblockable. The jury’s still out on the second clause. Also: This guy is Smog Elemental‘s cousin, right?


Awe for the Guilds—A conditional Falter? No way.


Clear a Path—Cool card, and a fine sideboard option if you face The Dreaded Defender Deck of ’13, but I doubt that’s going to happen often. It’s certainly cheap enough.


Maze Rusher—Seems like one of the worst Maze Dudes. He’s going to trade for pretty much anything (and probably just one thing), especially on turn six. And, unlike the rest of the Maze Dudes, he doesn’t really do anything for your other creatures the turn he comes into play. (Of course he can attack, but, as I said, he’s probably trading, and then no multicolored creatures are getting haste.)


Punish the Enemy—Would you pay five for a Lightning Bolt? Hell, who am I kidding? You probably would (which goes to show just how good Lightning Bolt is). It’s a ton of mana, but you get the extra bonus of three to the dome—although I’d probably always rather have a Homing Lightning if I am heavily in red. That said, it’s looking like full-block draft is going to be much more focused on three-or-more-color decks, and this obviously is way easier on the splash.


Riot Piker—This guy seems like a junker. Maybe he gets in for two damage, but—unlike his cousin Hellraiser Goblin, who can (if you play him right) just release overwhelming waves of aggression against your opponent, this guy doesn’t fundamentally change how you are attacking, and he needs too much support to stay alive. Maybe I’d dig him if he had haste, but sadly he doesn’t.


Rubblebelt Maaka—Now That’s What I Call a Hill Giant Vol. 42! Usually you don’t want to load up on too many four-drops—but when they double as one-mana Giant Growths in red, that’s another story. I think I’d probably play as many of the Maaka—whatever the hell that is—as I can get my hands on. Great card.


Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers—What’s up, Act of Treason on stick? I suppose this is fine, but something tells me red is going to be less interested in a 2/4 for four that steals a guy for a turn IF you have two or more gates. I just think red is not going to be the color in which you’re going to want to stack up on gates. Sure, the full-block format may be slower than solo Gatecrash or Return to Ravnica, but red is still red, and doesn’t want to durdle.


Weapon Surge—This spell seems kind of crazily strong. In Gatecrash I would occasionally run a Shielded Passage in order to protect a battalion attacker and, by so doing, keep up the Boros waves of aggression. Sure, this doesn’t negate a removal spell, like Shielded Passage did—but the opportunity cost is very, very low. And the super-cheap overload cost just makes this a nightmare for your opponent. If your opponent blocks your team, you overload this and you’ve got a one-sided wrath on your hands, for just two mana. On the other hand, if your opponent puts you on this trick and doesn’t block, it’s nearly as terribly for him or her, effectively becoming a two-mana overloaded Teleportal. I know it’s not that simple, and in most cases your opponent will choose to block some guys and not others; but regardless, this seems very strong.


Battering Krasis—While having native trample is great on this fish beast evolver, I’m not sure he’s placed quite right on the curve, given his three CMC and his 2/1 stats. He’s not going to evolve your Shamblesharks, for instance (although of course there will be 66% percent fewer of those dudes crab-walking around), and he gets in the way of your Crocanuras. I think this card is really going to live or die on how he interacts with RTR cards, but I’m just not seeing it with Gatecrash.


Kraul Warrior—Again, a 2/2 for two is always fine—and this guy has the added, albeit super-late, benefit of growing to a 5/5 when you have literally nothing else to do with your mana. Still, that happens, and given that we are not paying anything in terms of a downside for the opportunity to do so makes this insect warrior (!) nothing but gravy. Mass-market gravy, but gravy nonetheless.


Maze Behemoth—Trample on a 5/4 is strong, but to be honest, none of these Maze Dudes really do it for me. Six is just so much to pay.


Mending Touch—No way. Although I would often run a Shielded Passage, I wasn’t thrilled about doing so, and that was in Boros, which really wanted to be attacking every turn. In a creature-heavy green build, I think 90% of the time you’d just rather this were another guy.


Mutant’s Prey—OK, weird. Prey Upon (that’s good!), but an instant (that’s good!), and only if you have a guy with a +1/+1 counter on him (that’s bad)—so basically if you’re Simic. As such, pretty much nobody else is going to want it, so if you are UG you should be able to pick these up basically for free—but I’m not even sure you want them, unless you have the nut Simic deck with almost all evolve guys; and you are much less likely to have that, given just one pack of Gatecrash in the mix. I say pass.


Phytoburst—Man, they couldn’t’ve made this an instant? I suppose it’s fine, but it being a sorcery means it will never kill your opponent out of nowhere or save your guy from damage-based removal like a Giant Growth can. As is, it basically just orders your opponent to chump-block now as opposed to later, which at some point he or she was going to do anyway. That’s not worth a card to me.


Saruli Gatekeepers—This at first seemed like the weakest ‘keeper to me, but then friends of mine started talking about him (them?) as the second coming of Grazing Gladeheart, which gained you two life upon each landfall (that said, Gladeheart cost three). Seven life is a fair bit, and you are probably slightly more likely to have multiple guildgates in green as opposed to the other four colors, but this guy still doesn’t excite me as much as the white or black gatekeepers, for example.


Thrashing Mossdog—What a bizarre card: plant doggie! That said, a 3/3 with reach for four seems totally fine, as it’ll eat—venus fly-trap-style—a lot of stuff in the air. And then he hangs out in your ‘yard, ready to be scavenged. It’s a high cost, sure, but it’s sort of all upside, given that he’s a Hill Giant+ for the right mana cost. And you would occasionally in RTR scavenge a Drudge Beetle (for 5G) onto something, and Dragon’s Maze looks be a slower format than triple RTR.


Armored Wolf-Rider—Azor’s Elocuters (aka a Siege Mastodon who ran for office) was great in RTR, most often for his stats rather than his filibustering ability. This guy is somewhat harder to cast, but the extra point of power and toughness really makes him a beater. I think this guy, similar to Golgari Longlegs, is something you’re going to be very happy to cast on T5.


Beetleform Mage—Darkthicket Wolf was a serious beater in Innistrad. This guy costs one more (blue), and costs UG rather than 1G to pump for +2/+2. But, he gets flying as well. Somewhat weirdly, though, you’re going to have to activate this ability before (or during) declare attackers if you want to give him evasion, which leaves you more open to instant-speed removal. This gets complicated, but it’s kind of like you can only ever get one half of his activated ability: If you want to pump him in response to something, giving him flying won’t matter; and if you want to give him flying, you lose the option to pump if something goes south. Still, this human insect wizard is a fine card, and I think you’ll happy play one or two of them—just not as many as you could get your hands on, like you would D.T. Wolf.


Deputy of Acquittals—This card was one of the few commons that were spoiled during DGM spoiler weeks, and for good reason: This lady is all upside—a flash bear who saves your guys from removal? Seems great. I think you play her out on curve if she’s in your opening seven, but if you topdeck her later, after a 2/2 has ceased to be relevant on the battlefield, you just hold her and eat or save something, as need be.


Drown in Filth—I dunno about this card. (Great name, though.) How many lands are you ever going to have in your graveyard?  An average of, what, 1.7 from this alone? That’s not good enough to kill much. If you can reliably have a fair amount of lands in your yard, whether from Grisly Salvages or incidentally milling yourself in ome BUG build (can you even incidentally mill yourself in this set? It just never came up in Gatecrash, so I’m not sure), then this gets way better, but if you can’t I’m not seeing it. Sure, you get extra value from milled scavenge guys, but that’s a pretty small bonus.


Morgue Burst—Grave Exchange was marginally playable in Avacyn Restored, and this seems almost strictly better. Sure, it costs a ton, and you are probably only getting back a three-power creature and killing a three-toughness one, but the ability to go to the dome is a nice bonus. If Jund is a thing (as it almost certainly will be), I could see milling some big stuff away in the early game and then using this to kill a bomb and get back yours.


Nivix Cyclops—Yeah! I love everything about this card, and have said as much previously. Can’t wait to cast him. Great design and art, too.


Pilfered Plans—A slightly-harder-to-cast Divination is still basically Divination, of which I’ll happily run one or even sometims two. Glad to see a bit more card draw in DGM, as Gatecrash and RTR seemed lacking.


Tithe Drinker—Wow, this vamp is awesome: She gets in for lifelink damage while she can and then, when she’s been outclassed, she just hangs out and becomes part of your extort engine. This is a card that would put me into Orzhov real early.


Viashino Firstblade—What would you rather have, a Skynight Legionnaire or this guy? I’d probably rather have the Legionnaire, to be honest, as this lizard gets in for a good hit (and enables battalion-out-of-nowhere, which is always powerful) the turn he comes down; however, every turn after that, he’s just a bear—whereas Skynight can generally keep on getting in for two. I’d rather have the Skynight, I think.


Zhur-Taa Druid—Weird card, and I don’t think this is what Gruul wants to be doing. Actually, though, now that I think about it, if you have some beef higher in your curve and can get a couple of these guys, that’s actually pretty decent. And (most of) a Lobber Crew for two mana is great. He dies to everything, though; I can see Electrickery eating one or more of these druids pretty often.


The Cluestones—BOO! BOO! BOO-URNS! They’re not that bad of course, but the Cluestone cycle is thoroughly unexciting. I think I’d just always rather have a keyrune, to be honest. Pick ‘em up if there’s nothing else, but I don’t think you’re often going to really be needing these. Who knows, though? Full-block draft could be way more kaleidoscopic and durdly than we know.


The Guildgates—We know about these. Obviously their import has gone way up now that we have the full block, and I think taking fixing early and often in the Dragon’s Maze pack is going to be a decent strategy, much as it is in Cube. Take all your gates first, and then the rest of the draft you get to take—and play—pretty much anything.

Overall, black seems to me like it’s got the best commons, and the best gold card, though not by much. (All of the gold cards seem good to great, except for Drown in Filth, which I’m just not sold on at all.) White and red seem like close runners-up for best color. Blue, as usual in RTR block, is terrible. And green just has a few too many do-nothing cards. That’s all I’ve got, kids!

Hope to see you at the prerelease this weekend, when we can see whether or not I was right about my calls on these cards. (I’ll be playing the 3pm Saturday flight at Twenty Sided Store (SOLD OUT!), followed by 2HG as Team Commie Hunters with fellow HOTC writer Li Xu. Let me know in the comments whether you or not you think I’m nuts or off-base about any of my handicapping. Have fun, and may you get all the fixing your heart desires!

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands.

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