Core 2021 Set Review - Blue
(Teferi, Master of Time l Art by Yongjae Choi)
It's Time to Discuss!
Hello everyone! It's your friendly neighborhood Jesguy here, and welcome to the Core Set 2021 Blue Set Review!
Core Set 2021 is shaping up to one of, if not, the best Core Set of all time. Great new cards, fantastic reprints, and a slew of new legends; What more could you ask for? We both know why you're here, so let's cut the introduction short and hurry up to get to the new cards!
Teferi, Master of Time
Another set, another busted Teferi, right? Seems par for the course nowadays.
Unlike most Planeswalkers, Teferi, Master of Time excels in EDH as opposed to other formats. Usually, Planeswalkers only get one activation out of them and then are quickly targeted down by the entire table. At bare minimum with this new iteration of Teferi, you are guaranteed (barring removal) at least two ability activations from him before anyone is even able to attack him.
Teferi loots, can temporarily disable creatures, and also give you two extra turns, and all of these can be done at instant speed! It only takes two circles around the table for Teferi to reach his ultimate, which is incredibly fast, especially considering that you are sculpting your hand every turn as well. For context, that is seven to eight cards you churn through with Teferi before you get two extra turns. That is a lot of power and card velocity.
There isn't a whole lot to say here except that Teferi is very powerful. Any deck that can properly protect him should consider opening a slot for him. Pair with Pir, Imaginative Rascal for some really crazy counters. I don't want to sound too hyperbolic, but Teferi has the chance to be borderline oppressive. I want to stress, I'm not expecting a ban, but if he ends up being toxic, or unfun in a vein similar to Iona, Shield of Emeria, I could see that being reason for him to fall under critical eyes. It seems unlikely, but if we've learned anything from other formats, Teferi has a reputation for being quite the menace.
Discontinuity is a slightly more color intensive Time Stop with marginal upside.
Nine times out of ten, if you weren't playing Time Stop, you won't play Discontinuity. If you are playing Time Stop though, this is an easy swap to make.
At best, it will most often function as a six-mana Counterspell, Silence or Fog. In cheeky situations you can use it to dodge "lose the game" triggers from things like the Pact of Negation cycle, Chance for Glory, or Lich's Mastery, but even then, dedicating an entire card to do this seems like a bit of a waste. I'm all for flexibility, but only when it is at a reasonable cost, and six mana for these effects definitely isn't it.
Discontinuity is six-mana, clunky, and to cast it for its reduced cost, it has to fit into a play style that is better served by adding Sundial of the Infinite. Maybe Inalla, Archmage Ritualist can use it to keep Wizard copies around or shut down bad turns. It may seem cute and clever, but the vast majority of decks will be better off without it.
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
Barrin took a page out of Kaervek, the Spiteful's playbook and decided to tone down his power for this set.
While I do like this iteration of Tolaria's Archmage more than his original, Barrin, Master Wizard, I feel like this still misses the mark for his character. I'm not asking for an overpowered blue commander like Urza, Lord High Artificer, I just don't want... *gestures vaguely* ..whatever this is.
Barrin is a fine addition to Naban, Dean of Iteration, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, and Inalla, Archmage Ritualist decks, but struggles to hold up in terms of being built around all on his own.
Barrin can draw cards and bounce a creature when he enters the battlefield, but he doesn't do much outside of that. If he is at the helm of a deck, there is no clear game plan and no way to do much anything aside from annoying your opponents and spinning your wheels. He fits better into other decks that care about Wizards, and that's where he should stay, which is a shame for someone who was one of the most powerful wizards of his time.
I, for one, am a huge fan of Key to the City, so seeing a creature version of it pleases me to no end.
Ghostly Pilferer is small, but versatile. Pilferer is a free discard outlet and can always proc your Bident of Thassa and Edric, Spymaster of Trest effects. It draws you cards in the face of Muldrotha the Gravetide and Karador Ghost Chieftain so you can keep up with their shenanigans. It can also draw a card whenever it untaps if you have the mana for it! It's your own personal Swiss Army Knife!
Damia, Sage of Stone can use this to empty her hand in response to her trigger to draw a fistful of cards. Brallin, Skyshark Rider can use this when paired with Shabraz, the Skyshark in order to trigger multiple times and damage opponents. Or it can be used in simply any Spirit Tribal deck to fill out the lower end of the curve and smooth the deck out overall.
Ghostly Pilferer isn't incredible, but there are some pretty fun uses for it across every color, so that makes me think quite highly of this little two-drop. When discussing Discontinuity I mentioned I loved versatility, but only when it was at the right mana cost, and Ghostly Pilferer is the perfect cost for me.
Pursued Whale is a supersized version of Goblin Spymaster that any Sea Creature deck should make room for.
Seven mana is a really hefty cost to pay for a creature, especially when that creature gives your opponents tokens, but our mammalian friend is well worth it. Sure, it gives our opponents tokens, but those tokens are more of a detriment than a benefit. The Pirate tokens they receive can't block and force their controller to attack each combat! Why is forcing attacks good though?
Well, you have at the very least an 8/8 Whale that is hard to target with spells, on top of whatever other huge sea monsters you might be packing in this deck. If your opponents choose to attack you, you'll be able to eat up all their creatures handily! If your opponents choose to attack each other, then even better! They're doing your job for you!
That being said, your opponents can engineer profitable blocks for one another and trade off their Pirates, but at the very worst you get an entire turn of them being tapped out so you can swing in with your fleet of sea beasties unopposed! You're still coming out ahead in each situation. If sea creatures aren't your thing, then maybe you're more interested in Forced Combat with the liked of Pramikon Sky Rampart or Isperia Supreme Judge, two commanders who love playing politics and forcing the table to attack one another.
Regardless of the theme, Pursued Whale knows what it wants to do, and has decks to help facilitate it. It is a bit narrow in use, but it is fun and flavorful, so it gets a thumbs up from me!
See the Truth
See the Truth isn't groundbreaking, but it is really cute tech for multiple decks.
Vadrok, Apex of Thunder, Kess, Dissident Mage, Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge, or Melek, Izzet Paragon all love this card. It isn't big, it isn't flashy, but it doesn't have to be. While See the Truth is a sorcery, these decks run some number of cantrips to smooth their draws, and there's no reason not to run this alongside them, or in their place. Having an early-game spell you can use to make your deck run better while also having the possibility of just turning it into an Ancestral Vision for free is awesome.
I'm a sucker for cantrips, and See the Truth has the potential to be much better than a simple cantrip, particularly in decks that can abuse it. It isn't particularly great if you can't cast it from a place other than your hand, but if you have the potential to do so, I'm a huge fan of it.
There isn't much to say about Shacklegeist except that Spirit Tribal is probably a home for this little fella.
Being able to consistently tap down creatures for no mana cost is a great effect, especially when Spirits often come in multiples like on Lingering Souls or Kykar, Wind's Fury. The more Spirits you can make, the more potent Shacklegeist becomes. That being said, unless you can ensure you have a handful of Spirits lying around, there isn't a real reason to run it.
Shacklegeist is a neat tribal payoff that I will be happy to put into my Innistrad cube, but is quite narrow for all but the most dedicated Spirit decks. It isn't bad, but it is very limited in where it can be played.
Much like Shacklegeist, Stormwing Entity is another somewhat niche flyer.
Stormwing Entity has a cost reduction mechanic based around instants and sorceries, along with Prowess, implying that it would be best at home in a Spellslinger deck. The only issue is, is that most Spellslinger decks don't really need a self-pumping Elemental.
Spellslinger decks have a tendency to Storm off with Grapeshot and Tendrils of Agony, or they use huge flashy spells like Mana Geyser and Jaya's Immolating Inferno to close out games. In either situation, a 3/3 flyer is a bit cumbersome and doesn't really move their game plan forward, even if it does Scry 2.
Depending on certain builds, I could see it having potential use in Blink decks, but at that point it is marginally better Omenspeaker. Stormwing Entity feels like it was aimed at 60 card formats more than ours, which is why it is so out of place and won't find many homes in EDH.
Finally, we make it to my favorite card in the set: Sublime Epiphany!
While Epiphany is six mana like Discontinuity, the number of options available to you are incredible. Looking at the bare minimum, six mana would be worth it for the last three modes: bounce a nonland permanent, make a token of a creature, and draw a card. But on top of all of those, you also get the option to counter a spell or ability for free. You won't often be in a situation where you can use all five modes, but if you can hit three or four, you will be golden.
Sublime Epiphany is great in decks like Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, where you will want to make tokens of creatures to duplicate, or Maelstrom Wanderer and Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder, where it's a Counterspell that isn't blank should you Cascade into it.
Make no mistake, Sublime Epiphany is a lot of mana, but if you can utilize the majority of its modes, it is a fantastic inclusion into any blue deck that can support it.
Teferi's Ageless Insight
We've seen effects like Teferi's Ageless Insight before, but never so cheap, and that is exciting!
Previously, if we wanted an effect that would double our card draw, we would need to look at Alhammarret's Archive or Thought Reflection, which are pricey at five and seven mana, respectively. It might not seem like much, but shaving a mana off of this effect and bringing it down to four mana is a blessing. Having a third, cheaper version of a card draw doubler is great news for many decks, particularly Niv-Mizzet, Parun, The Locust God, Atemsis, All-Seeing, Xyris, the Writhing Storm, Arjun, the Shifting Flame, Tuvasa, the Sunlit, Gavi, Nest Warden, or Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix.
Four mana is a great cost for an effect like this, so if you have a deck that likes wheeling or drawing lots of cards, I'd highly consider Teferi's Ageless Insight to crank your draw power up to 11. Just make sure your wheels don't deck you out!
Uncommons and Commons
Miscast doesn't do a whole lot for Commander as a whole, but I specifically want to make a small note of it for our friends in the cEDH community.
I've seen a lot of talk on Twitter about how strong this card is in helping fight against combo or other problematic decks in cEDH, and I thought it deserved a mention. Even if you are in a high powered playgroup that isn't at cEDH level, Miscast may be worth taking a look at. It can catch people by surprise and really ruin an opponent's plans when utilized properly, countering a key Green Sun's Zenith or Ad Nauseam.
In typical Commander, I'd always advocate for Negate, Counterspell, or Arcane Denial since they are great catchalls, but if you are playing in higher power level groups and need to respond to instants and sorceries on the cheap, Miscast is definitely worth looking at.
Rousing Read is an innocuous common that I passed over at first glance. It wasn't until Shivam of the CAG mentioned that it would be great in his Tuvasa, the Sunlit deck that I took another look at it.
Rousing Read loots while replacing itself, buffs the enchanted creature, and gives it flying, all for just three mana, which is really solid. By simply looking at the Aura Theme, we can find multiple commanders that would love this combination of effects. Bruna, Light of Alabaster, Geist of Saint Traft, Rafiq, of the Many, Estrid the Masked, Eutropia, the Twice-Favored... there are a lot of options.
An issue that comes up with Auras is that quite often they end up being card disadvantage, since they will all go to the graveyard when the enchanted creature goes away. Rousing Read circumvents that and gives you a bevy of other bonuses, which makes me like it a lot! I wouldn't add it into any decks outside of ones that care about Auras, but I've definitely come around on Rousing Read.
Teferi's Tutelage is a variation of Psychic Corrosion and Sphinx's Tutelage, and a welcomed addition to Mill and Wheel strategies everywhere.
Unlike the other two enchantments, Teferi's Tutelage will mill an opponent at least once thanks to the loot it provides when it enters the battlefield, making it a bit less "do nothing" when compared to its predecessors. That said, it is important to note that Teferi's Tutelage only hits a single opponent, unlike Psychic Corrosion. Something else to think about here is which effect will be more valuable to your deck: the immediate loot, or the ability to chain mills together and loot later with Sphinx's Tutelage?
Personally, I think Psychic Corrosion is king here, followed by either of the Tutelages. Some decks may want all three, but most will probably only have room for two. More options are often always better than not having enough though, so I welcome Teferi's Tutelage into the fold.
Waker of Waves
Rounding out the list is one of my favorite uncommons of the set, Waker of Waves. This entire review, I've been really down on cards that only fit into specific, niche archetypes. Waker of Waves fits that description, but does something none of the other niche cards do.
Waker of Waves will only ever see play in the sea creatures decks, much like Pursued Whale. There is a difference with this watery friend, though, when compared to its brethren. When you look at the average Arixmethes Sea Creatures deck, the average CMC in it is an astronomically high 4.73. Waker of Waves is a sea creature that is not only a late game bomb that neuters token strategies (which often run over these kinds of decks), but one that can also double as an early-game spell to dig lands and mana rocks. Having the ability to fit at both the two-mana slot and seven-mana slot is huge for these decks, and is a welcome addition.
Waker of Waves is incredibly niche, but it does something really beneficial for an archetype that needs it and performs tasks that no other card previously had. Big thumbs up for Waker of Waves in these sea creatures decks!
Well, that's all for the new blue cards of Core Set 2021!
There are a bunch of highs and lows from this color, ranging from Teferi, Master of Time and Teferi's Ageless Insight to Barrin, Tolarian Archmage and Discontinuity. There are a range of cards from "generally good" to "incredibly niche", but I'd say we've got a good haul from this set overall between both the new cards and the reprints.
What are your favorite blue cards from the set? Were there any I missed? Was I too harsh or too generous on any of them? Make sure you let me know down below!
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