Dark Ascension 24 Hour Review

Written by coboney on February 08, 2012

(Author's Note: This article was written the day that all of the set was spoiled. Due to uncontrollable circumstances, it was delayed till now. Therefore it’s knee-jerky and fully first impressions. Some of said impressions have changed since, check the bottom of the article to see what I think on some of the cards now – a few weeks later.)

Good day everyone. So as you have probably seen Dark Ascension was spoiled on Monday in full by Wizards – a good few days before the pre-release. So before everyone else gets in on it I figured I’d write a set review. Why? Because everyone else does, so why not me?

Just a few disclaimers – these are largely my first impressions of the cards as I am starting this Monday morning with the spoiler in front of me and going through it. I am not covering every card – just those that catch my interest. And that interest is from a largely constructed player of Modern and Standard though I may make limited comments as well. If you’re looking for legacy coverage – look elsewhere.

So with that said – let us begin the 24 hour review.

Well look at this little goody – this is exactly what Standard tokens was looking for – a good 2 drop that fits the theme. This one gives you two tokens most of the time and late game can help you draw an out with a small army of blockers or to overwhelm an opponent. In Modern it probably won’t see play due to Raise the Alarm.

And another Token card as it seems to be a good addition them over Geist-Honored Monk which spent much of its time creating 2 1/1 fliers and dying to the removal spell. The flashback will rarely come back but in a long game who knows. Do note that this, Gather the Townsfolk and Lingering Souls all push the deck to go all in on tokens and choose that as your plan and it may be the way to go.

Lingering Souls is one of the cards that might get WG Townsend to become WB Sorin Tokens instead because it’s another set of Midnight Haunting that has flashback. This added resiliency to mass removal is welcomed by token decks in standard so might prove enough to push it through.

Who put Lolcats in my Magic?

Wee another hate bear. While I expect this to see some play in Modern as storm hate as an efficient beater with disruption – don’t expect it to see much play in Standard. Right now Standard is loaded with Gut Shots and similar removal for Delver and that just bounces it out of playability.

Blue So you’ll note a distinct lack of blue cards here. I found blue on the whole to be uninspiring in Dark Ascension for constructed purposes so I’m not going to go into it really. For limited it seems to have a lot of fliers with Stormbound Geist probably being the best as an undying 2/2 flier for 3 at common to upset a lot of limited games.


Now everyone has been talking about Messenger for a bit and with good reason – the reverse Kitchen Finks asks for a lot of devotion to black but it repays as an excellent, tough to remove threat. Giving black/x aggro some reach, its ability to attack and cause favourable trades is pretty strong while maintaining pressure. His overall playability though is going to be linked to other black aggro cards as he can’t do it alone – either in a Zombie deck as some speculate or just a Black/X Aggro – or even midrange.

And here is why everyone is thinking Zombies – or at least one reason. Gravecrawler provides a quick 2 powered threat that is tough to dispose of. If Zombies is a deck – this guys recurring role is going to figure right into it.

And here’s a two drop for the Zombie deck. A 2 powered threat he is evasive and allows you to recur Gravecrawler and filling out a curve role. Not spectacular but a glue piece to that potential archtype.

Well sure looks like they followed through on moving looting to red with Careful Study gaining flashback and being red. This is a solid card for a grave based deck as it filters through and enables but how much it sees play is dependant on those decks wanting red – and many of them don’t.

An interesting card Hellrider will compete for a spot in Red aggro decks at the top of the curve as its ability to finish a game decisively is pretty clear. Similar to Hero of Oxid Ridge he tops out and does better with more creatures in play but is also a hasty threat off the top that provides 4 damage. Personally I prefer the Hero with Moorland Haunts right now but Hellrider is a card to keep an eye on for emerging.


I ask again – what are Lolcats pictures doing in my magic?

Sakura-Tribe Elder – how do we miss thee. The easy comparison there and to Viridian Emissary shows that the Elk has some issues. First of all – it costs a mana to sacrifice and doesn’t deal damage when it does – typically being a turn slower then Sakura for mana ramping and worst then Sakura was at blocking, though it’s not his fault the rules changed. It may show up on occasion but I think both Viridian Emissary and Rampant Growth will see play over it.

Predator Ooze… the amount of talk around this card surprises me. With the increase in destruction and bounce that get around indestructible and a 1/1 base body, this card isn’t good enough to see play with the slow pace it grows at.

This on the other hand is a powerful threat for green aggro decks. While the 2 power isn’t particularly impressive – having Haste and Undying are both huge things that make this into a reason to play heavy green. It depends on the support as it isn’t enough to lift a deck on its own but I would put it on my uncommon watch list as it definitely is not lacking in power and with Birthing Pod could be pretty absurd.

And here is a card that sits at the cusp of playability. With Undying its resilience might be enough to overcome the fact that it’s a 5 mana, heavy green threat without haste or shroud. With a potential green stompy deck out there it might see play there as dropping this on turn 3 or 4 is a big thing.

And here is another one of those reasons – as a 1 mana Basking Rootwalla it would have been okay but his flipped form is just nasty turning an early game 2/2 into a big mid-game threat to take advantage of excess mana. It also punishes people for not doing much early on and if there’s any sort of green aggro out there I expect this to see heavy play in it.


If blue ends up as Zombies support colour, you can probably look here. While it’s a decent pumper and deathtouch is a nice ability – the card reminds some of Kalastria Highborn with its ability to provide resilience in the face of mass removal by making it quite painful to do so.

Falkenrath Aristocrat though is the reason why a Black/X aggro deck would look at red. Its hasty body and ability to protect itself to some degree along with evasion make it a credible threat that requires less red mana then Hero of Oxid Ridge. Now the issue of Moorland Haunts pops up again as it lacks the ability to go over that but on the whole this, while not Giant Solifuge (no Trample or shroud) it seems solid.

Another card receiving a lot of hype – could Havengul Lich be the final piece needed for the Heartless Summoning deck to pull it all together? I don’t think its enough to elevate it beyond Tier 2 status as the Lich itself is fairly vulnerable and not well protected it will still catch a lot of looks.

Huntmaster of the Fells looks like a card we’ll be seeing a lot of in standard. It comes in with a buddy and gains some life meaning some nice payoffs for just getting into play. When it turns over it becomes a 4/4 monster and hits the opponent, while removing a threat from the board applying a potential 6 damage a turn threat all on its own.

Immerwolf looks like a nice lord for the Werewolf tribe, stopping them from transforming into their weaker forms and providing the wolf tokens a boost in power to help overcome their deficiencies. What may really push him over the top though is that on his own he’s an evasive creature meaning when you have nothing else at least Immerwolf doesn’t make you sigh in pain when you draw it.

Sorin is an interesting card here and far more playable then his former self. With 3 loyalty to start with – and costing the magical 4 mana – Sorin is able to protect himself admirably. His +1 ability creates a blocker who can get gain life when used to protect Sorin, while his -2 pumps all your guys for the rest of the game. The ultimate – while rarely invoked – is powerful and potentially game ending so it holds up fine.

I guess this is as good a spot as any to say that I suspect what will happen with tokens – It will probably become a WBg deck using some duals to support Townsend and drop a lot of the non-token support due to the amount of tokens in this set and add in some more strong removal for threats from black. All in all, I see a strong deck there emerging.

And another Vampire lord appears with this and there are surprisingly some good vampires so far though running Vampires over Zombies means a greater commitment to red. I suspect if Vampires is a deck it will be more Rb then the Black deck that Zombies wants to be just because of how the cards fit and with the curve which for zombie cards require a strict adherence to the Black Mana.

Artifacts and Lands

And now for the sets most overrated card – Grafdigger’s Cage! I’ve heard this is the card that will destroy dredge – its just going to hate out all the graves and so forth – and to those people my run on sentence has one thing to say, SLOW DOWN. This is a nice graveyard hate card in standard but it is strictly side board like Pithing Needle. Nice piece but not going to fundamentally shake any formats but gives you an answer to pressure from graveyard threats.

And here we have what I think is a card that is going to see a lot of play. Its ability to effectively cycle early game cards and trade out of bad blocks is quite impressive, though it really wants damage on the stack back. Expect to see this hanging around any GB decks for the foreseeable future.

And another non-basic land ends my review of the set as I think in standard it will see some play. People always need a ‘reason’ to run the extra land they should and this gives it to them by making a late game useless draw into a creature. Even at random, if your deck runs quality creatures you should get quality back providing virtual card advantage.

On the whole I would say Dark Ascension looks like a fun limited set to play and a set that could contribute to several archtypes as well as making several of its own of varying power. The feel of fear is well shown by the LOLCat pictures that with just a little editing will unleash further horrors upon the magic player base.

Until next time,
2 Weeks later
So due to those unavoidable editor issues that happened I have the rare opportunity to immediately do a double take on some of this. I considered editing the article to fit what my opinions are now but in the end I decided that would be intellectually dishonest so I’m writing some changed opinions here.

Gather the Townsfolk
Well I’ll say I was wrong on Modern play for this card. WB tokens definitely needs it for redundancy’s sake though the Fateful Hour ability rarely comes up. In standard right now it’s tough to get a read as I think Tokens is a solid but unspectacular deck that is suffering from RDW Syndrome, meaning that despite it not being everywhere everyone is prepped for it too much. And doing it cruelly with stuff like Sun Titan + Ratchet Bomb.

Lingering Souls
I underrated this card above – it is more then just another piece. This is one of the best cards in the set and will see play not just in Tokens but in a lot of decks due to its resiliency and ability to create a board position out of nowhere. I’m thinking Standard staple and Modern playable (which it definitely is) now as the card with equipment is just not fair. With quick flyers and equipment being the threat du jour this fits right in if Delver goes into Esper colours.

Dungeon Geists
Yes, it’s a blue card! This card could actually see some play as a bad Sower of Temptation as a quasi removal/threat card in Tempo or Aggro-Control that can hold a weapon well. If Drogskol Captain sees play, I expect he will be there too.

Thought Scour
And the other possible blue playable in the set is Thought Scour. In older formats its milling ability on self is probably not enough but in standard… if there is a self-mill deck in either Green/Blue or Blue/Black this feels like it will be a piece of it. Still it would be nothing but a roleplayer, but that’s better then I gave it credit for at first glance.

Wolfbitten Captive
And I bite my tongue as actually playing with this little guy has changed my opinion on him from being a heavy player in Green Aggro as he plays quite a bit more awkwardly then it reads. It has a role somewhere in some format but its closer to Grim Lavamancer then Goblin Guide – a 1 drop that’s value is that it can play on turn 1 but is better late.

Huntmaster of the Fells
Powerful, awkward and unwieldy, Huntmaster of the Fells is a card without a deck and just doesn’t slot well. While there may be a way to use him – in some sort of RUG Midrange – its looking more like this may end up being the powerful card of the set that never goes anywhere.

Well that’s all the added commentary for you who get to watch this humble writer bite his tongue on his first impressions – and may it remind you to never judge a book by its cover!

Signing out again,

Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

by KnowN on 2012-02-08 23:53 CET

Im guessing there is suppose to be pictures in this... Nice Fail

by coboney on 2012-02-09 00:06 CET

Ya there are supposed to be pictures. I'm working with Weedmonkey to find out what the issue is and we'll try to get the pics in.

In the meantime for the old part of the article here are the cards its talking about in order:

Gather the Townsfolk
Increasing Devotion
Lingering Souls
Sanctuary Cat

Gerraf’s Messenger
Highborn Ghoul

Faithless Looting

Crushing Vines
Dawntreader Elk
Predator Ooze
Wolfbitten Captive/Krallenhorde Killer

Diregraf Captain
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Havengul Lich
Huntmaster of the Fells/Ravager of the Fells
Stromkirk Captain

Grafdigger’s Cage
Haunted Fengraf

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