Welcome back to our Gladiator Jumpstart: Historic Horizons set review! There are a lot of cards to cover in blue, so let’s get started!
A one drop Merfolk that gets reserved list cards? Let’s go! This card is great for Merfolk, Mono Blue, and Simic Tempo decks. Shoreline Scout will make it so that you’re able to fix your mana in hand, which will decrease the need for mulligans. For example, if you’re playing a Simic deck and your opening hand only has blue sources and no green sources, this will let you turn one of those blue sources into the best blue green source ever printed. Plus being able to be a one mana 2/1 whenever you play an Island or Merfolk is a great bonus.
Tome of the Infinite
Typically randomness is something that is frowned upon in competitive environments. However, Tome of the Infinite does present very interesting synergies with Paradox Engine. Having the Tome untap whenever you cast a spell (which the Tome already facilitates) makes the potential for going off in Paradox Engine combo decks high. In addition, if you’re able to do it multiple times, you increase your chances of getting the more powerful spells that you would actually want from the Tome (Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt, and Ponder). That being said, there are still a number of effectively dead or underwhelming cards that could come from the Tome. Either way, Tome of the Infinite has potential within a Combo shell.
A UUU counterspell!? This will surely charm the hearts of blue players. Archmage’s Charm will be a staple for any Mono Blue deck, such as Mono Blue Tempo, and potentially two color blue Control decks. This card would likely replace another three mana two blue pip counter such as Disallow, Sinister Sabotage, or Neutralize. From those options, I would lean towards cutting Neutralize, since Cycling is a poor version of the draw two mode on Archmage’s Charm. The gain control of target nonland permanent mode will be used the least, but stealing a one drop or a token may be just what you need to survive another turn.
Bounty of the Deep
Divination sure has come a long way hasn’t it? The ability to guarantee a land plus a spell or two spells rather than any random two cards from your deck is great versatility. Despite these upsides, the spell is a sorcery. This is not where most blue decks want to be, as they play primarily at instant speed with draw spells such as Behold the Multiverse, Hieroglyphic Illuminations, and Glimmer of Genius. However, Bounty of the Deep does cost a mana less. This card is something that I think is definitely worth testing.
Dang, they’ve turned blue draft chaff into an actually decent piece of removal! Typically these effects are stapled onto enchantments, which are more vulnerable to removal. Being an instant removes this issue, allowing Ethereal Grasp to see play in Tempo decks that kill the opponent before they have the eight mana to spare. Three mana is a little expensive for this effect, but I think it has potential.
Kiora, the Tide’s Fury
Kiora is back and she’s making waves with what she does best: Making krakens! Ironically, that is not how she’ll be used most often. Kiora’s second +1 is comparable to Gideon of the Trials’ +1, which has proven itself to be a powerful effect for Control decks in Gladiator. Also, you can use it to untap creatures for blockers or lands for additional ramp. Kiora’s other two abilities, making a Kraken Hatchling and then sacrificing Krakens to make 8/8 Krakens, are not as powerful. 0/4s block well though and turning them into 8/8s lets them “Krak in” for a ton of damage. Expect this to show up in Control decks as another planeswalker to prolong and end the game.
Mentor of Evos Isle
This is the blue “choose a creature in your hand” cycle of new cards from Jumpstart Historic Horizons! How does it stack up compared to the others? Not too great, honestly. A three mana 2/1 flier isn’t the best body and giving a creature card in your hand flying isn’t the most relevant effect since most blue creatures that see play already have flying. This could be useful in Simic Miracle Grow decks to give Quirion Dryad flying. However, most of the miracle grow creatures have mana values less than three. Overall, I don’t expect this to see too much play since there are better things that blue creature decks can do with three mana.
This card has a powerful effect, and will see play in Reanimator decks looking to dump strong reanimation targets into the graveyard. Three mana for a 3/4 flying body is only matched by Serendib Efreet and Tempest Djinn, but each has its own unique downside or upside depending on your point of view. Discarding three cards is a real cost for decks that don’t take advantage of the graveyard, but the Trademage may be worth testing in aggressive blue decks considering it has a great body with evasion and dodges a lot of red removal.
This majestic steed with gills will only see play in Prime Speaker Vannifar Combo decks; since the Horse can untap Vannifar and then get sacrificed for a Yarok, the Desecrated, Kenrith, the Returned King, Thragtusk, or any number of other powerful five drops. It also completes the combo chain from one drop to seven drop: 1) any one drop 2) Corridor Monitor 3) Hyrax Tower Scout 4) Breaching Hippocamp 5) Young Necromancer to reanimate the Hippocamp 6) Wispweaver Angel to blink the Hippocamp and then a seven drop. With more mana and spells, you can sacrifice the seven drop to fetch Craterhoof Behemoth. Plus, the type line “horse fish” feels very appropriate for the Simic guild where Vannifar comes from.
This card seems like a decent option for ramp decks to get additional value out of casting large spells. It also takes advantage of cost reduction effects since the spell still has its original mana value even though you’re casting the spell for less! Etherium Spinner will be at its best when you can play it and a 4+ mana value creature spell afterwards to put three creatures on the battlefield. That being said, I suspect that there are better three drop options for Simic Ramp and I wouldn’t be surprised if this would be the 101st or 102nd potential card to make it into the 100. Decks that run this will probably also have a way to take advantage of flyers or artifacts.
This 1/1 Faerie is genuinely one of the cards I am most excited about. This is a very useful effect to have on a 1/1 flier for blue-based Tempo or Flier decks. On turn one, it will help to smooth out draws to find the missing pieces you need for a perfect hand, or help you dig for an answer in the midgame. Additionally with the new Ninja cards you may make use of its enter the battlefield effect multiple times in a game. Faerie Seer also loves having Curious Obsession and the like slapped onto it. Expect this card often when you’re playing against blue-based Tempo decks.
Thraben Inspector and Wall of Blossoms are popular cards in Gladiator. How does Hard Evidence compare? It’s… okay. A 0/3 can decently block most early threats and it also dodges Shock-like effects. Then there will be a Clue token waiting for you to crack at an opponent’s end step. But, is there a lot of evidence of a Blue White Control deck playing Thraben Inspector? I don’t think so. This could be useful for blue-based artifact decks though. Hard Evidence is worth testing, but if you only want a two mana draw a card effect there are several better options.
Oh, Man-o’-War, how the limited player in me loves thee. Will it be as efficient in Gladiator? The first comparison to this is Exclusion Mage or Barrin, Tolarian Archmage. Exclusion Mage is being played in Blink decks and another one of these effects won’t hurt since redundancy is always important in singleton formats. It is worth noting that if you play this while your opponent has no creatures, you have to bounce one of your own creatures (which isn’t the worst thing in a Blink deck). Man-o’-War also can facilitate going infinite with Paradox Engine decks if you have four or more mana from mana rocks and dorks available. Plus you can draw your deck if you have something like a Guardian Project on the battlefield. On another note, if Arena gave us Man-o’-War with the Portal art, I would absolutely try to jam this jellyfish in every blue deck.
Master of the Pearl Trident
A “new” Merfolk lord! Master of the Pearl Trident is the third Merfolk lord printed in Arena and it’s an excellent one at that. At two mana, it gives your Merfolk +1/+1 and Islandwalk, which means that creatures you control can’t be blocked if the defending player controls an Island. Most Merfolk decks are currently Simic so the double blue pips may be challenging for playing the Master on turn two. Also, it’s worth noting that your non-blue opponent’s may incidentally play “Islands” more often in Gladiator than in other formats because of the popularity of playing Triomes for two of the colors. This card will only see play in Merfolk, which at this time isn’t the most competitive deck. But with the new additions from Historic Horizons, it will definitely be much closer to competitiveness.
Mist Syndicate Naga
What type of shoes do Ninjas wear? Sneakers. You’ll never see it coming when Mist Syndicate Naga sneaks their way in for damage! Ninjutsu is an efficient and flavorful ability that you can potentially get a lot of value from. Being able to return creatures with ETBs (enter the battlefield triggers) creatures like the new Faerie Seer or the classic Merfolk Trickster, or even something like a Hostage Taker is a great way to get additional value out of your creatures while also getting value from Mist-Syndicate Naga’s ability to clone themselves. The 3/1 body is nothing to joke about either, especially if you can add some evasion to them (Krydle of Baldur’s Gate anyone?). If your opponent isn’t able to deal with this sneaky Ninja, they can quickly get out of hand and snowball their way to victory.
Rise and Shine
Oh, don’t mind my Mind Stone or Treasure tokens. They’re just chilling here… until they suddenly wake up as 4/4 creatures! Rise and Shine is a new wincon for the casually popular artifact combo deck, Eggs. The goal of Eggs is to play as many artifacts that draw a card as possible (such as Golden Egg). While Eggs hasn’t been the strongest deck, this card will help push the deck to be more competitive. Eggs will probably need a few more pieces before it rises its way through the ranks and shines its way to victory.
More classic blue cards! Mulldrifter is a flexible creature that will draw you two cards when it enters the battlefield. The ability to cast it for its Evoke ability, or paying the full five mana, gives you a lot of options when it’s in your hand. Plus, evoking it and then blinking it with something like Ephemerate to draw four cards is great value. The strongest deck for Mulldrifter would be a Blink deck. In that deck, Cloudblazer is the best comparison. With Mulldrifter needing only one blue pip and the extra flexibility when compared to Cloudblazer, it may be just what the Blink decks need. However, it is still only a five mana 2/2 flier and most Blink decks have been cutting Cloudblazer and the like for top end aggressive threats. Either way, Mulldrifter is a creature that is worth testing and seeing if the added flexibility of the Evoke cost can help push Blink decks to be more competitive.
Ninja of the Deep Hours
The most famous of Ninjas is legal in Gladiator! Ninja of the Deep Hours is a fantastic Tempo card and will be a slam dunk in most blue Tempo decks. This Ninja can use its Ninjutsu to return valuable enter-the-battlefield creatures to your hand in order to draw more cards. The Ninja is most comparable to Sea-Dasher Octopus, however, it avoids the potential blow out of two-for-oneing yourself if you Mutate the Octopus. The Octopus can Mutate itself onto a flier though to give itself evasion, which is something that Ninja of the Deep Hours cannot do. Even with this small downside, expect to see this Ninja sneak its way onto the battlefield while you’re facing Tempo decks.
Scour All Possibilities
Another Preordain in Gladiator!? This joins the likes of Deliberate and Omen of the Sea. A sorcery speed two mana Preordain is definitely not the best, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth dismissing. The additional value of the Flashback to recur it later is a strong addition to the classic blue cantrip. It’s a card that’s worth testing, especially if your deck fills the graveyard already. Being a sorcery and also wanting you to take advantage of the Flashback means that the card is more viable in Control decks than Tempo decks.
Svyelun of Sea and Sky
Wizards of the Coast: “Merfolk needs some help. What would they do if we just gave them a Merfolk God that literally does everything?” And that’s certainly what they gave us. This card does so much. At a very base level, it’s a three mana 3/4, which is already above rate. Then it gets indestructible if you control two other Merfolk, which is easy in a Merfolk deck. It goes on to give other Merfolk Ward one so that your opponents will have a harder time killing the Merfolk that are giving Svyelun indestructible. Then it also draws a card when you attack. The most popular blue card draw creatures rely on dealing combat damage to the opponent, such as Sea-Dasher Octopus, but Svyelun only needs to attack to draw a card. While Svyelun screams Merfolk, she is worth playing in Mono Blue Tempo. The deck already runs many Merfolk, and drawing cards on above-rate threats is exactly what the deck needs. Then of course there’s the most powerful part of the card, the gorgeous Seb McKinnon art. I can’t wait to see what splashes Svyelun will make for Merfolk decks in Gladiator.
This card may see niche play in the Grixis Artifact’s deck that has been gaining traction. Ideally you would want to cast this for four mana or less, which means you will need three artifacts. This isn’t particularly hard if you build your deck around making artifacts. Fortunately, Jumpstart Historic Horizons has come with more artifact synergy cards to help that be the case! Plus Treasure Vault can be used to help make it cheaper, either as a land or a bunch of Treasure!
“It fell silently from the sky and broke the surface without a ripple. Was it even here at all?” The poetic flair of Wonder’s flavor text is striking and beautiful. It also makes me wonder: Will Wonder make a ripple or a splash in Gladiator? I definitely think that there’s some potential for this card. I’m imagining playing a turn 3 Rotting Regisaur and then discarding this to have a flying 7/6 on turn 4. Incidentally milling this for graveyard decks is definitely a nice bonus for reanimator decks as well. I think Wonder would be most effective in decks that only have blue as a support color like Zombies since most of the best blue creatures already have flying.
Interested in Reading More?
I’m a passionate Magic player who plays a lot of Gladiator and Limited! I’ve been playing since Kamigawa block and have been a loyal blue mage for the majority of that time. My favorite decks are UW Control or UB Tempo!