It’s Primal time! This article will grade the Primal faction card-by-card, with some deeper discussion about the more interesting cards. If you’re looking for an overview before getting started with the format, check out my primer article linked below. You’ll also find links to the other five set reviews.

Defiance Limited Overview

Defiance Limited Review – Fire

Defiance Limited Review – Time

Defiance Limited Review – Justice

Defiance Limited Review – Shadow

Defiance Limited Review – Multifaction and Neutral

The format of the reviews will follow LSV’s classic Magic set reviews that I’ve always enjoyed. Each card will be assigned a grade from 0 to 5, based on the scale below:

0.0 – Completely unplayable in a main deck; might have market use if you draft a merchant.

0.5 – Unplayable in a main deck barring some insane circumstance

1.0 – Will always do something, but is generally niche or just plain overcosted.

1.5 – Extremely mediocre filler. Something you’re unhappy to wind up playing, but will sometimes have to.

2.0 – Filler. Your deck will have a few of these, but hopefully not too many.

2.5 – Slightly better filler. These will be the lion’s share of your deck, the “pawns.”

3.0 – Stronger playables. Not enough to perhaps draw you into the faction, but cards you are happy to wind up playing in your final deck.

3.5 – Very strong, efficient playables. You won’t have tons of these, but they represent a strong pull into their faction.

4.0 – Bombs or cards that warp the game around themselves, but are still answerable if your opponent has the right cards.

4.5 – Cards that are nearly impossible to beat if you draw and play them, but that come with some caveat (usually their cost). These almost universally generate card advantage or an absurd tempo advantage, and there’s nothing your opponent can do about it.

5.0 – Cards that are basically impossible for the opponent to answer cleanly, will win the game on their own, and aren’t prohibitive to play in any way. It’s extremely rare for a card to be a 5.0, and that’s a good thing, because they aren’t any fun to play against (looking at you, Pack Rat).

BA – Build-around. These are cards that are clearly meant to be played only when you have the right synergies, and their power level will vary wildly as a result.

Obviously every card can be more or less powerful depending on your archetype (aggro vs. midrange vs. control) or the other cards surrounding it (your 10th 3-drop isn’t going to be that good), so the grades are meant as a guideline, not a hard rule, and you should really be looking at the comments on each card rather than the hard number grade. The fact that we have to adjust our views on cards based on context as the draft progresses is what makes drafting so interesting.

I do want to preface this and all of my set reviews with the fact that I’m a filthy casual. I don’t devote tons of time to grinding card games anymore, but that just means that I try to play at the highest level possible when I do find the time. If I only have an hour to play, I damn sure want to win if I can, or revel in memes if I can’t. That does color my reviews a bit. I may be off on some cards due to lack of experience or desire to meme, though I hope that I at least do a decent job justifying the line of thinking that leads me to particular grades.

Steely Resolve

Grade: 0.0

It would be a bit of a mental misstep to play this.

Crystal Dirk

Grade: 0.5

While interesting that Primal is getting a “just stats” weapon, this doesn’t do enough, even with Renown. Especially since many of the really good Renown cards scale with the cost of the triggering thing.

Frostwave

Grade: 3.0

I am a big fan of this as a finisher, and even at its base rate it can put in some work. The second copy is much less valuable, but I am quite high on the first.

Mischief Yeti

Grade: 2.5

This is a very low impact card later in the game, but if you do get to use it to trade a trick for something, you get some bonus value.

Pitfall Trap

Grade: 2.0

You will probably get some loots out of this even later in the game, and the ping isn’t nothing. Relics do matter, which makes this decent. If you do run this, don’t fall into the trap of playing it too early. If you can’t spare the power to loot in the immediate turns, it may be best to hold it and try to get value out of the ping effect later.

Savagery

Grade: 0.5

If you’re desperate for interaction, I guess this does that, but the savage influence cost makes this extremely unwieldy.

Frost Talisman

Grade: 1.0

Again, you ideally want higher-impact relics, unless you really think you’ll have the time to use this, which 95% of decks won’t.

Kosul Huntsman

Grade: 2.0

This blunts early aggression and lets you turn a combat trick into a kill spell, which is fine, but not the most exciting thing in the world, since you need to engineer a situation where you need to kill something that isn’t also in combat with your guy. Bit of a weird card.

Meme Bounty: Combine this with Kosul Elite to play a weapon on the Huntsman, block and eat something, and then eat something else with the Killer. $10 paypal to the winner.

Master Cartographer

Grade: 2.5

This carries extremely medium stats, but it can smooth your draws early and get value later in the game if you’re flooding. Just remember to hold spare power if this is in your deck.

Parry

Grade: 3.5

Lack of experience with this makes me unsure how easy it will be to engineer a 2-for-1. Still, the floor is a “+2/+2” trick, which is fine. If you get to use it to kill two things, that is an incredible deal for 2 mana, which makes me want to take this extremely highly.

Reinforced Towershield

Grade: 1.0

This is a little odd, to say the least. Fixing is valuable, but not so much so that a 0/4 relic weapon is worth playing. And I don’t really want a relic that just dies if I get hit by anything. There may be decks where this makes the cut, but I hope not to play any.

Snowdrift Delver

Grade: 2.5

This probably doesn’t hit what you want it to hit (i.e., Martyr’s Chains) very often, but that’s fine; it’s still a free card off your 2-drop. Underwhelming as far as legendaries go, but very playable.

Stormtamer Operative

Grade: 2.0

THIS IS CLEARLY A TRACKER WHO FOUND A SCRAP OF CLOTH TO HELP HER FOLLOW HER QUARRY AND THEREFORE SHOULD HAVE BEEN NAMED STORM SEEKER. COME ON, DWD.

Ahem.

You get to account for this in your deckbuilding, which isn’t nothing, but it has lots of tension with snowballs and other Primal/Skycrag staples. A 2/3 for 2 is still a reasonable card in a faction that doesn’t usually get those, but the ability is probably a net negative.

Wind Cloak

Grade: 1.0

Primal sure does have a lot of these low-impact relic enablers, but none are all that exciting. This can certainly get there in the very late game, but it’s going to do stone nothing for many, many turns before that.

Courier Albatross

Grade: 3.0

The base rate is mediocre, but if you topdeck a 3/3 flyer and get to draw a card, it is very strong. Flexibility is underrated, and the ability to deploy this on 3 when power-screwed should not be overlooked, even if you’ll be sad to do it.

Fledgling Avisaur

Grade: BA

A 1/2 isn’t good enough for 3 power, but if you have enough weapons, this is a great way to use them, thanks to the aegis, which gives me the BA grade. This is a slightly worse version of Silverwing Familiar if you’re on that plan, but the fact that this is a common is very relevant, since you’ll be likely to see one or two if you’re heavy on weapons.

Glacial Shaper

Grade: 4.0

This is on my short list for best uncommon of the set. Any game where you follow this up with a 4-cost weapon is probably going to be over in a hurry, and there are plenty of said weapons to go around. Even if you can’t immediately trigger the renown, a 2/4 isn’t the easiest thing to kill, so it’s likely to stick around and buy time until you can. Given its splashability, I’m slamming this any time I see it.

Shapeshifter’s Mask

Grade: 2.5

This is tough to evaluate, but your unit will eventually turn into something huge (and/or Idol of Destran), which makes me think this is worth playing, if for nothing else but the memes.

Skycrag Scalebreaker

Grade: 3.5

This basically brings its own Wind Cloak for free, and the body is fine to boot. The renown bonus is small, but the rest of the card is very strong.

Storm Spiral

Grade: 2.5

This has pretty big blowout potential. You get the knowledge that this is coming, which means you can craft your deck around it. Play 2/3s over 3/2s and punish your opponents’ aggression. Later in the game, you can turn “chump blocks” into trade-ups. It doesn’t solve every problem, but it has enormous potential.

Clutch of Talons

Grade: 4.5

This basically costs 6, since you’ll almost never have PPP on 4, but 6 is where you wanted to play it anyway. It’s effectively 2 dragons for that price, which is a great deal. This thing is extremely powerful, and the only real caveat is the PPP cost.

Court Mage

Grade: 1.5

If you are desperately trying to resolve 8-drops, the combination of pledge and a big butt might make this begrudgingly playable, but not in your average deck.

Lens of Clarity

Grade: 0.0

It’s tempting to give this a BA grade, but I’m just not sure it’s possible to draft enough damaging spells to make this do much of anything.

Mass Entomancy

Grade: 1.5

This is a lot worse than polymorph unless you are playing it for 8. The flying is a big deal, as you can no longer use this nearly as well on units wielding weapons (and the Humbug makes a nice target for your opponent’s future weapons). Sure, sometimes you might get two things with this, but I don’t think that outweighs the major downgrade from Polymorph. This is also a common, meaning you should get one if you’re looking for it, so there’s not a need to take it super early, as you can certainly overload on this effect.

Reclusive Scholar

Grade: BA…?

As a reclusive scholar, I feel personally attacked. My butt is not that big and I at least try to hit the gym!

This is a card that wants you to be doing something very specific, that being playing a slow deck with combat tricks and probably relic synergies. If you’re doing that, he might be good, but stay away otherwise.

Rejection

Grade: 0.5

Do yourself a favor and reject this one, unless you’re rare-drafting. This costs too much and the discard clause isn’t relevant to limited, most of the time.

Shadowlands Borderscout

Grade: 4.0

Primal ends a streak of bad cards with a bang! Yes, this is small, but if it ever connects, it can run away with the game in a hurry. Pity the opponent if you slap a weapon or warcry on this…

Meme Bounty: Show me a situation in which either you or your opponent can’t attack with this without decking and win $10. A bonus $5 if your opponent actually attacks and puts themselves dead (pump spells are allowed).

Sudden Schism

Grade: 3.5

This acts as a second copy of your best unit, plus ambush. It will be pretty easy to get value out of this on blocks, and the unit that sticks around afterward is all gravy. Obviously this scales in quality with your units, but it’s generally very good.

Cliffdiver Mantasaur

Grade: 3.5

It’ll hurt to pledge this one, but less than some other cards. Aegis flyers are almost always great in limited, and this comes with the stats to back it up, being a legitimate threat on its own, without any buffs.

Elvish Swindler

Grade: 1.5/BA

Flavor: 5.0

You’re getting a Bold Adventurer plus 2-cost relic for 5 power, so you are indeed getting swindled here. I gave this a split grade because I do feel like the average primal deck in this format will have some mediocre targets for this almost all the time. However, his power is highly dependent on your relics. If you have something like Paladin Oathbook to fetch, I’d be looking a lot more closely at this.

Acantha’s Outrider

Grade: 3.0

This being a common makes me excited to draft a critical mass of them. This is a great way to offset some of the negative tempo generated by clunky relics, and pledge shines best on a card like this. If you have no relics and are light on power, you can pledge this and feel pretty good about it.

Brilliant Idea

Grade: 1.0

As much as I love drawing cards, you really need to be paying 8+ to make this remotely worthwhile. If you think you can do that, great, but your average deck won’t get there reliably. This could serve as a finisher in more grindy decks, but I wouldn’t start with it in mind.

Shaluuk Captain

Grade: 4.0

5/5 flying for 6 is already a good stat line, and the bump to all your other primal units is just gravy.

Snowsculptor

Grade: 3.5 (5.0 in my heart)

I’d much rather use this as my big dumb card-draw spell than something like Brilliant Idea. IF this goes unmolested, you can really go off, but the fact remains that it’s a 6-cost 3/3, so you need to temper your expectations (or Temper this, if you really miss pre-nerf Inspire).

Quicksilver Mirror

Grade: 1.5

This is a big-time bomb if you can land it in a drawn-out game where both players are topdecking. This effect will quickly overwhelm your opponent if left unmolested, but 7PPP is far from trivial, and it won’t be good enough if you are very far behind. When it goes off, it will be sweet, but I wouldn’t count on that happening too often.

Starved Vorlunk

Grade: 1.0

This is just too mediocre on the front half to justify the amplified side. A 9-cost 9/9 isn’t even very good, and you won’t always get to 9. Don’t play this unless truly desperate for finishers.

Eilyn, the Rising Storm

Grade: 3.5

Pledge on your big bomb will feel bad, but you probably should do it if you’re only on 2 or 3 other power, as you would have a hard time getting to 8 anyway. If you do, though, Eilyn should do a fine job of swinging the game in your favor.

Wrap-Up

Primal has a great deal of power at uncommon, between Parry and Glacial Shaper. Many of the commons are worthless or situational, but there are a few nice ones like Master Cartographer that really help hold a deck together. The lack of cheap, aggressive units at common means that Primal should almost always be your “splash” faction in an Honor deck, but there are a lot of tools for Knowledge or Instinct if you wind up with Primal as a primary faction.