This is the second in my series of card-by-card reviews of Defiance. Here I’ll be going over the Time faction, card-by-card. 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.
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.
Unearth the Past
This plays best with relic weapons, and if you have quite a few of those, feel free to run this as a free rebuy. I don’t think this is playable otherwise, unless you have quite a few relic sacrifice synergies, but that will be rare since your non-weapon relics don’t usually die on their own.
These are high-risk 1-drops, but if you can get this down on 1 (or even a second one before your second power), you can really just run an opponent over before they can do their thing. Drawn late, however, these are pretty much blanks, so make sure you are on the beatdown plan before you play this.
Like all the spells in the fixing cycle, this goes up if you’re desperate for that, but the fact that this is slow really hurts it. I can see it slotting into some more aggressive decks, but you can’t leverage it to blow out a combat trick, and even if you get to eat a weapon with it, you’re still getting smacked with it first, which hurts.
Make no mistake: this is a 6-drop. Is Towering Terrazon + Chumper worth 6 power? Probably. One of the ways to lose when you’re slamming big dumb dinos is to get tempoed out, either by bounce effects or removal, and having a chump blocker down to stifle those plans can make a big difference. And hey, if you’re flooding badly, you can even pay 11 for two dinos. I hope that never happens, but it might save you once in a while.
The breakup was rough, and now Marisen’s Disciple’s exes are just aimlessly wandering around our packs while he gets some of that thicc humbug thorax. As a card, lil’ scorpion suffers from all of the problems that weak deadly units do: your opponent can choose to play into it or not. Giving your opponent that choice weakens this significantly. Because it only hits for 1, you aren’t usually going to be able to force the action either, as they can just take 1 and crack back. Still, the fact that Time in this format wants to buy, well, time makes this a bit better than it would have been in other formats.
Meme Bounty: I’ll paypal you $10 if you’re the first to send me proof of you somehow killing an opposing Ravid, Insect Master with one of his former lovers.
This grade seems high, but what can I say, I got hypnotized by those jazz hands. Seriously, though, repeatable silence is an extremely powerful upside to a card that has a good body to begin with. Maybe I’m overvaluing this, but this is a 3.5 at worst, and just the threat of making your opponent’s cards worse will warp the game. Suddenly that Loyal Watchwing they wanted to play doesn’t look so hot.
I tried to give this a 0.0, but it got Dissociated a little higher. I suppose you can win a combat with it? Maybe? That’s not worth a dead card in many games.
Definitely the most powerful of the Disciple’s exes. Take as many of these as you can, and let them descend in a plague upon your opponents.
It’s definitely not the best beast in your pack, but it’s still fine. This body is below-rate, but it gets you ahead on power, which is an okay upside. You don’t want too many of these, but you could do worse for a 2-drop.
I’d really like to know how a mask does this, but that’s about the most interesting thing about the card for limited. So many units in limited are already vanilla or very close that you’re often not going to get much value out of it beyond it being a relic, and if you’re looking for relics to enable synergies, you can do better.
This is a beatstick. It attacks for five. FIVE! On turn 3! It’s not that hard to trade with it, but Overwhelm means you’ll get some damage through, and if you can toss a combat trick or two on him, your opponent is going to be dead before they know it. Plus, it’s in the faction that has the most ability to trigger multiple empowers in a single turn.
I suppose if this is multiple instances of lifegain (not sure it is, and you won’t catch me playing the card to find out), this might do something in a dedicated Lifeforce shell, but I’m pretty sure it’s just terrible, since there’s only two packs of very thin Lifeforce cards to begin with.
Ah do declare, Ah have the vapors. And so did whoever designed this wacky relic.
At first glance this looks like a very bad deal for the cost, but unlike some of the cards we’ve seen previously, this plays the top power card of your deck, which is a major improvement over a random power card from the deck, since it smooths your draws much more effectively. It’s still worse than straight-up drawing a card, but it costs a lot less than Frost Talisman, and it begins to help offset its own cost fairly quickly.
There are a few bomby relics (okay mostly Pit of Lenekta) that I want to hit with this, but even hitting a mid-cost relic weapon to jump the curve a little is pretty great. A 4/2 Endurance for 3 is a solid body, so even if you whiff this isn’t bad.
Awaken the Ages
I don’t like 3-mana ramp nearly as much as 2-mana ramp, and this isn’t a guaranteed fixer either. While it has amplify, I don’t think it’s that useful unless you’re planning to play several 8-drops.
While this adorable little fellow is a flavor home run, I’m a little unsure on his power level. Ancient Bauble is a very weak card, and so is a 3-power 1/2, but this card is quite good with things that ask you to sacrifice relics, such as Lehtrai Lobotomy or Consuming Greed. For that reason this is a really nice roleplayer in a deck with those effects, but something I really hope to cut otherwise.
3/3 for 3 is baseline for “decent playable” and adding overwhelm helps it crawl on up to 2.5.
This is a really tough one to rate. Obviously a 1/1 for 3 is horrible and extremely vulnerable to just getting murdered, and it helps your opponent find something to murder it, but if it survives, it’s almost certainly winning you the game. Fortunately they worded the trigger such that you both draw a card at the same time, which really saves it. Traditional Howling Mine type effects have your opponent draw first, meaning they wind up gaining a card on you if they can destroy your Mine before you get to use it, but this at least leaves you both on equal footing, even if it dies immediately.
Cykalis, the Burning Sand
Pledging this will hurt, but the combination of 5 attack, charge, and a basically free swing shores up a lot of the risk in playing a 5/2. This will almost always hit for 5 and then a few more Overwhelm on the next attack before trading for something. If you don’t care about that kind of burst damage, you can decline to take him super high, but most midrange-to-aggro Time decks will want this.
If we’re casting Magmatic Sentinels, this is our jam. If not, I’d value it a lot less highly. Sure, sometimes you get to play a 7-drop ahead of schedule, but you need a very dedicated ramp deck with lots of hits for that to be something to game plan around. I’ll never sneeze at 2 bonus power, but there will definitely be beatdown decks that will cut this, so be aware if you’re speculating on it. It’s not quite niche enough to be a BA, but it’s not that far off.
The fact that this can just stone-cold steal a game makes it passable. The fact that it’s fast means you can also use it as a clunky combat trick where needed, and a surprise game-ender when it’s not. It’s not the type of effect you want multiples of, but it’s flexible enough to play one if your deck is otherwise light on clunky effects.
Five cards is a pretty deep look, and there are a lot of relics floating around. Sentinels are not as prevalent, but this still digs deep enough that you’ll hit often, and the fail case isn’t crushingly bad. Really great in the 4x Magmatic Sentinel deck, if that’s a thing.
This may be a little high, but a 2/5 flyer for 4 is pretty okay. It wears weapons well, and in my drafts so far, hitting some kind of relic has not been much of a problem. Obviously this card has some variance to it, so keep that in mind.
I don’t like these terrible blockers, as you will be behind some percentage of the time in limited, whether you like it or not. However, the upside here can be huge. Attacking as a 4/4 is mediocre, but if you can get a weapon or pump spell – or, if you can leverage one of the several ways in Defiance to play multiple powers in one turn – this can get pretty scary for the opponent. I would snap pledge this in a power-light hand, and maybe even snap-pledge in less power-light hands too.
The Praxis Arcanum
We come to our first Site. If you’re unsure how these work, see my overview article.
This agenda is pretty medium. I like the Sites whose agendas guarantee me some kind of value. While I can give a unit deadly for a trade or give a unit +4 health to defend the site, none of those matter if I’m behind on board. And since I’ve taken a turn and a card to play this Site, chances are I’m going to be, or at least prone to be if my opponent has removal. Because these effects are also slow-speed, my opponent gets to take a crack at disrupting my plan. If they can, the site does not have enough health to survive much of anything.
Despite all those knocks, this is still something you should take and happily play, even if it falls short of some of the other sites. All sites are inherently powerful because of the potential mana and card advantage you get by playing out the full agenda, but this one is on the lower end of the scale because it isn’t very good at defending itself.
Thrashing Dune Worm
Now here’s a fun legendary bomb. I almost always will treat this as a 6-drop, unless I happen to have an unused Killer on-board, which is rare. If you can set it up right, this can be a neat little 2-for-1, or even better if you can ramp some. Its ceiling is fairly low, though, as at the end of the day it is “just” a 3/4, which keeps it from truly elite status.
This once again suffers from low-power-deadly syndrome, but this pressures the opponent a little harder and leaves some value behind at the end, even if it trades with a 2/2. I like it, but it is extremely vulnerable to silence and has a tough influence cost, which limits the rating.
This nudges closer to the coveted 4.0-uncommon territory if you have a few efficient relic weapons, but the fail case is a serviceable body anyway. Even if you’re just playing it to beat incidental relic hate, it’s very strong.
While relics are a theme in Defiance, this remains a market-only card, in my opinion. While it does draw you a card, thus representing card advantage, it costs far too much for a situational card. The risk is very high in putting such cards in your deck already, and now you’re adding more risk of being unable to take the time to play it, even when it’s good.
Lordy, them’s was some strong vapors.
The third or fourth copies of this are less valuable in general, but I’d play two pretty happily. While you won’t get too many empower triggers after 5, Endurance makes this a decent ground-pounder, and Pledge means you can dump it early if you don’t look like you’ll be hitting 7 or 8 power.
In Soviet Kosul, reliquary raid you!
This is far better than Reliquary Raider ever was, and it even has Pledge for desperate situations, though I think I’d rather die with this in my hand than Pledge it (There are a lot of bombs that I’d say this about).
It takes a few Empower cards to make this really shine, but there is a lot of beef here to play with, even if you can’t leverage the bonus power. The fact that this plays the top power of your deck is an upside that is very easy to miss on a first read, same as Vapor Hut. That means you are far, far more likely to draw gas in the subsequent turns than if it played a random power from the deck. That said, it’s still a 6-drop that doesn’t present immediate value, and there are a lot of those.
I may be overrating this a bit, as Overwhelm isn’t as big of an upside as some of the other Captains. Still, Time is all about beef, and this has it in spades. Depending on the texture of your deck, this could nudge downward to 3.0 in more top-heavy strategies, since your 6/6s don’t usually need +1/+1.
Ravid, Insect Master
I should dock some more points for what this jerk did to those poor bugs. Marisen’s Disciple decided he wasn’t a Disciple any more and has gone rogue, consorting with Humbugs instead of truly noble locusts. This card is fine as a top-end bomb, but the fact that it only makes 1/1s makes it a slow clock, prone to getting stonewalled.
I give this a 1.5 because of Pledge and the several ramp effects in the set, but I’m regretting that as I think about it now. It just looks so bad compared to other 8 drops (in different factions, granted) that Pledge isn’t enough of an upside to make me want to play it, almost ever.
Pit of Lenekta
This is it, the big bad holy grail of the set. You’ll never see me pass one, and I’m going to find some way to make this baby hum (or writhe). In all seriousness, this costs far too much to go into an “ordinary” deck. Have several ways to ramp before you consider this, but if you do get there, enjoy the ride.
As usual, Time is all about the beef. There are two forking paths you can take with Time decks: beatdown and ramp, which means you need to be careful not to hedge too long on which one you want to be. The power level at common, however, is extremely low, as evidenced by the top score being Sandcrawler of all things. This is a three-faction set, so Time doesn’t have to fill in quite as much of your deck as it might have in a two-faction set. That makes it a bit more forgivable, but you’ll really need some help (i.e., Trail Makers) from the curated packs if you want to be heavily invested in Time.