Every time a new core set comes out, players have to make a decision as to whether or not it will be worthwhile to their own collection. For those who have been collecting for years (or even amassed a large set of 2010), you may wonder if a set that is half reprints is deserving of your dollars. The answer is yes! There are a lot of great cards in this set, new and old. Below, I will break down my favorite card for each of the five colors as well as an artifact.
White - Serra Ascendant
I don't think much of an argument needs to be made for this card. Playing a white deck grants plenty of opportunity to raise your life total above 30, so the bonus granted to this creature is a very real threat to your opponents. The potential to throw down a 6/6 Flyer with Lifelink for one mana makes this card well worth chasing. Even on the off-chance your deck isn't working the way you want, you can still cast this guy as a 1/1 with Lifelink for one mana. It's far better than waiting around and getting pummeled because your hand is full of creatures that cost more mana than you have.
Blue - Mana Leak
As much as I don't like having my spells countered, I am happy to see this card return to the game. Mana Leak is a versatile counter spell with a reasonable casting cost. Part of the fun of playing blue is the mind game between you and the other players. Once they know you have mana leak in your deck, they may be hesitant to do anything when you keep leaving those two lands untapped. For me, this card embodies the Jedi mind tricks that blue represents. Best (and worst) of all, it's a common. That means it's very likely that whoever is using this has four of them poised and ready to foil your plans.
Black - Phylactery Lich
A lot of the pre-release buzz has gravitated around a certain vampire, but I think this card is far better. Three mana for an Indestructible 5/5 is not something I am willing to bat an eye at. If you put this guy in a deck with a bunch of cheap artifacts, he can make things very difficult for your opponent. Additionally, if you manage to bring out any of the Darksteel (i.e. Indestructible) artifacts, Lich isn't going anywhere unless your opponent has some bounce or removal spells. Even if they manage to get rid of this guy, you shouldn't feel too bad because he was only three mana. There is also the strong possibility your black deck is going to offer a number of ways to recover him from your graveyard.
Red - Reverberate
The potential for this card is endless. Again, unlike the Rise of the Eldrazi cards, this core set has a number of powerful AND cheap spells. This is a red control card. The ability to duplicate a burn spell or make your opponents work for you; that's what this card offers. Your opponent manages to pull off playing one of the Ultimatum cards from the Shards set? No worries, you shove it back in their face, too... for two mana! Suckers. Tsabo's Decree my Goblins will you? Well, say good-bye to your zombies! Mwa ha ha ha ha! .... Sorry, this card does not bring out the best in me.
Green - Fauna Shaman
For one mana you get to put a creature in your graveyard AND pull one from your library for your hand. This has a lot of great combo capability with mono-green decks as well as green/black or green/white decks. If you like a challenge, you could even combo this girl with Vengevine and some red elementals. The Shaman 2/2 strength and toughness makes her a more valuable ally as well. You don't have to worry about this one dying with your Elvish Piper to your opponents Tremor. Furthermore, with the Shaman being an Elf, she is sure to be a thorn in a lot of sides.
Artifact - Sword of Vengeance
The Sword of Vengeance is a quick step towards making your own Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Seriously, if you equip this sword to ANY creature, let alone the ones on this list, your opponents are going to have a monster on their hands. An added bonus lies in this being equipment rather than an enchantment. That means that when your 1/1 soldier dies while using it, you can equip it to your 1/1 white Lifelink monk that's about to get +5/+5 and Flying. It doesn't have to be that drastic, but it's something that will haunt your opponent.
Be sure to check at Laughing Ogre on July 16th to see if you can pick up this great set!