I saved the best color in Mercadian Masques, green, for last. Wizards seems determined to strengthen green to quiet the "Green Sucks" critics. They're getting there.
Let's talk about the new creatures, always green's strength. Deadly Insect is back. Back in the day (of Ice Age/Alliances) this creature had a whole R/G deck built around it, commonly known as "Bugbind." This deck removed blockers with direct damage and Icy Manipulators (gee, good thing they didn't reprint that card) then put the hurt on opponents with this 4G 6/1 untargetable insect. I wonder, though, since we never saw Citanul Centaur played, which is really a better version of this creature whether this creature will have the same impact. Deepwood Drummer is a Spellshaper that turns your extra cards into mini-Giant Growths (oxymoron alert). Deepwood Elder is a fascinating green control card. It's a 2/2 for GG with the ability to turn X lands into Forests by tapping, paying XGG, and pitching a card. This ability doesn't impress people, but I think it has some merit, plus being a 2/2 for 2, beatdown is unimpeded by the inclusion of this card. You could even save your Treetop Villages from creature removal for three mana and a card. There's some early buzz about Dawnstrider, the 1/1 Spellshaper for 1G that taps for a G to allow you to turn all your cards into Fogs. Zvi Mowshowhatshisname on the Dojo (all hail the almighty, omniscient, font of all Magic wisdom) was getting all misty about this card, in combination with Diplomatic Immunity, citing this was a combo that would make you virtually invincible, except maybe if your opponent was playing Powder Keg (I'd like to respectfully add...or Wrath of God, Engineered Plague, Tremor, Fault Line, Cave In, Steam Blast, Wildfire, Warmonger, Jokulhaups, etc.). This deck was tried with Peacekeeper from Weatherlight by a certain Canadian former two-time national champion, with what might be charitably called "mixed" (bad and humiliating) results but, hey, good enough for Zvi, good enough for me. Right?
Hunted Wumpus, without question, is excellent. A 6/6 for 3G that allows your opponent to put a creature from their own hand into play, it's certain to see action in a new Wumpageddon deck. Just make sure you play with Elvish Lyrists to prevent blue theft. Another card for this deck is Lumbering Satyr, a 5/4 for 2GG that gives all creatures forestwalk. MOO! Since you're going to Armageddon next turn anyway, who cards about forestwalk. Is this the new Ehrnam Djinn we've been waiting so long for? Might be. Some have said they like the five toughness of Ernie better, but with only a couple of cards like Thunderclap (sucks) as instant sources of three damage (to creatures only, for 2R), instead of Lightning Bolt or Incinerate or Pyrokinesis (why didn't they bring that one back?), in this environment, four toughness is good enough. Do you think Rancor would work on this creature? Hmm, a turn four 7/4 trampler. MOOO.
Squallmonger's up next. It's a 3/3 for 3G that allows any player to spend two as often as they like to deal one damage to all players and fliers. Green has no fliers worth a damn. Green is weak in the direct damage department. See where I'm going with this? Plus, a I pointed out with Scandalmonger, you get the 3/3.
Another beast is Megatherium, the 4/4 trampler for 2G that makes you pay one for each card in your hand when you cast it or you must sac it. Like green has any trouble with either emptying it's hand or making lots of mana. It might not come out as fast as Cradle Guard, but a 4/4 trampler for 2G is a good creature draw almost any time, and not having to pay echo is a bonus. Then there's Rushwood Elemental, a 4/4 trampler for GGGGG that gets +1/+1 every upkeep. This creature is so good, I'm almost afraid to play it.
Green's Legate isn't bad (2/1 for 2G or free if you control a Forest and your opponent controls an Island). Speaking of ACC, green has an ACC creature, the Vine Dryad. This 1/3 forestwalker can be cast for 3G or by removing a green card from your hand from the game. Not only that, it can be cast as an instant. Not bad. A sure-fire tournament-worthy card is Vine Trellis, an 0/4 wall for 1G that you can tap for a G. Solid defense, fast mana, too bad it's not an elf.
Non-creature green stars are a bit scarcer. Desert Twister, the all-purpose green removal spell since Arabian Nights, is back. Bifurcate, the 3G sorcery that allows you to search your library for a copy of a creature in play and put it in play, seems interesting. If you have one Child of Gaea, you can get another. Hey, it's the answer to Bribery. They Bribery your best creature, you Bifurcate it. Collective Unconscious has some early buzz to it. For 4GG, you can cast this sorcery to draw a card for each creature you control. This card is the most likely to be broken, especially in an Enchantress deck (the other can't-miss deck, according to the Dojo). Food Chain, the 2G enchantment that lets you sac a creature for X mana plus one any color, where X is the converted mana cost of the sacked creature, is also getting some interest. I dislike cards that don't work by themselves and cards that offer your opponent potential card advantage. If your opponent offs the creature produced by Food Chain, they're getting two for one, unless you're sacking a Weatherseed Treefolk, and why on earth would you sac that. Actually, it's ability to sac a creature as a fast effect is probably it's best asset, providing you with a free response to Treachery or Abduction, which everybody loves to use on green. Use the mana to pop out some Simian Grunts, or a Vine Dryad. Even taking mana burn is better than getting your ass kicked by your own Thorn Elemental. Trust me. Vernal Equinox, a 3G enchantment that lets you play creature and enchantment spells and instants, plays very well with Food Chain.
I really like Land Grant, a 1G sorcery that lets you search your library for a Forest and put it in your hand. It's ACC, which makes it free to cast if you reveal that you have no land in your hand, is amazing. Substitute Land Grant for four forests in a Stompy type deck. It thins your deck and it works really well in the land light green decks, or after you Armageddon in G/W. I'm so excited about this card. In extended, you can play five-color green with ease. Play it with Exploration for real mana acceleration. "Forest, Exploration, Land Grant, Forest, Elf." Three mana on turn one, woo-hoo. I like Revive, a Regrowth for green cards only. In a mono-green deck, who cards?
Tiger Claws is one of the best of the new local enchantments you can play as an instant. +1/+1 and trample for 1G. Yes. Better than Rancor? Remains to be seen.
Lands and Artifacts
Last, there are lands and artifacts. The storage lands won't see any more play than their Fallen Empire equivalents ever did, despite a modest improvement. Forget about them. The lands with the depletion counters are more interesting. I'd definitely try some of the green and white ones in an Armageddon deck, or the red ones in a Jokuhlhaups deck, or with Tectonic Break. Now, if you could remove both depletion counters at once...
Henge of Ramos is marginally playable if you're playing a deck that produces lots of mana and you want to splash some off-color spells, because it taps for colorless and for two mana and a tap, produces a mana of any color. I like it in a mono-brown, Wildfire-type deck, because you can use the colorless mana to cast your artifact mana early, then use the artifact mana to make different colored mana. Or I could play City of Brass and take damage, I suppose.
Dust Bowl which, in addition to producing colorless mana, for three and a tap lets you sac a land to destroy a non-basic land, might be useful since Wasteland is going out. You could always sac the Dust Bowl. Not that great.
High Market, on the other hand, is some good. It taps for colorless, but more importantly, it taps to sac a creature to give you a life. Under Sixth Edition rules, this card might be as good as Diamond Valley was under the old rules, because you get to block with a creature and put damage on a stack, then sac it for a life. Again, in green, it keeps your creatures safe from theft, and that's all you care about. I like it. It's the [insert echo effect here] new Diamond Valley. There, I said it.
Tower of the Magistrate can give your creatures protection from artifacts for one and a tap. Here's how I like to give my creatures protection from artifacts: destroy the offending artifact. Don't play games (thematic oxymoron alert) with Masticore. Splinter Masticore, Eradicate Masticore, Treachery Masticore, Pillage Masticore, Arrest Masticore. Don't play some wussy land and spend your time tapping and screwing around giving your creature protection from artifacts. It doesn't usually work and all your friends will laugh at you behind your back. Beer god has spoken.
Last, but not least, we have artifacts. Let me jump right in to the debate about the worth of the new artifact mana sources, XXXXX of Ramos (Skull, Eye, Ear, Nose, Toe and Butt, I think). For three, you get an artifact you can tap for a mana of a certain color and/or sac the artifact for an additional mana of that color. I like this better in some colors than in others. In blue, which hates to tap out of anything, but greatly benefits from the extra mana artifacts can provide, Eye of Ramos allows you to tap out on turn three to cast it but lets you have two blue in case you need to Counterspell something in an emergency. Unfortunately, you probably will have to do this, and then it's two-for-one again. Wildfire would rather have Worn Powerstone, I'm afraid, and that says it all for these artifacts, if a heavy artifact deck doesn't want them. That said, I'm still not convinced they are terrible. They're typical Mercadian Masques cards, interesting, possibly useful, but in general, unexciting.
Magistrate's Scepter contradicts what I just wrote. Costing three, this artifact gains a charge counter for spending four and tapping. Then, by removing three charge counters and tapping, you get another turn! I guess Votaic Key's going to be banned soon, so I won't get too excited. Even so, I like this card very much. It might be the best artifact in the set.
Boldo likes General's Regalia, which for three, allows you to pay three to redirect damage from on source from you to one of your creatures. I guess that's O.K., but unless you've got Cho-Manno in play, you may end up killing one of your creatures and that's card disadvantage. I'm not sure about this one.
Monkey's Cage is strong in a green deck. I'd sure like to cast it for five, then next turn cast some five or six cc creature and get that number of 2/2 Ape tokens to play.
Power Matrix is sweet. For four casting cost, you can tap this artifact to give any of your creatures +1/+1, first strike, flying and trample until the end of turn. That's enough to make almost any lame-o creature good.
The rest of the artifacts have very specific uses, but they all aren't very interesting or they're too expensive, or just stupid. Iron Lance, which costs tow to cast and then allows you for three and a tap to give a target creature first strike and, well, actually, that's it. Just pay two more and get Power Matrix. In most weenie decks, by the time you get to four mana, that's probably the best spell you can cast. Not only that, your cheap weenies, if they haven't won for you by now, need all the help they can get, not just first strike. They need to fly and trample and get pumped, also.