Blue mages have troubles with public relations. As someone who dabbles in the blue arts myself, it is hard to admit the truth: blue does not play well with others.
Sure, if you are a blue mage, you can rejoice in countering spells and controlling your opponent. But think about how you are perceived. Think of all that blue has done. Do you know what blue stands for to other mages?
Thievery. Blue mages always take things that don't belong to them. They do this early and often. One moment an opponent summons a creature, and the next the blue mage is the creature's best friend. And blue mages aren't only pilfering creatures...
They'll take any card of yours that's not strapped down. If it is strapped down, blue mages bounce the straps back to your hand, then take it.
It doesn't stop there!
Corruption. Intimidation. Kidnapping. Betrayal. Is there any low a blue mage won't descend to in their pursuit of taking cards you paid hard-earned mana for?
Blue has other talents. Blue is the color of illusion, so blue mages could address their brand issues with an extensive campaign of glamour. Speaking from my own experience in blue magic, however, I'm not sure blue mages have it in themselves to be honest with other mages. To share instead of steal? It doesn't seem very blue.
Rumors are spreading that in Shadows over Innistrad, blue mages are changing their ways. They open their arms to the world. There's a new club and everyone's invited!
The club they opened seems a wee bit like a cult. It appears inviting, but you can tell it's the type of place you enter, but never leave. Well...the blue mages tried, at least. Old habits die hard.
Those are sweet robes, though.
A History of Control
Welcome to the Fold is another addition to the pantheon of great blue "What's yours is mine (and mine alone)" spells. Control Magic has always been a powerful spell, taking a creature from your opponent and giving it to you. A converted mana cost of 4 to take any creature unconditionally is very strong. It gets better the more creature design improves. What's interesting is how high stealing can be priced and still be worth it. In all but the most blazing-fast environments, a converted mana cost of 6 to steal permanents is acceptable, and even five is very reasonable (even too good). If the stealing is part of a threat in its own right, as embodied by Dragonlord Silumgar, that card will become a format all-star. Stripping an opponent of offense and defense while you play your own is a high-value play.
Joining the Club
So where does Welcome to the Fold fit within the realm of "control magic" effects? High, I think. Thievery effects that are permanents themselves give opponents a way to steal their creatures back, but stealing effects that are instants and sorceries are one-way trips. Opponents must now block or remove their own creature, since they can't steal their permanent back with removal.
For four mana, you can steal a creature with toughness 2 or less. That is a healthy range of creatures, including most of Magic Origin's Planeswalkers (though note that, if they flip, they go back to their owner):
Early game, Welcome to the Fold can either nab one of these high-value targets or help slow early aggression. A four-cost Control Magic that takes smaller aggro creatures is not bad, but not overwhelming.
But then: madness! The madness cost allows you to grab a creature with toughness X or less. For four mana, the card works the same as without madness. With madness, though, each land drop increases the size of creature we can take. If we go late enough in the game, we could welcome Ulamog himself into our club (though he keeps exiling the robes—it's getting expensive).
When we trigger madness, we can turn Welcome to the Fold into an instant instead of a sorcery. Any instant-speed discard effect lets you take an opponent's creature on their turn. That is one heck of a combat trick.
The only thing we must do to access this power is enable madness. What is there in Standard now?
Did we already mention Jace? It turns out the Planeswalker was not only voted "most desirable to pilfer," he also enables madness with his ability. Flipping Jace and taking an opponent's creature on their combat step is a powerful play. Chandra, Flamecaller's +0 loyalty ability synergizes with madness, enabling you to filter your hand and take a creature simultaneously. You also cannot forget Liliana, Defiant Necromancer, who can force your opponent to discard with her ability while netting you a creature in the process.
Tormenting Voice is another hard-working madness enabler mid- to late game. Kolaghan's Command can be repurposed to make you discard to trigger madness at instant speed. Oath of Jace works with the planeswalkers we've mentioned. It isn't as practical or flexible, but I can't ignore a card that draws three cards and nets two madness triggers in one turn.
I've mentioned him before, but Dragonlord Silumgar is still going to be in the format, which means control decks have another late game option for taking the best threat an opponent plays on the battle. Reflector Mage looks to have a promising relationship with Welcome to the Fold, too, bouncing a creature for tempo only for you to steal it when it is recast.
I'm excited by Welcome to the Fold. It's a great addition to the pantheon of blue stealing spells. You must invest in the card to make it work, but that investment brings with it a flexible, irreversible, and sometimes instant-speed reversal of fortune.
It's a shame that blue mages aren't cleaning up their act, but sometimes the only way to beat them is to join them.