It was to be a turn like no other. Easily the most spectacularly exciting turn taken by any player in the Grand Prix. Easily. My library was whittled down, as I had withstood a pair of five coster Jace planeswalkers and he still had an active Nephalia Drownyard. Lots of threats down. Gears were turning. I would have to use every part of the buffalo on this one.
On my turn, I began the long climb up.
He tanked for a moment before asking, "Card?"
Ah, I thought. He knows I know he has Thragtusk. I really wish I had two of these things!
Hard to complain, given than I had already gotten him for Sphinx's Revelations; "Dissipate," I responded.
He had a Dissipate. Yus! I took the other three from his deck and made note of his singleton Negate and a couple of other relevant and / or weird cards. Coast, though, looked to be clear. It's a race now, and you only have one turn to win it.
At the end of my turn, he played the Thragtusk with Alchemist's Refuge and gave my deck another three-card rattle.
On his upkeep, I used Tribute to Hunger to prevent a Thragtusk attack. He drew his card and said, "Go."
All right. Time for some excitement.
My board at this point included a Liliana of the Dark Realms that was fighting through a Pithing Needle (he had perhaps understandably named "Liliana of the Veil"), Staff of Nin #1 under a Detention Sphere, Staff of Nin #2 under a different Detention Sphere, and a third, operational, Staff of Nin... And a bazillion lands. However, especially with his recent Thragtusk, he had a bazillion (call it 29) life.
My plan was to clear his hand (which included a Terminus he could run at instant speed) with a Rakdos's Return for eight, Mutilate his token, activate my Rakdos Keyrune, give it +X/+X with Liliana, and do the final point of damage with my Staff of Nin (I had been pinging him with Staff of Nin throughout, of course).
It was going to be exciting!
… But such an exciting flurry could only be contained by a defense of equally spectacular excitement. After Mutilating the token and getting all ready for the huge pre-attack Rakdos's Return...
He showed me an instant speed Witchbane Orb.
"Wow. I guess I ping you in response."
Had I seven cards in my deck instead of [now] six, I could have run runner +X/+X suicide activations with Liliana in play and Liliana in hand (which would have been slightly less exciting but still exciting) and still won... But even with the bottom-of-the-pile Keyrune, I only had the six, and he killed me prior to my next attack.
That's about how the Grand Prix went for me (though I did go 6-2 in the fake PTQ the next day, which was won by Owen Turtenwald); aka "I'm the best."
So what's exciting out of Gatecrash?
Can we find a reindeer-drawn sleigh to Magical Christmasland in the second set of the world-covering City of Guilds?
How about five? How about five-and-a-half?
You will love Blind Obedience.
You will joyously play Blind Obedience.
See how that works? Blind Obedience!
I think this card is like Rest in Peace, which is quietly spectacular (especially as a sideboard card). First blush objection might be that it costs you a card but not them a card... But then you start to see how powerful it is against certain opponents.
At the very least, this card punches the starch out of guys like Hellrider, setting them up for Supreme Verdict and Terminus (or even Detention Sphere) nicely. Never again will your Lingering Souls die a grisly death to the 187 on a Thundermaw Hellkite. (Not actually true, but you know what I mean.)
Offensively, your opponent's freshly cast Thragtusk will be a non-factor; you go Obzedat! You go right across The Red Zone. Nobody's going to be blocking you. No Restoration Angel shenanigans, neither.
For a moment, I was envisioning a really spectacular extort grind in the hands of a guy like Shaheen Soorani. Everything that starts off fair stutters but profits. A real "get rich slowly" take; an actually unfair Tavern Swindler. It's not like they're going anywhere with Blind Obedience down. Spectacular, this drip-by-drip bleeding. Then again, I thought Mike Fratello basketball (where no one on either side scored whatsoever) was fun to watch. Everyone is going to be moving at the speed of sludge, but you are built to profit in that environment. Come on Shaheen! Excitement! Then I remembered Shaheen wouldn't play Preordain.
Because everybody loves hexproof!*
Given the movements in both Standard and Modern, I am actually wondering how blatantly unplayable a 3/3 "vanilla" hexproof for four mana might be. It doesn't seem that blatant to me. You might just want more hexproof!
I think Lazav might make for some strange synergies with upgraded tools. What kind of weird odd couple / slash / RoCo might we have with Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, Geist of Saint Traft, and Ethereal Armor? Black over green? Spectral Flight is still in-colors, and while you might lose Rancor, you can kind of build a slow—almost Orzhov—ladder to Ethereal Armor dominance on the backs of Blind Obedience (sideboard) but certainly Detention Sphere, Oblivion Ring, and the like.
That's a route, but probably not what is getting you all excited.
You can just tap out for this against a deck without Selesnya Charm and probably be at liberty to block. Come mid-game, you can easily be fielding a hexproof, high octane, high option Thundermaw Hellkite (or whatever) that can upgrade or downshift as needed.
The most exciting thing to me is that this card really is the realization of everything Jamie Wakefield has railed against—justifiably or no—for the last sixteen or so years. Your [green] opponent really will be investing in more expensive and more blatantly powerful or exciting cards, and you will just be milling or otherwise killing them...and profiting. The four mana "neener neener neener try to kill me" investment on this really does kill me. It's hilarious. From your side of the table.
Before Pro Tour Charleston, the Ravnica Block Team Constructed Pro Tour, Brian Weissman told me to try Muse Vessel. I tried it and medium liked it. I sided it in Charleston in my Orzhov midrange deck, and it won me a couple of matches against more powerful blue control or five-color haymaker decks.
The best game of Magic I ever played was probably against a U/R/W Firemane Angel deck. I ground him down slowly with the Muse Vessel. At first he was giving me lands, and at some point the lands he had given me got me to the point that I could cast even his extravagant cards. I was tapping his Boros Garrison to play his Lightning Helix to kill his Firemane Angel!
Muse Vessel gave me card advantage; it slowed the game down to the point that I could borrow the greater strength of his deck without committing overmuch from my side. I made him answer it before he could beat me. And even when he did? If he did? I was so far ahead.
Part of what made my best game so best was that I caught myself with three mana open, staring down a Firemane Angel. I had a Mortify in hand and the Level One snap decision would have been to kill it. I caught myself and took a few hits from the Angel. I realized once he had gotten his feet more on the ground, I might have to answer a Debtors' Knell, and I would need the Mortify. Using largely his tools, I found a better way to deal with the Angel and stayed ahead of what might have been a lethal Demonfire.
Nightveil Specter—for probably obvious reasons—is very reminiscent of Muse Vessel for me. And like Muse Vessel, I think it will be the kind of card I figure out how to get a good advantage with while most people dismiss it.
A 2/3 black creature in Standard is surprisingly hard to deal with. I think that is part of what makes Vampire Nighthawk circa the #3 creature in Standard... It does way more work than its mana, trades up against everything, and there are only a couple of common ways to deal with it explicitly. It races everything! Sure, you can Searing Spear a Nightveil Specter, but unlike Vampire Nighthawk, you can't Ultimate Price it.
On the other hand, it is going to—perhaps quietly—build you to advantage after advantage until all of a sudden you are casting their Thundermaw Hellkite / Garruk, Primal Hunter / Angel of Serenity. It is going to double your chances of hitting land drops and multiply your options. Depending on how different your opponent's deck is from yours, you may find yourself seemingly playing Cube. After all, you get to pick which—and whose—lands you play.
… All while clocking.
Interestingly, I almost feel like blue decks are going to feel like they have "something better to do" than this, so Nightveil Specter will be played in MBC or thereabouts, hanging with Liliana of the Dark Realms, Orzhov white splashes, or thereabouts... All of which is fine with (even "exciting") for YT.
Well that card is realistic.
In Standard, Garruk, Primal Hunter is considered a very powerful drop. You play it on turn 4-5 and make a 3/3, then you make a Thragtusk, draw five, and still have your five coster planeswalker. Or maybe it takes you some time to cobble the GGG together because you have all Avacyn's Pilgrims and Cavern of Souls. So you already have the Thragtusk in play and it's just the world's best Harmonize. One is better; the other still quite good.
How many eye-rolling guttural curses do you think we are going to see on camera this season when Prime Speaker Zegana starts following Thragtusk on the 5-to-6—or for the love of Morphling 4-to5—green turn sequences?
Casually pay six for a 6/6 one-
man one- woman one-fish one-sided Wheel of Fortune? If all you have is a Huntmaster of the Fells or Restoration Angel, it's still "fine"… Whatever body + Ancestral Recall (in a deck with Restoration Angel good lord) is still "fine"-plus.
This card is quickly going to be on the short list for best creature in Standard, at least for some mages... But honestly, what do you expect in this format for a six cost creature?
Here's a totally different angle:
This past summer, by "virtue" of their not-stellar roster decisions in recent years, the once indomitable Detroit Pistons obtained a Top 10 draft pick, which they used on big man Andre Drummond. Preseason scouting and analysis put Drummond on being a potentially excellent rebounder but bad at everything else; the main basketball blog I follow graded the pick a D+.
In the first half of his rookie season, Drummond has shown the world just how good a rebounder he can be. Though limited by rookie minutes, Andre has proven himself essentially twice as productive as the next two to three rookies, all of whom are on the short list for Rookie of the Year honors. I've only watched Drummond play one game, but he struck me as Tyson Chandler in the Dallas-over-Heat series... Clearly the best player in his team... With no announcer taking notice.
Patrick Sullivan—himself probably a bigger basketball fan than I am—has an interesting take. In any draft, there are only going to be a few guys who have a chance to really _matter_. You can dicker over which shooting guard is one basis point more productive than which other shooting guard, or you can "reach" on a player like Drummond who might really matter. Sure, he might blow up on you... But maybe he gives you fireworks instead. Drummond—according to the Rain Maker—was the rare guy who might really matter. Either way, the pick could be explosive!
That's how I feel about Cloudfin Raptor. Like Drummond and his rebounding, the little 0/1 evolver has all of one thing going for him... But it's a doozie. He costs U. He is an aggressive creature that costs U. Do you remember the general lack of fanfare around Delver of Secrets early on? I'm telling you, Cloudfin Raptor might be one of the rare guys who matters, and we already know what success looks like.
How about a simple curve from Invisible Stalker (evolve) into Geist of Saint Traft (evolve)... Into the Geist's attacking Angel token (BTW evolve)? By turn 4, your one mana investment has already given you a 3/4... And it will evolve again with the next Geist attack!
This card can ride the toughness of an Augur of Bolas and will likely get incidental double friendly with Restoration Angel. This is an article about getting excited about something... Don't let the maybe bad of plucking a doughnut-sized Cloudfin Raptor in topdeck mode cloud your perceptions of its possible contributions when played on curve.
In a set of such wonders and potential powerhouses, it is Cloudfin Raptor that I think might be the biggest candidate for Cross-Format All-Star. After all, for a little guy with only one thing going for him... It is a pretty substantial something.
Honorable Mention: Flinthoof Boar
Combined with a Stomping Ground Flinthoof Boar becomes a kind of split card Watchwolf / Boggart Ram-Gang... And both of those 3/3 creatures were good enough to perform and even dominate in Standard decks. Flinthoof Boar is in fact easier to cast than either.
I think it will be better in "red" decks than "green" ones because the green in the upper-right corner of the card is non-specific while the body text is quite specific. That is, I think you will be happier playing Flinthoof Boar on an untapped Rootbound Crag turn 2 with a Rakdos Cackler in play or perhaps to topdeck it any time later in the same deck surrounded by Mountains than—likely—in any deck that plays more than two basic Forests. Flinthoof Boar doesn't care if mommy made G with a Rootbound Crag, Cavern of Souls, or—gasp—Guildgate...but despite being ostensibly green, he likes Mountains quite a bit more than Forests.
It's not easy being green.
There you go. You were probably already excited about Gatecrash, but here are five-and-a-half more reasons; hopefully some of them were thought provoking, potentially myelin building, or at least pattern breaking.
* Disclaimer: It is possible that not "everybody" actually "loves" hexproof.