"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."
-Sir Kenneth Robinson
I've used that quote for this type of article before, and as you can see, I've chosen to use it again.
Because those words are incredibly true when dissecting a brand new set of Magic cards. It's incredibly easy to point out the great cards like Boros Charm. It is a real skill to find the diamonds in the rough that people are overlooking.
And today is my best attempt to do that.
White: Frontline Medic
My decision was between this and Gideon, Champion of Justice, but it didn't take me long to figure out that Frontline Medic is the better white card in the set. The reason why is quite simple:
With Frontline Medic, I know exactly what I'm getting. With Gideon, Champion of Justice, I do not.
1.) A 3/3 for three mana. In this day and age, no one is really impressed with a 3/3 for three mana (thanks a lot, Loxodon Smiter). But then again, there isn't anything wrong with those stats either. Human decks have long since relied on Silverblade Paladin to be their three-mana weapon of choice, so it is nice to have something to supplement that spot on their curve or a brand new alternative altogether.
2.) Battalion. This new mechanic is one of pure upside. I'm not convinced that it is going to come up very often, but when it does, you will likely be glad that it did. With white's ability to swarm the opponent (Gather the Townsfolk, Lingering Souls, Midnight Haunting), I could see this ability being a lot better than it is being given credit for.
3.) Take THAT Sphinx Revelation! I don't know about you, but I've grown quite tired of seeing Sphinx's Revelation dominate Standard in the hands of great Magic players like Reid Duke and Gerry Thompson.
Well, we finally have our answer, albeit a conditional one.
I believe the threat of slowing down a Sphinx's Revelation is more than enough to warrant a few copies of Frontline Medic in any white-based aggressive deck. And keep in mind that this guy can make casting Bonfire of the Damned, Aurelia's Fury, and Clan Defiance difficult as well.
Blue: Simic Manipulator
When I first saw this card, it immediately reminded me of another card:
Simic Manipulator and Callous Oppressor are very different cards, but it is my belief that Simic Manipulator will shine in the exact situations where Callous Oppressor did: creature mirrors where removal is non-existent.
There's no need to run out the door to grab Simic Manipulator, but it's a card to keep in mind moving forward because it provides an effect that no other card in Standard can duplicate:
A reusable Control Magic.
Black: Illness in the Ranks
It seems that every time I write these set reviews, I have difficulty finding a black card that can shake things up. For Avacyn Restored, it was horribly obvious that Griselbrand was the best black card. For M13, the choices were Liliana of the Dark Realms (underwhelming and slow), Mutilate (Mono-Black Control isn't playable), and the card I selected, Disciple of Bolas (didn't fit into Zombies like I thought it would).
Gatecrash has the same problem.
Crypt Ghast does exist, but I don't think a four mana 2/2 that you have to untap with to begin to get the return on your four mana investment is really going to light the world on fire.
Killing Glare is an interesting new removal spell, but I can't imagine it being much better than Death Wind, a card that is seeing very little Constructed play (though Killing Glare is really good at killing Spellskite for Modern purposes).
In the end, I settled on Illness in the Ranks due to how well it lines up against Lingering Souls. It also does an admirable job of shutting down Splinter Twin decks in Modern because the Pestermite copies will have zero toughness and the Deceiver Exarch copies will have zero power.
Can we get black some good cards?
At Grand Prix San Antonio, I finished in 67th place on tiebreakers playing Mono-Red Aggro. Three of my losses came to Bant Control. During that tournament, I kept thinking to myself, "Flames of the Bloodhand would be unbelievable in my deck if it were legal."
I guess someone heard me...
Skullcrack is the card that I believe puts Mono-Red and other red-based aggressive strategies over the top. Thragtusk and Sphinx's Revelation are incredibly frustrating cards to play against—not for the effect that they provide, but because of the life gain that is conveniently (perhaps inconveniently) tacked on. Now that there's a way to make the important part of those cards irrelevant, look for red-based aggressive strategies to rise to the top of the standings beginning with the SCG Standard Open: Atlanta.
Green: Experiment One
When I first saw this card, I thought it was really cool from a flavor standpoint and a great way to showcase evolve. But then, on an episode of Gamestate, my partner Stephen Flavall pointed out something I had overlooked:
Creature - Human Ooze
My mind was blown.
I had assumed that its creature type was anything but Human, but with that not being accurate, everything changed. G/W Humans is a deck that has been lacking an additional one-drop for some time now (I have found Avacyn's Pilgrim to be quite underwhelming), and I believe this is the one it was looking for.
And one more thing...
Do not ignore the ability to regenerate this card. Excluding Terminus, most of the commonly played removal in Standard allows you to regenerate successfully. That ability is very real and will be very useful moving forward.
Orzhov: Beckon Apparition
With the addition of Godless Shrine and Orzhov Guildgate, I expect B/W Tokens to become a very popular strategy in the coming months. And if that thought is correct, not only does Beckon Apparition give that archetype a way to make a creature in the early turns of the game, but it gives the deck a way to interact with the opponent in a unique fashion.
Take a brief look at the cards Beckon Apparition has an effect on:
- Faithless Looting
- Unburial Rites (or whatever it is targeting)
- Think Twice
- Whatever Snapcaster Mage is targeting
- Lingering Souls
- The undying mechanic
- Any Rancor that briefly hits the graveyard
There isn't anything particularly fancy about Beckon Apparition, but what it lacks in style it certainly makes up for in effectiveness if you are looking for the effect it provides.
And I have a feeling we will begin to.
Dimir: Lazav, Dimir Mastermind
It's hard for me to explain why I think this card is so good, but I'm convinced that it is. After seeing the dominance of Cloning effects in the previous Standard format (Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph), I will never overlook them again. And while I know this card isn't on the power level of either of those cards (those two cards really pushed the limit of what is possible for Cloning effects), Lazav is one of the most unique Cloning effects of all time.
I spent a few hours trying to think of positive ways to abuse this card. Liliana of the Veil, a card that is criminally underplayed in Standard right now, was the first one that jumped to mind, and I'm sure there are a handful of others that I am completely overlooking.
Just remember that anything that has hexproof and says "put into a graveyard from anywhere" should never be overlooked.
I'm excited to see this one in action.
Gruul: Ghor-Clan Rampager
The hype is real.
Rarely do you see a card that is all upside, but that is exactly what Ghor-Clan Rampager is. A 4/4 for four is becoming the norm in Magic nowadays, but it being in Gruul as opposed to Dimir like Duskmantle Seer is what makes all the difference. Aggressive starts backed by this monster instead of Huntmaster of the Fells will be common moving forward, and the bloodrush effect will take some getting used to for opponents to play around.
And if you don't have it in your hand for bloodrush when you attack? It sure makes for one helluva bluff.
Huntmaster of the Fells, I think your days are numbered.
Boros: Boros Reckoner
See, it's not that Pyreheart Wolf is a bad card. It has actually been a pleasant surprise over the past few months. It's that Boros Reckoner is just a perfect three-drop for Mono-Red Aggro decks moving forward.
To my knowledge, we have never had this effect on a creature that is so aggressively costed. Yes, we did have Spitemare many moons ago, but that was four mana and was easily outclassed in a format full of tribal decks. In combination with Lightning Mauler, Boros Reckoner is absolutely frightening.
Spitemare also couldn't magically gain first strike...
With the addition of Skullcrack and Boros Reckoner, I've got a pretty good idea exactly how good Mono-Red Aggro is about to become.
Simic: Simic Charm
Boros Charm this is not, but it does come pretty close. Where Boros Charm is unrelenting, Simic Charm is flexible. All three effects on Simic Charm (Giant Growth, Ranger's Guile, and Unsummon) have seen Constructed play at some time or another. And while this is an overcosted version of those effects, I believe having them all wrapped up in one card is worth that extra mana.
Again, this isn't a card that I expect to knock your socks off, but it is one that I expect to slowly creep up on people as Standard moves along, much like Selesnya Charm did.
Keep in mind that players were trying very hard to make U/G Delver work last season even though the mana wasn't there. With Hinterland Harbor, Breeding Pool, and Simic Guildgate available, now might be the time to dust off those Delver of Secrets and Quirion Dryads.
Hopefully, this provided some insight into the non-Boros Charm cards out there. A lot of people have been saying that Gatecrash is a weak Constructed set, but I beg to differ. Much like Return to Ravnica before it, we must dig a little bit deeper than the obvious cards to find out what will really shape the format.
Remember, most of us missed Sphinx's Revelation.
I wish you the best of luck at your Gatecrash Prerelease!