Last week we looked at M15’s very underwhelming mythic cycle of “Souls,” and after coming to the conclusion that they were far too expensive and inefficient to see much Standard play, Kennen Haas had this to say in the comments:
“I get the sense that some writers are commissioned to hype cards to push sales. Not Jim Davis.”
That’s correct Kennen. All I ever have for you guys is my honest opinion, and I’m a very honest realist by trade who is not overly excitable.
While M15 seems a bit underwhelming as a whole, there are a number of cards that seem pretty sweet, either because they seem good for constructed or just plain fun.
Our first card of the day is one that has been mostly overlooked as a fun card that won’t likely make a splash in constructed, but it reminds me heavily of a three-mana creature that was so dominant it was actually banned in its block format:
The rebel mechanic is a very powerful one despite how slow it may look on the surface. While yes, it does cost three mana and a tap to summon your first one-drop, the thing that is very easy to overlook is that this card is a freeroll. While you are paying for the creature, you are also essentially drawing it too as well as getting a bit of a toolbox effect on top of that.
Imagine Yisan’s ability was worded as this:
2G, Tap, Put a verse counter of Yisan: Draw a creature with a converted mana cost equal to the number of verse counters on Yisan, then play it without paying its mana cost.
Drawing extra cards and circumventing mana costs are two hallmarks of powerful constructed cards, and while Yisan takes a little bit to get going, I’m sure it will see some solid play at some point in the format. Being in the format alongside Chord of Calling also allows for a pretty high amount of creature-based tutoring for a Standard format. If there are any creature-based combos printed in the next few sets, this duo could be well positioned to put them together.
This is another card that people seem to be ignoring, and while its scope is a bit narrower than our first card, the effect is very powerful. Clearly Kalonian Twingrove is going to require a manabase of all Forests, and not many decks are going to be able to support that. However, if you can cast Kalonian Twingrove it represents twelve power spread over two bodies that will only get more powerful as the game goes on. This is extremely threatening. As comparisons to older cards are one of the easiest ways to evaluate new cards, let’s look at another similar card from yesteryear.
Like Kalonian Twingrove, Broodmate Dragon is a powerful pair of creatures for pretty strict mana requirements. While it does have evasion, it is also a fair bit smaller and doesn’t scale as the game goes deep. Broodmate Dragon was a marquee finisher in basically any deck that could cast it when it was Standard legal, and I think people are really sleeping on Kalonian Twingrove. When paired up with some of the already powerful green cards like Eidolon of Blossoms and Courser of Kruphix, and some new goodies like Nissa, Worldwaker, I think that the tools definitely exist to give Kalonian Twingrove a solid home.
This card is sweeeet. Putting a creature on the top or bottom is essentially the same as killing it, making this card a pretty big upgrade on the already playable Evacuation against aggressive decks. This card can make a mess of Pact Rat armies, send protection creatures packing, and deal with large swarms or a few big creatures. Being an instant also plays well with counterspells and instant speed card draw, as if they play a haste creature you can send it packing and if they don’t and you can afford to take the damage you can just draw cards instead. It even deals with Mistcutter Hydra – although admittedly only temporarily.
Unfortunately, the downside to this card is that it could easily be a victim of its own success. Much like we don’t play our fourth creature into a possible Supreme Verdict, a cautious player can choose to leave a few creatures back as to not completely get blown out by Aetherspouts. While this can be somewhat problematic, this can also be pretty awesome if you are buying time as your opponent is choosing not to attack you! In this case, you can just use your mana on something else… may I suggest our next card?
I love this card. Aside from Sphinx’s Revelation, blue has been lacking a powerful, instant speed card draw option for quite a while. Jace’s Ingenuity obviously plays amazing with counterspells, while also providing you with a good amount of raw card draw for the cost. Jace’s Ingenuity is not a flashy or spectacular card, but it’s just the type of role player that does the behind the scenes work necessary to make a deck hum. The first time this card was legal I played a Blue/White Control Deck (surprise surprise) to top 8 of the first PTQ of that season.
Speaking of solid roleplayers, unless there is a powerful colorless land in the fall set (or Darksteel Citadel becomes an extremely important card) we are going to be seeing a lot of this card. Is this card format defining like Mutavault? Absolutely not. But as Mutavault has shown us, it is often quite easy to squeeze a few colorless lands into almost any deck, and gaining two to four free life a game is almost like drawing a card against aggressive decks. This sort of extremely low opportunity cost is very valuable, and something that must be watched.
This is also without considering any synergies at all. This card could very easily slot into decks that want to be casting Thoughtseize and Sign in Blood as a way to gain life back, or could even enable some of the lifegain synergies on cards like Voracious Wurm and Ajani’s Pridemade. In a deck like that it could even end up being as good as or better than Mutavault.
Not every important card from a set is going to be a flashy mythic, and being able to pick out these roleplayers early with give you a quick leg up in the first week of a format.
I’m not gonna lie, I often feel like these kinds of cards appeal to me too much and end up being Jim-Davis-Trap-Cards. Last time they got me with Warrior’s Lesson, and they will probably get me next time too. But for right now I think this card is awesome. This is the kind of synergy based card I love which rewards you for building your deck a certain way and not just jamming a bunch of powerful cards in it. It is cheap, it draws cards, and it is repeatable. Costing just half of a Bident of Thassa, it does have a shallower ceiling but is never overkill.
While it seems like this card would slot right into Mono-Blue Devotion, perhaps in place of Bident, I don’t think it’s a direct port. Military Intelligence asks you to build your deck a certain way, and while it does provide one hard to kill devotion while also liking when creatures attack, I think it is much better suited for a lower mana curve than Mono-Blue Devotion currently has.
What’s really amazing, and what also makes me think Military Intelligence has a very good shot, is that there are currently a whopping four different one-mana evasion creatures in blue to go along with it:
This means that it will not be very difficult to cast a turn 3 Military Intelligence and start drawing cards right away.
While it’s possible that you will follow the Mono-Blue Devotion skeleton, other cards that could easily be considered are Hall of Triumph and Void Snare, and I think it’s very possible that this could form the basis for a new archetype.
This card reminds me of one of my favorite cards ever, Liar’s Pendulum.
Despite only really being playable in limited, Liar’s Pendulum was a joy to play with. With every activation the mind games grew deeper and deeper, until the game within a game was almost more fun than the game itself. The payoff of drawing extra cards was very good, and the cost was cheap and repeatable.
But most importantly, the card was fun and skill testing. Using Liar’s Pendulum was a skill, and it felt like the more you played with it (and against it) the better you got at it. I can recall some players actually choosing to roll a dice to determine their choice rather than guess because they felt like their opponent was that much better than 50/50 at gaming it and it would cut down their edge.
While I don’t really think that Master of Predicaments will be seeing much Standard play any time soon, I do really like the design and think it is a very strong and enjoyable limited card. And who knows? If it makes the jump I will be very excited to play with it.
This guy is a very solid two-drop. Under less than ideal scenarios, he still swings for two, but in the ideal scenarios he can easily do a lot of damage and make for some two-for-ones as well. If you are able to kill an opponent’s creature mid-combat and pump him as a combat trick, that can make for a huge blowout. Even if you just kill a blocker pre-combat, the extra damage is very nice. The haste aspect is also not to be overlooked, as killing a guy on turn 4 after dropping this guy and swinging for an unexpected four damage is pretty awesome.
Nothing really ground breaking, but a solid little beater that will likely be very good against other aggressive decks or creature decks.
Our last card is one I’m not really sure what to make of. On the surface he looks pretty good, but this is a kind of card that has never really taken off:
All of these cards looked pretty good but never really saw any real play at all. The trigger is obviously easy enough to hit with your draw step every turn, and the death trigger also seems like it provides some nice insurance. One of the major issues is that if it dies before ever getting a counter, you really get nothing out of it.
One thing to consider is how well it works with Military Intelligence and our other card we wanted to play in that deck, Hall of Triumph. The former can allow you to trigger it the turn you play it, while the latter helps make the leftover tokens actual threats. While Chasm Skulker is definitely an odd card, I can certainly see it finding a home.
So what did I miss? What sweet cards really jump out at you? What cards are going to have a major impact on Standard and beyond?