Khans of Tarkir looms large and with it comes something many of us have been waiting on for a long time. I don't know about you, but I for one can't wait until Return to Ravnica block and M14 to rotate out of Standard. Return to Ravnica Block wasn't a bad block. In fact, I think it was fairly successful as a whole, but when it comes to this time each year, it doesn't really matter how good or bad it was. It's just exciting to get a new set, a new format, and a new chance to break things wide open with a deck or card that nobody was expecting.
I'm sure last year I was excited to see Innistrad block finally rotate out, and I feel that Innistrad was arguably the best set ever from both a Limited and Constructed viewpoint. Change is good. It is why WoTC's announcement to hasten the rotation of Standard formats and hasten new blocks coming out was widely received as a positive.
Also, Lifebane Zombie and Tidebinder Mage rotate out of Standard, and I no longer have to look at those two cards as a scapegoat for why my big, fat, dumb, green creatures weren't seeing enough play. Some people are happy to see Pack Rat go. Personally, I had no issues with Pack Rat. Pack Rat punished people who couldn't interact early in the game or who couldn't put up enough pressure to compete with the clock it provided. Honestly, those kinds of decks really shouldn't be good anyway. We should all be thanking Pack Rat, because it forced us to play good decks. On the other hand, Lifebane Zombie and Tidebinder Mage just punished specific colors, regardless of strategy.
But enough about those cards. I want to focus today on some cards from Theros Block and M15 that are going to stick around that I think stand a great chance of really being sleeper hits. With Fantasy Football season in full swing, you always hear people talking about "sleepers". These are players who nobody really cares about, but they could end up having a huge season if the right conditions end up being met. Sometimes it's worth using a late pick on them. If they make it big, you get to prosper.
Magic has the same kind of thing. Last year, I remember playing Frostburn Weird and Nightveil Specter in a couple of VS Videos. They were forgotten cards, but yet reasonable bodies in Return to Ravnica Block Constructed, and I thought they could maybe do something in the upcoming Standard format. A lot of people attacked me for playing those choices, and not much later, we saw those two exact cards win Pro Tour Theros in Mono-Blue Devotion. Sometimes just because a card didn't perform before doesn't mean it can't perform under new conditions.
Let's take a look at some sleepers that could end up being huge players in the new format.
Quite frankly, Ashiok, Signourney Weaver is a card that I think is pretty bad. Pretty bad, in this Standard format, that is. Ashiok was kind of a jerk in Block Constructed. I lost multiple times at Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx to this card. Theros Block was all about the big monsters. Ashiok is great against big monsters. For one, Ashiok comes down earlier than they do. Secondly, Ashiok has enough loyalty to put those monsters into play on the following turn.
Another reason I expect that Ashiok might shine is Courser of Kruphix. Ashiok being able to put in Courser of Kruphix is powerful enough in its own right, but Ashiok is also a huge powerhouse against Courser of Kruphix. You can sometimes "Courser lock" your opponent out of the game. The way this works is if they have something good on top of their deck, you +2 Ashiok to reset it. If they are about to draw something you don't care about, you simply don't +2 Ashiok and let them draw it the next turn. You can either -X Ashiok, or, my personal favorite, just do nothing. The goggles. Null Rod. Liliana of the Veil when your hand is loaded. Doing nothing is underrated.
Prognasty Sphinx. When it comes to 3/5 Flying Sphinx creatures for 3UU, Prognostic Sphinx is definitely my second favorite, and that says a lot, because there are probably only two ever. Sphinx of Lost Truths, represent!
Prognostic Sphinx was a beating in Block Constructed. I think this card could also be a beating in the new Standard format, for one main reason.
First of all, I think planeswalkers are going to be the new "it" thing. Pithing Needle and Duress are gone. A lot of the high power cards that pressure planeswalkers are gone. Sure, we still have Hero's Downfall, but that is just a way to remove them after they've already done something important, not an actual reason to not play them.
Prognostic Sphinx is great at killing planeswalkers. It's very hard to kill and evasive, which both make it the perfect machine for slaying cards like Elspeth and Xenagos.
This was kind of a do-nothing card in Theros block, as very few cards were multicolor. Khans of Tarkir, on the other hand, is probably going to have a wealth of these kinds of cards. Soldier of the Pantheon had moments where it was a great threat against the multicolor cards in Return to Ravnica Block, and I think it's the kind of card that could end up being huge depending on how Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaans of Tarkir shakes up.
This might be on the looser end of the sleeper spectrum. On the other hand, it seems like the Mardu, or R/B/W wedge, from Khans of Tarkir is going to be an aggressive wedge. I think it will be interesting to see what kinds of cards are in that wedge. If they are like Rakdos Cackler type cards, then Underworld Cerberus is probably going to be too slow to matter. If they are more like Hellrider kind of cards that are a bit slower and beefier but yet still certainly aggressive, then Underworld Cerberus could easily fit in as a top end finisher.
He's impossible to block, and in some circumstances, he is impossible to kill without getting destroyed by his triggered ability. He can be great at slaying planeswalkers and Scavenging Ooze being gone certainly doesn't hurt him.
Supreme Verdict is going the way of the dodo. M15 only gave us cards like Mass Calcify to do the deed. That means we may end up having to rely on Fated Retribution to give us our "kill everything" fix. Fated Retribution being able to kill planeswalkers is huge. Golgari Charm and Boros Charm rotating out of the format is also pretty nice.
It should also be much easier to survive to be able to cast this card in the new format, mainly because without Mutavault legal, decks should be a little slower. Now, if they flood out, you don't also still die anyway. Mutavault also punished wrath effects. In the new format, you should be able to fire this off at will and not have to worry so much about the consequences.
This card feels very much like Sever the Bloodline, which was a card that ended up seeing a decent amount of play from time to time. I expect Silence the Believers to be in the same boat. The card was a sweet one in Block Constructed, and bestow creatures like Boon Satyr and Herald of Torment are likely to see play, providing even more opportunities for value. Silence the Believers has a good chance of being an integral piece to any of the midrange or control strategies in the new format.
Personally, I think this card is excellent. I have always felt that Herald of Torment was underrated. I know this is a recurring theme, but Herald of Torment is a monster when it comes to the art of slaying planeswalkers. It has evasion, which is key, but can also just lift a creature up and over to take care of any of those pesky planeswalkers that might be lurking on the other side of the table.
Herald of Torment also breaks open board stalls and is a great topdeck late in aggressive decks where you just need to find a few more points of damage, but your Tormented Hero isn't exactly stacking up too well against their big baddies. Pack those Destructive Revelries because I think Herald of Torment might just herald in a new era.
This oft-forgot mythic rare may seem a bit out of place on this list. For one, it didn't even see any play in Block Constructed. What makes me think it might have a chance in Standard, a bigger and badder format yet? The answer is that it's a hasty and evasive flier. I think that Flame-Wreathed Phoenix into Stormbreath Dragon might end up being a poor but still viable imitation of Falkenrath Aristocrat into Thundermaw Hellkite, a start that struck fear in Standard players last year. Providing a reasonably-sized flying body and then following it up the next turn with another haste flier can really output a ton of hurting.
This card was right at home in the BUG shells from Theros Block Constructed. It could lock down a Stormbreath Dragon or just provide some needed card advantage along the way. Kiora ticks up to ultimate rather fast, and her ultimate is usually game over. Considering that BUG (or Sultai) is now a wedge in Khans of Tarkir, it might help Kiora out immensely. Black cards really help to protect Kiora, and Sylvan Caryatid is a great way to ramp into her on turn 3. If Sultai provides any level of support, I think we have a good shot of seeing Kiora do some sweet things in the new Standard format.
Another oft-forgot mythic. Another sleeper. I think this card stands to gain a lot in the new format. For one, unless Khans has a wrath effect like Supreme Verdict, Prophetic Flamespeaker is definitely going to provide a lot of lasting value each time it connects. If you hit something like a land and a creature, you don't have to worry about losing that value if your opponent just untaps and casts something like Supreme Verdict. Also, if Mardu ends up being a more midrange-oriented aggressive shard, then Flamespeaker could really be a huge card advantage engine when combined with removal spells and other powerful effects. Some Jund lists in Modern have started running the card for that reason, and we could easily see the same thing start to happen in Standard.
I also want to say that I really like the interaction between Hammerhand and Prophetic Flamespeaker. Hammerhand effectively pumps the power by two, and also helps to ensure that you get in at least one hit. Even if they have something like a Sylvan Caryatid that can still block post Hammerhand, you at least get to trample over for one and get a card out of the mix.
I'm not sure this constitutes as a sleeper, but let's go with it anyway. I think Mana Confluence is going to be big. If Wedges start to push decks into playing three colors, those decks are going to need cards like Mana Confluence or they will risk having all of their lands come into play tapped, which can be a huge detriment to not falling behind. Mana Confluence certainly has a big downside, but the format might be such that you don't get punished for doing too much damage to yourself. If that's the case, I expect to see this as a three- or four-of in a lot of the major decks.
I think this card is really awesome. I don't have any information that suggests it becomes better or worse when the new set comes out, but I will say that I just think Hornet Nest is a fantastic card in a lot of matchups, and I wouldn't be surprised if it started to see more and more play as people start to learn how hard it is to beat for a lot of decks. This isn't so much of a sleeper as just a card that is currently underrated that I think will become more prevalent as we move forward.
I was honestly surprised I heard nothing about this card for the Pro Tour or even since that point. It is very similar in power level to Planar Cleansing, and in a lot of cases, much, much better. For one, you can stick it down early and just forget about it until you need to use it. Secondly, it can handle problems that Planar Cleansing can't touch, such as cards like Gods. It is more expensive overall than Planar Cleansing, so it makes for a much worse topdeck, but simply putting it down into play can make your opponent have a really hard time playing correctly around it. If they flood the board, they get wrecked. If they play too conservatively, your other cards can pull you ahead.
I wouldn't be surprised at all if this card ends up becoming a go-to reset for control decks. It also seems that B/G/W or Junk, or Abzan as it is now called, ends up wanting a card like this. It seems like B/G/W is going to be a control shard in Khans, and this is a great colorless control card that doesn't push you into playing Blue. Perilous Vault and Fated Retribution means that you don't have to play Blue to play control and can maybe experiment with other color combinations.
While this article was done to highlight sleeper cards that I think might end up being more important in the new format, I would be remiss if I didn't close with a couple of cards I think might end up being "stinkers." These are cards that will probably lose some value with the format change.
Goodbye, Sacred Foundry.
Goodbye Standard legality. We won't miss you!
What do you think? Are there any sleepers I missed? I didn't include cards like Stormbreath Dragon or Xenagos, the Reveler that already see plenty of play. I just wanted to focus on some of the lesser played cards that might end up being quite good moving forward. Let me know what cards you think may end up being silent killers from Theros block or M15.