For many, new set season is the best time of the year. I can't say I disagree. I love looking at new cards and brewing with them, thinking about how they slot into existing decks or creating new ones. I just hate writing articles about it all. That may seem weird, but the rationale behind it is fairly simple. I just dislike writing a lot about things that I don't know much about.
When a new set comes out, all of the talk surrounding it is just speculation, at least until we start to play some events and see some results. Up to that point, we are effectively just spinning our wheels without any real understanding of what we're talking about. We always overhype some cards and miss others. Our decklists are usually flawed in some capacity. Some will require tuning and updates and others simply end up not being playable.
Although we aren't doing it on purpose, it feels like we are lying to the audience. We talk about how awesome some new card is and then it ends up being unplayable. We post five decklists in our article with new cards and none of them end up being worthy options in the new format. It's a good exercise in brewing and thinking critically about new cards, but ultimately we are just kind of throwing darts at a wall and hoping one of them sticks.
That said, I'm going to try to tackle some of the new cards and give my honest opinions of them. Does it have what it takes to make it in Standard, or is it destined to be a “wasn't quite good enough?” For the most part, I'm going to stick to talking about cards I have personally had the chance to play with or at least seen played. I prefer it that way, and I'm hoping that you will as well since it's going to be a more realistic look at these cards.
Keep in mind that right now we are at the apex of Standard. There are currently eight legal Standard sets, yet in a few months that number is cut significantly down to five. Very few cards from Magic Origins are going to be good enough to cut it in an eight-set Standard format, but a lot more are going to make it in a fiver. So let's keep that in mind as we take a dangerous foray into the world of whether these cards are the new hotness, or for some of them... the new notness.
First up, the creature-turned-planeswalker group. Giddyeon up.
I had the chance to play with this card and I really enjoyed it. This is only the second one-mana planeswalker they've ever printed, and Deathrite Shaman was mislabeled as a creature and is banned in Modern. This is also presented as a creature, but it's surprisingly easy to flip Kytheon and turn him into Gids McGee, Planeswalker Dundee.
Gideon actually has three relevant abilities on the backside. After Gideon, Champion of Justice, I had low expectations for this Gideon. Gideon is one of my favorite planeswalkers and I was worried about this just being Champion of Justice part two. Thankfully, I don't think that's the case. If you flip Kytheon, you'll actually get something useful.
Unfortunately, it's easy to forget that we're still living in a world of Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix. Trying to make it with white 2/1 creatures is not a realistic idea in this format. I'm pretty sure that this card simply won't see play until after rotation. We'll have a chance to reevaluate it then.
Verdict: Currently a Not, maybe eventually a Hot.
I'm of a mixed mind about this Jace. There were times I played the card and it was really impressive for me. I got to loot a few times and then eventually flashback something like a Dig Through Time when he flipped over to the planeswalker side. While his planeswalker isn't a super-impressive card, it's still a two-mana planeswalker, and it's still going to generate an advantage every turn.
There were also times when I was reminded that I was casting a 0/2 for two mana without an immediate board impact while my opponent was smashing my face in. Jace didn't feel great then.
The only deck I tested with Jace was Jeskai Ascendancy Combo and overall I felt like he was a pretty good fit and probably something you want to slot into that deck. Jace advances the game plan of finding the right pieces and he is also a lightning rod for removal, as they are going to want to kill him before he starts to take over the game. He's also just a random creature that can attack, which is often relevant when you combo off and just need some creature to swing for lethal. He might be an 0/2 in stats, but he's at least a 20/22 in my heart.
I think Jace might actually be good enough to make it in Standard right now, but I also wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being too durdly to succeed.
I've played Liliana three times now. Twice I played her in Standard, and both times she was extremely unimpressive. It's safe to say that I am completely off of Liliana unless someone proves me wrong and breaks her. Her stats weren't relevant enough as a creature, and her abilities weren't relevant enough as a planeswalker. She seems like she has it all and “should” be good in theory alone. That did not pan out in practice.
This was one of the cards I was most hyped about coming into the set, but that's why you play the games. Liliana was a dud for me and I'm already moving on to greener pastures (like Nissa, who is green).
Oh, I also played her in Modern, where she actually impressed me a lot. Wanna know a sweet card Liliana has a lot of synergy with in Modern? Try Fulminator Mage. Sacrifice your Fulminator Mage, flip Liliana, and get a zombie. Minus Liliana, get back Fulminator Mage, and blow up a second land. Liliana and Fulminator Mage is what we call the “double Stone Rain plus zombie” in the business, and Modern is the kind of “get wrecked” format where that kind of effect is really strong.
Verdict: Not for Standard, Hot for Modern
This card is surprisingly easy to flip. All it takes is combat damage and a red spell or a pump spell and combat damage to turn her into a planeswalker. Alternatively, you could just play two red spells or play one with a Jeskai Ascendancy on the battlefield. It was far easier to turn Chandra into a planeswalker than I ever imagined when I first saw the card spoiled.
Despite that, I don't think Chandra is good enough right now. For one, every time you cast Chandra, you could have cast a Goblin Rabblemaster. Usually, it should have been Goblin Rabblemaster. If they don't kill Chandra, she turns into a planeswalker that slowly kills them. If they don't kill Goblin Rabblemaster, it turns into a Goblin Rabblemaster that very quickly kills them.
This might be a pretty good card after rotation, but right now I didn't feel impressed with it either time I played against it while Rabblemaster still exists.
Verdict: Hot, because she's on fire. Not, because I don't think she's good enough for Standard right now.
Easily one of the top five cards of the set. This card has impressed me every single time I have cast it. I've thrown it into a few decks as a random one-of and have then wanted to draw it frequently. I've also played it as a three-of in a few decks, and have still been typically happy every time I draw it.
I can't explain exactly what makes Nissa so good except that I'm always really happy to draw the card and it pretty much always over-performs when I do. It's really easy to turn this into a planeswalker, and it's a good value creature on turn three and yet still a good value creature and also a planeswalker immediately on turn seven. I love this card and want to play it in my Standard decks.
Verdict: Totes Hot
This card seems insane on stats alone. But as I learned as a kid: man cannot live on stats alone. The biggest stat on this card is that it costs triple white to cast and that White Devotion simply isn't gonna cut it, no matter how hard I try, and no matter how many copies of Heliod, God of the Sun I have taped to the ceiling of my room.
I think Archangel of Tithes is absurdly good against G/R Dragons. It blocks Thunderbreak Regent and prevents Stormbreath Dragon from coming down on-curve and slapping you for a clean four in the air. It also keeps them from blocking particularly well since they are usually tapping out every turn. It also ignores Roast, Stoke the Flames, and Languish. I just think Archangel is a great card against red decks in general.
I guess it sucks that we live in a world dominated by green decks where triple white in the casting cost is likely a death knell. Brimaz sees almost zero play despite being an insane creature on stats alone. A lot of that is the 1WW price tag. A lot.
Flavorwise, this card knocks it out of the park. It's also an extremely powerful card. On stats alone, this is as good as Archangel of Tithes is. It also survives Stoke the Flames and Languish, and sometimes other removal spells when your opponent has no board.
Triple black is also a lot easier than triple white thanks to Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Hero's Downfall + Thoughtseize pushing a lot of people into playing black decks. Still, I don't think this is any better than Siege Rhino. In fact, I think it's worse and there is no reason to play a heavy black or near mono-black deck when you could just play Abzan and have good mana and cards like Siege Rhino, Elspeth, and Abzan Charm in your deck.
I have played zero games with or against this card but I think it does have a home somewhere. It's on my radar, but I haven't figured it out yet.
Verdict: Not... sure
This card has actually been very good nearly every single time I've played against it, which has been a surprisingly high amount of times. It will completely take over the game if left unchecked, and I mean that in more ways than one. If your opponent is just working to destroy the Demonic Pact before it kills them, then it's probably not too great, but if your opponent is bouncing and replaying it with things like Disperse and Void Snare, then they get to reuse the abilities again and then it's actually pretty devastating.
You can flood the board to play around the Soul Spike ability and get wrecked by them drawing two cards to find and play Languish. You can play things slow to play around Languish and then lose to them killing one of your only creatures and gaining four life. If you play things at the wrong pace, they can also just Mind Rot you, which is devastating if timed right. It really feels like a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of card to fight. It's really hard to beat this card.
Unless you're playing Dromoka's Command. In which case, it's really easy to beat the card and also get value out of a card that's usually dead.
Verdict: Not until Dromoka's Command sees no play.
I don't know if there is a home for this card. It's likely either a Blue Devotion shell, an Ojutai's Command shell, or both. However, this card is extremely good. I was very impressed with this card even if the surrounding shells weren't quite up to snuff. For that reason, I expect that this card will break through in Standard eventually.
Harbinger of the Tides was an insane tempo play and was made so much better by virtue of being a Venser in that you can play it at instant speed for four. That makes it play well with cards like Silumgar's Sorcerer, Bounding Krasis, counterspells, Ojutai's Command, and Collected Company. Options are great. Power is better. Both are best.
Also it seems awesome in Modern.
Much like Woodland Bellower, I have played zero games with this card but I think it's good and I'm hoping to eventually find the home for it. There are a lot of really good creatures for 3BB in Standard right now that just don't really have homes. Gilt-Leaf Winnower is gonna have to compete with Sidisi, Undead Vizier and also Archfiend of Depravity, which is my pick for the best card that nobody is playing.
Also it competes with Priest of the Blood Rite in the same set. Who knows if it's going to see some play, but I hope so
Verdict: Hoping So(lo)
This card is unbelievable. It's a narrow card, but I can't even begin to express how absurd this card is and how unbeatable it is against the decks that it is good against. I love that this card is in Standard and it is going to have an impact there, much like it did the first time it was legal.
If you liked the feeling of Mistcutter Hydra against control decks, then this is Mistcutter Hydra on 67 performance enhancing drugs while being pumped full of adrenaline. Gaea's Revenge is brutal and devastating and I love it.
Verdict: Hot, hot, heat.
Verdict: Not yet
I thought this card was going to be a lot better than it actually was in practice. It was great alongside Subterranean Scout, but it didn't feel like Piledriver was better than just playing any other two-drop and oftentimes it felt actually worse. I'm not sure that Goblins is better than just normal Mono-Red, and Mono-Red wasn't exactly tearing up any events.
It might be the nuts in Modern though.
A format-warping card. This will see a lot of play and will also warp how people build their decks. We might see a lot more X/5s in the format and we might see a lot less things like Fleecemane Lion and Dragonlord Ojutai. We might see a lot more Ashiok, Nightmare Weavers, as Ashiok into Languish is brutal. The card is great and hard to play around. It will see a lot of play.
I haven't played with this card, but I like that it creates an X/5 that can block Stormbreath Dragon and survive Languish. I like testing it as a top-end finisher for Abzan Aggro, but friends of mine who have played the card have said that the drawback is pretty real and maybe just too real to let this see any tournament play. If they print a playable sacrifice outlet like Cartel Aristocrat again then maybe there is some sort of Liliana deck that plays this card, but that's not something that's happening right now.
Verdict: I wish, but probably not.
If you're playing with the old art, then hot. Otherwise, not. I've got nothing against the new art, but the old art was one of the best pieces of Magic art ever printed. Fleshbag Marauder and Doomgape were like the one-two punch of great Magic art, and to see that desecrated with a new art for the card makes me sad.
Verdict: Depends on which one you're playing.
I like Magic Origins. There are a lot of fun build-around-me cards and cards whose power is hard to evaluate at first glance. I think the set is going to be sweet, but I also don't think it's going to have a giant impact on Standard at first with the exception of a handful of cards, headlined of course by Languish. It feels like the kind of set you keep finding gems from a year down the line once Theros and M15 have rotated out and the overall power level of Standard diminishes significantly.
It's no Dragons of Tarkir, but I don't think its Journey into Nyx either. As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in between.