After just the first week of official Oath of the Gatewatch spoilers we have a ton of exciting new cards. This is fairly typical as spoilers tend to be front loaded to generate excitement, but Oath of the Gatewatch has been relatively dense with interesting cards even considering that. There's a lot of new ground being broken here. At least half the cards spoiled have potential for Constructed play.
Some of these cards are obvious hits. They are clearly powerful enough for Constructed play and may even be format-changing. Some of them are tricky misses that make you think they are great but don't actually have a good play pattern associated with them. A few are even in the middle, near misses that might see play as a one- or two-of, or are a printing or rotation in either direction from being great or terrible.
I'm putting my money on the table. Each major spoiled card to one of these categories, with comments on why and how it might be utilized.
The dream of playing some giant monster and attacking with a 10/10 two-drop is not real. Your first 10/10 kills them anyways because it exiles all their permanents or counters all their spells or whatever. The sweet spot on this card would be if you were resizing it to a 3/3 on turn 3, 4/4 on turn 4, and just generally making a proactive threat that scales well. There's some 3/1s and 3/2s on the Eldrazi curve, but it's been a long time since we've had a format without multicolored, undying, or just generally good creatures that don't rapidly outclass a 3/2 for two. You need to go bigger than that.
In theory Vile Aggregate, Blight Herder, and Oblivion Sower exist as respectable midrange options that push this card to larger sizes. Each of those has conditionals attached to making it playable, so there will be a lot of specific printings and deck tuning needed for them to line up, but it might come together. I'm also willing to believe there is an Eldrazi Aggro deck forming up that has this as an incidental playable two-drop that makes the cut.
The thing is, this is a lot of maybes. Eldrazi Mimic is not a build around card, it's a card you happen to play if the payoff lines up to make it reasonable.
Hit. (But still befuddling.)
What the hell is this card?
Why is it okay for my U/G deck to have a removal spell this efficient? This exact effect was playable in Nameless Inversion years ago, and it's basically Bile Blight/Last Gasp with upside of being a sometimes Giant Growth.
This card may be a Near Miss in the short term. Fiery Impulse and Silkwrap do a better job of what this card is trying to do right now, and the mana is so good that it's hard to build a deck that doesn't get to play Fiery Impulse, and you have Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or Silkwrap if you don't. However, once Khans of Tarkir rotates and people have to make reasonable mana decisions, expect this to become one of the premier removal spells of the format. Also when you no longer need to kill Anafenza, the Foremost and Siege Rhino, though Hangarback Walker will still remain an issue.
A future bonus for the card: It plays very well with and against Jace. The new Jace test of “Does Jace, Vryn's Prodigy -3 cast this?” is way cooler than the old one (“Does this creature suck against free Unsummon?”).
When you cast a tutor, you are trying to find a specific super high impact card. Planeswalkers are high impact, but not in the immediately game-ending way. A few in the past have been, like Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Gideon Jura, but the current ones are more proactive threats that take over games from ahead or parity. They don't just end the game like a combo piece, hate card, or sweeper would.
The big dealbreaker is that planeswalkers are permanents that require setup. Taking a turn off to find one means you aren't advancing your board or clearing theirs and that your planeswalker is now vulnerable to attack.
People are excited about this card because we have been “deprived” of two-mana removal. It's just like how Clash of Wills was exciting because it was a two-mana counterspell. The cards aren't good, and at best they are the flavor of the week answer that is good for one event and is immediately what people build to blank after.
It doesn't kill Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. It doesn't kill Hangarback Walker. A large amount of the high end threats are two-for-ones like Wingmate Roc and Pia and Kiran Nalaar, which this also is bad against. Some weeks it will be just what the doctor ordered to kill Warden of the First Tree and Anafenza, but even then I don't expect more than 1-2 in a deck as it is still super conditional.
Also, it fails the Jace test. Reactive removal is really at a low point.
Obvious good rate is obvious. If you are ahead on board, a 5/5 flier is fine; if you are behind, this is Broodmate Dragon, which is great at swinging the board, and it keeps you from dying to burn. This will probably even compete with Wingmate Roc in current Standard as you don't have to be an attacking deck to cast it.
My only note here is that Linvala does get worse when mana switches from fetch-duals to painlands as the aggro decks can manage their life total a little better to avoid the gain five life trigger.
If you can reliably enable surge, this card is very powerful. If anything, this will be the card that brings back the Jace-Magmatic Insight-Treasure Cruise engine as you actually want the one-drop now. I'm not sure the whole “burn a Hangarback Walker for zero” plan is worth it as the main enabler because the relevant card is worth a lot, but it will do in a pinch.
The reason this is a Near Miss currently is that things are currently a little too aggressive and spell-based. In world where people are trying to draw a million extra cards a game with Painful Truths and Treasure Cruise, a five-mana 8/8 isn't the right way to fight. Oddly enough this card might get better once Treasure Cruise rotates out of the format and it becomes harder to just trade cards at every point of the game and eventually win. This is also notably when Painful Truths for three becomes harder to cast, so everything lines up right here.
Almost any card text contingent on controlling a planeswalker is basically the definition of win more. Scry 1 a turn isn't breaking a game more than the planeswalker itself, and if you scry more than 1 with this card...yeah, real necessary.
So you have a sorcery speed draw three, discard two. That is not a playable Magic card, especially if the spell itself doesn't go to your graveyard for delve.
Crackling Doom now obviously invalidates this. The problem is that for a whole rotation this has to compete with Dragonlord Ojutai and Silumgar's Scorn, which brings the unfortunate trump of Foul-Tongue Invocation with it. There are just too many Edicts around to make this a re-trump and too many other good control finishers for it to be the default end game.
There haven't been a lot of black cards spoiled, but this one is a winner. I'm going to label a different card as the best for Standard later, but this is easily the most important one revealed so far. Black has been missing the efficient sweeper it needs to deal with Atarka Red, and this is one that does that while also turning off Ojutai's Command and Rally the Ancestors out of other decks.
Here's my called shot on this one: This is the card that indirectly brings back Thunderbreak Regent. Or really, it wasn't necessarily gone with B/R Dragons putting up a number of good finishes at the #SCGINVI in Vegas and the #WMC, but this will push things even further away from Goblin tokens. The bulky aggro game lets you go under Crackling Doom and over Flaying Tendrils.
People keep comparing this to Zealous Conscripts, but that card was insane because it took planeswalkers and existed alongside Restoration Angel. This card is fine, but it's not close to its predecessor. The fact that the Magic Origins flip planeswalkers return to your opponent when they flip under your Threatened control is just another mark against the card. Good against big Eldrazi, not much better than okay elsewhere. Similar to Eldrazi Mimic, this is just another incidental playable a devoid deck might want, not a big payoff card.
Not the flashiest card, but it is actually seven power for four mana with the landfall trigger and represents haste damage if you play it on turn 5 or later, then make your land drop. The difference between the trigger costing mana on Akoum Stonewaker and being free here is insane. The reason this is a Near Miss is that it is in a bit of a fragile spot at 4/3 and that Thunderbreak Regent is still around. There's definitely factors fighting against this card, but I can easily see this one cross the Constructed boundary.
Easily the best card revealed so far. See Pat's article about it for more details. Just the Kolaghan's Command loop is good enough to make this a format staple, and the more you look the more this card does. For now, I wouldn't stray far from Crackling Doom with the card as your build-a-Shriekmaw, but Ruinous Path deserves future consideration.
This also does some weird things with the no mana cost suspend cards in Modern. Particularly you can loop through Living Ends with the right setup and cascade spells and have a Reforge the Soul that you can bounce to recast with Wheel of Fate. I'm not sure either of these are actually good, but it is worth discussing just like Bring to Light for those cards was. Unfortunately, the fair mode of the card is less flexible than Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Snapcaster Mage so its range outside weird combos in that format is limited to the fluctuating 1-2 of slot in Jund.
The downgrade from Goblin Bushwhacker alone is a problem, but coming into the format the same time as Flaying Tendrils is the real killer. Good red decks are resilient to the answers of the format or so strong they power right through them, and this card is neither.
Adding a counter to a planeswalker to protect itself is always good. When a three-mana planeswalker does that, it is absurd. How are you ever supposed to kill Nissa (Siege Rhino excluded)? You have to be so far ahead on board to get any damage through. This card is basically the entire reason for Ruinous Path to be printed. It's an absurd enabler for a planeswalker deck strategy that makes it really hard to pressure your board before you run someone over with incremental advantage. It's a token deck enabler like Ajani Goldmane was (though I would just try to play good cards before maximizing the -2). It might even be good enough as “suspend 4: gain a bunch of life draw a bunch of cards.”
Nissa doesn't extend well to older formats where the concept of blocking is replaced by combo and dying to Abrupt Decay, but it's going to be real annoying to deal with in Standard.
My opinion on this card has gone back and forth a lot between just reasonable and very good. I think the tipping point was realizing how good Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is at protecting other planeswalkers and how awkward curving 1GG into 2WW for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is. As just a cantrip this card is fine but unexciting, but the fixing being relevant means this card will play both the support and enabler role, depending on deck.
In non-planeswalker decks, I expect this to be important if you are trying to hit land drops while maintaining spell density. With the full creature-land cycle out, this effect won't be as necessary as it has been previously, but you can use this to fudge 25 lands into playing like 27 for curving through five or six mana the way Temples used to play. It isn't a true cantrip as it doesn't find your Languish or removal spell, but it does enough to see some play in threat-heavy midrange strategies.
3/3 for three is not a good rate. This effect has historically failed to be good as a response to a sweeper, and making 1/1s isn't very threatening and the most likely sweeper now exiles everything (Flaying Tendrils). The case of using this as a response to spot removal is also a failure as your big finish is to build an Ambassador Oak.
Soulfire Grand Master and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy set the bar pretty high for two-drops, but Ayli might actually deliver. The ability to trade up for a generic big Abzan dork is pretty nice, as is surviving Wild Slash. I have no idea if the activations matter at all, but lategame with Ojutai's Command I can see this card randomly firing off an exile activation on some troublesome non-creature permanent. I would put this as a fringe playable that fills in the last 1-2 two-drop slots in some decks, gets sideboarded out a bunch, but randomly excels in certain matchups.
Talk to me after Monastery Mentor rotates. Drawing a card is slightly better than the first Monk token as an immediate payoff after you cast it, but past that point, Mentor does way more. After that the playability of this card comes down to creature sizing. If 2/3 is good enough to fight some battles early, Jori En will be a fine enabler for a tempo deck. If it is facing down a ton of 3/3s and 4/4s, you won't be able to take a turn off to cast an effective blank to maybe draw cards down the line.
There is something here given how this card interacts with cards that produce Spawn tokens, but I think the current format might have a little too high power level barrier for entry. If it does see play, odds are Eldrazi Skyspawner, Blight Herder, or Eyeless Watcher are involved.
Three toughness, so it lives through Flaying Tendrils. Prevents an Anafenza, the Foremost recast the next turn. Rally the Ancestors is taking a big hit with this next set, but it gets a shiny new toy. Moving forward this is just a good tempo card early that, unlike other Man-o'-Wars, plays reasonably well on clearer boards in the lategame. Being playable in fair and combo decks is a solid range to have. I'm just very glad you can't return this with Ojutai's Command.
Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. The only reason Lumbering Falls doesn't see lots of play is that Sultai and Temur are the worst clans, so no one builds G/U decks. All of these new lands are great. Two of them hit for four damage by default, which kills absurdly fast.
Needle Spires is probably the best one. Not only is it the best at blanking attackers because a 2/1 double strike stonewalls multiple X/2s, but it combos with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar emblems. Good card plus good card is a classic recipe for success.
Wandering Fumarole is next best, mostly because of the colors. It's the worst in combat, but killing in five hits is a big deal. I don't think it will usurp the Worldwake options in three-color Modern decks or Desolate Lighthouse in straight U/R decks, but it kills people quick enough for Standard.
Hissing Quagmire is a weird one. Craig Krempels made a good point on commentary this weekend about it being easy to blow out if you try to block with it (Wild Slash it), but deathtouch is a fine attacking mechanic in the face of larger blockers too. This is the least likely land to turn a game around, but sometimes it will hold off something way too big to be reasonable.
If you are targetting anything other than Dig through Time with this to start, I would reconsider your choices. Unless you are doing so because you didn't draw Dig through Time yet and need to copy a removal spell. I expect this card to have a long pedigree of being split Blighted Cataract and Blighted Fen, depending on which one you need at the time.
The test on this card reads so well. Your land repeatedly draw cards for only you.
Then you consider that it requires colorless mana. And being hellbent. So you are limited to most likely two-color decks that are full of proactive cards, but without narrow answers that could potentially clog your hand. And they need relevant cards to draw to in the mid-game, as this is really too slow to save a red deck from a Siege Rhino or Dragonlord Ojutai. If a midrange beatdown deck like last year's G/R Dragons resurfaces, this card would be great in it, but those decks are currently suppressed by flashback Crackling Doom.
This card will find a home somewhere at some time, but my immediate jaw drop reaction was not warranted. As with a lot of these colorless mana-required cards, talk to me again after Khans of Tarkir rotates.
Considering how much content the first third or so of the set has given us, I'm really excited to see the rest. There isn't a lot that lines up with Modern so far, but Standard is in for a ride now and an even bigger shift once the mana in the format lines up better with colorless mana. While there is obviously a lot of Limited stuff that will fill in the set and very few mythics left to reveal, I expect I've at most touched on half of the relevant cards in the set today. I'm looking forward to waiting and evaluating the next half.