New sets are about finding something good, right? Without a metagame to make your deck for you, you have to dig for something new. Even without a rotation, everyone's hoping Amonkhet's introduction to Standard will herald the premiere of lots of great new spells and creatures, and we've got lots to choose from. No doubt some of our front-runners are already at the top of everyone's mind.
As you know, though, we're all about finding those things that are dug deep, buried beneath the hype for the newest set and the exciting things to come.
Let's admit it, though; the format we have right now is full of Vehicles and Saheeli. While those cards are plenty strong, Amonkhet offers plenty of ways to both blatantly and covertly answer them.
Cards that counter specific strategies are all well and good, but that's not what should make a set exciting. We need powerful, new cards that really showcase the new set's best cards, making use of new mechanics and novel strategies.
In reality, you have to abandon the line of thinking that compels us to play around the metagame. While it is likely that the decks that are powerful today will still be powerful next Friday after Amonkhet becomes legal, it's a good idea to look at the power level of certain decks and strategies. You need to look at things from a different angle, not one tainted by the current state of affairs.
As if designed specifically to metaphorically encourage brewers at the time of its release, New Perspectives lets us pursue an all-new strategy designed around building the perfect hand.
Cycling has always been a powerful mechanic, making conditional cards relevant much more frequently. They let you move through your deck quickly and flexibly, using an unspent mana or open end step to put cards in your graveyard and make your deck thinner.
It's important to remember that, in the abstract, cycling is not a cantrip. In most instances, cycling just replaces itself. A deck filled with Reach Through Mists or Visions from Beyond isn't very good if you don't have cards that otherwise interact with them. New Perspectives only works if we have seven cards in hand, so drawing will be important in a deck that revolves around it, and we'll still need a way to win the game.
Thankfully, Amonkhet brings us several, many of which directly profit from a heavy cycling engine.
This is a first draft of how to leverage cycling, so let's see what's possible.
This deck seems to feature the format's best cycling cards and the most reliable ways to get to a point where we can cast them. The deck features a whopping 32 cards that cycle, meaning that most every turn will offer the opportunity to trade in a card for a mana or two.
I haven't found it yet, but there's a combo here somewhere.
Vizier of Tumbling Sands is one of a cycle of, well, cycling cards that have an effect when you discard them, even if you do so for free with New Perspectives. Bear in mind that, if you discard Vizier of Tumbling Sands with New Perspectives out, you can untap a land or a larger mana producer, like Hedron Archive, and gain mana. Here lies the biggest potential for a combo.
The difficulty of choosing the right number of three-drop indestructible creature cards aside, Kefnet the Mindful seems to be the best card the deck has to finish the job. It's evasive, it can't be easily killed, and it even provides an easy method to turn itself online as well as New Perspectives. Without a particularly common way to discard, this seems to be the best quantity.
This nifty little Aftermath spell provides a way to not only deal with hard-to-answer planeswalkers and creatures, but also a way to recycle your cycling cards after you've gotten everything off the battlefield with a healthy Engulf the Shore, burning your opponent's hand for lands and worthless spells they'd rather not draw. Oh, and your Kefnet the Mindful can attack now!
These conditional spells have that critical cycling ability, but each provides real advantage if the price is right. Renewed Faith at full price is a lot of lifegain, potentially undoing a turn or two of combat, but most of the time, you'll give up four life for a card. Censor, while nothing groundbreaking, is especially good with the option to cycle. No one wants to draw Force Spike on turn 8, and now they don't have to. Cast Out is actually legitimate without the cycling ability, but it sure doesn't hurt if four mana or a permanent threat is a long way off.
In practice, this deck was consistent, decently tuned, and marginally effective at stopping or delaying threats. The land count was right, too, and having so many blue sources was necessary given the cycling costs. Still, this deck is just a first step, and it lacked the pressure where it mattered; Kefnet the Mindful was powerful when it was online, but this was less common that I'd have liked, and it was almost always the card that could close the game.
I like this card a lot, but I think it belongs in the sideboard, especially with Engulf the Shore playing such a critical part. Once your opponent sideboards out their spot removal and sweepers, Drake Haven is a bona fide way to win the game or protect yourself indefinitely.
Don't worry, though; we can make it easier to get to seven cards.
You're probably sick of this card by now. But I'm not.
Fevered Visions is the ace in the hole we need to reliably hit seven cards. While it's true that you could indeed attack with Kefnet the Mindful on turn 4, you also need to either draw an extra card somehow or be on the draw. In this case, Kefnet the Mindful and Fevered Visions create a pretty potent combo, applying incredible pressure while keeping your hand full of answers. That's seven a turn on just those two cards, which will end the game in a blinding hurry.
How can cycling improve our Visions?
I already like it.
This tag team seems meant for each other. Both are legendary creatures; while this might normally be bad, especially to play as a four-of, they are easily discarded through several different outlets the deck supports. Both will be targets meant for removal, too; Kefnet's indestructibility doesn't save it from Cast Out, Declaration in Stone, or the like. Enigma Drake? Honestly, I just wanted to Expedite something, whether it was Kefnet the Mindful or a 9/1 Enigma Drake. Red cycling is much worse than blue, with only one instant to add to this list, and at far too high a cost. Remember, Baral, Chief of Compliance does not reduce cycling costs on instants, only the costs of the instants themselves.
Reduce//Rubble and Censor are perhaps the biggest ringers in this deck. Censor, like Force Spike, is highly conditional. With mana reduction via Baral, Chief of Compliance, it becomes actual Force Spike. In a deck where your opponent is trying to efficiently use their mana, it is much more likely than normal that they are going to tap out, leaving them susceptible to this little embarrassment.
Reduce//Rubble, on the other hand, is an active participant in the game plan. If discarded to Tormenting Voice or Cathartic Reunion, the Rubble can put your opponent low on land, unable to get out from under Fevered Visions. Reduce, in many instances, is a hard counter, reduced considerably by Baral, Chief of Compliance. Compelling Argument does not actually have a compelling argument, but it does cycle and, admittedly, there's a nonzero chance that you will actually cast this, either to hope to hit a Geistblast or to mill your opponent. Not likely, but it can do it.
This deck seems to be considerably more proactive, but it lacks much of the cycling flavor I was looking for, and it outright omits today's title card, New Perspectives. It could be that –
Wait a minute.
Oh my. Did we get a way to do this? Without delve cards like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise, I thought the days of Aligning our Hedrons were behind us. Now, though, with enough deep digging, milling, and whatnot, we might actually be able to do this again.
Want to try?
This looks like a mess, but I can't help but want to play it.
Forgoing creatures completely, we're looking at a deck that focuses on two ways to win; fill your hand with cards to burn you out with Fevered Visions and Cut//Ribbons or Align our Hedrons. We get more hard removal in this deck, so the cutesy bouncing plan can take a backseat. Between our discard and targeted exile, the latter may be a legitimate option. The nice thing about this plan is, if you have Hedron Alignment on the battlefield, you can respond to the trigger by cycling through cards to draw your last copy of Alignment, discard another copy via Lightning Axe, and then cast Scarab Feast to target one copy in the yard. When the trigger resolves, reveal your hand and gloat! Okay, don't gloat. Well, maybe a little.
Cycling opens a lot of doors to new decks and old, and the combination of utility and self-replacement will not only be helpful but also a test of skill. When you cycle a card, you need to consider if you might ever need the spell's effect more than the random card from your deck you'll draw. It's not an easy decision, but to make the best one, it'll be important to look at the card, and the format, from a new perspective.
There are almost 50 cards in this new set that either cycle or directly impact your ability to get advantage while cycling or discarding. This means there's more than one way to perceive this returning mechanic. Which perspective have you chosen?