It's full set list time! Grabby hands abound! Ideas blossom! Sick combos materialize! Sleep evaporates! The next few days are our playground, and we are in the spotlight. The lists might not yet be ready to step to the forefront, but together, together, my friends, we shall brainstorm, iterate and conceive ideas to bring us to glory. This is our time! The Hour of Brewing Stations is upon us!
Everything about this set screams "Grixis Control" from the highest mountains. I can definitely see The Locust God as a one-of finisher in that deck, but Locust God number one is almost certainly worse than Torrential Gearhulk number four. Where I am really interested in this card is in a Temur build that looks to leverage all of the good card draw that green suddenly has. Both Bounty of the Luxa and Tireless Tracker would have a home in this theoretical deck, along with Nissa, Steward of Elements. Kefnet the Mindful might break some flavor rules, but we can't beat that combo of card draw and Tireless Tracker synergy. Pull from Tomorrow is obviously amazing with The Locust God anyway, but if we have a light ramp package as well, we can easily make the Pulls even bigger.
That the Locusts have haste is what makes this card go from decent to very good. It's going to attack for at least five in the air the turn after you cast it, and possibly more if it's late in the game. I also really like how resilient the card is, though the continuous mana investment might be annoying after a while.
One hilarious combo is in Legacy Omni-Tell. Casting this followed by Enter the Infinite is going to end the game right away. I had to read Enter the Infinite a second time to make sure I wasn't misremembering, but it does indeed tell you to draw the cards. The benefit to this combo over the Mana Echoes one you have seen elsewhere is that Omni-Tell is already an established deck, and a way to kill the opponent that doesn't rely on Release the Ants seems pretty strong.
This is interesting. Cards in this color combination would generally lead one down a control route, but The Scarab God definitely asks us to be heavier on creatures than we would expect from such a strategy. The first place I looked was at creatures with powerful enters-the-battlefield abilities that cost four or more. One thing we are not lacking in U/B shells is a way to get those creatures in the graveyard. One of my first thoughts was to look at some Angels:
The list of great interactions here is extensive: Cultivator of Blades becomes a real threat, Cloudblazer hits hard in addition to drawing you cards and gaining you life, and the Gearhulks all get even better. Except Cataclysmic Gearhulk, who has to stay in the corner. It knows what it did. We don't even need a third color, as we can look to Demon of Dark Schemes, Marionette Master, and Gonti, Lord of Luxury for options in U/B. Liliana, Death's Mastery could also see play here to be another reanimation engine that not only makes Zombies for the first ability but also fills the graveyard. The synergy!
Of course, The Scarab God is also a fan of Zombies. There is no lack of those in U/B, of course, and many of the better ones (Haunted Dead I am looking at you) both help us populate the graveyard and provide interesting options to make into 4/4 creatures should the need arise. The life loss to the opponent will add up quickly once a Diregraf Colossus gets going.
I just wish that head was a little less...disturbing.
If we're going to look at unusual cards with combo potential, we don't need to look much further. Discounting the possibility of Minotaur tribal (which is not even a given, as we have some powerful options there, but I am more likely to look to Modern for that), the unique ability of this card to make a lot of mana in a hurry make me think that there has to be something here. Something as innocuous as a Shock to the face lets you turn a single red mana into two red, and that's assuming you don't also attack.
Afflict on this card means that any time you make it through combat, you are getting free mana. The six toughness makes it very hard to remove based on the current metagame. What can we do with the mana, and how do we build our deck to ensure we can both get some damage in regularly and still have something worth ramping into? In a G/R shell, any ramp spell enables turn 4 Neheb, the Eternal. From there, any burn spell to the face followed by an attack (assuming no other creatures) leaves you with ten mana.
I can't think of any spells that cost ten mana that we might want to cast, though. That's a real shame.
I'm not entirely sure there isn't some combo potential here. Only getting the mana once might be the stumbling block, but maybe we can do something with Tree of Perdition? That's a lot of mana depending on where they started. The card itself has a very powerful text box and a unique ability, and I am sure people are already hard at work trying to make it work. Untapping with it is relatively easy, but it's what happens after that that will determine if this card is as good as it looks.
Three mana, gain a bunch of life. Sure, we don't get to untap our lands, but we gain a bunch of life. Perhaps we are playing this against Burn and need to buy the two or three turns this is likely to give us, as opposed to the one turn it might cost us. If we can use mana creatures or rocks to cast this, we might not even feel the tempo setback.
Why on earth would we play this in a fair deck, though? The Tin Fins deck has been an intermittent player in Legacy, revolving around drawing a lot of cards with Griselbrand and gaining back all the life you pay by casting and sacrificing Children of Korlis. Including a three-mana spell in that deck might be a stretch, but the principle is sound. It also interacts well with Children of Korlis, since it doesn't negate the life you have lost in the turn. Both Griselbrand and Children of Korlis are legal in Modern, so maybe some version of the deck could be played in that format?
The paying of life for an effect is not as prevalent as I would like in Modern. Immolating Souleater and Moltensteel Dragon both enable us to pay a lot of life to get in even more damage but are not exciting otherwise. Kozilek's Translator has a restriction on it of one activation per turn, much to my current chagrin but probable long-term gratitude. The only other application that springs to mind is As Nauseam, but it is just worse there than the current options.
It seems I am just writing about parts of cycles with combo applications today...and I am perfectly fine with that. Any card that lets me cast things for free is worth another look, and when that card is doing an (admittedly poor) impression of Mind's Desire, I am even more likely to try to do horrible things with it.
Let's take a look first of all at some things that this card does not say. It doesn't exile itself; that might turn out to be relevant. It doesn't limit you to instants and sorceries, also something I am interested in noting in case we find some creature-based shenanigans. Finally, it doesn't let you hit a copy effect and target the Hazoret's Undying Fury...which made me very sad.
One place I can see this working is in Storm. Getting to six mana is trivial on the turn you go off, and holding this card until last is a decent last-ditch effort to hit that Grapeshot or Past in Flames. Conveniently, you can then run back through your graveyard and cast this again, almost definitely finding the Grapeshot at that point. There's a possible home in something like the Taking Turns deck, which has a fair few spells it would want to cast all at once. Most versions of the deck are not currently playing Savor the Moment, but I can see that changing if they incorporate this card as an option. There's also Stitch in Time, but, really, there isn't Stitch in Time. No. Stop it.
There's also one of my favorite underplayed combo cards, Early Harvest. It does limit us to playing a significant number of basic lands, but that in and of itself might not be an issue. If we can chain a bunch of spells together, we can play some ridiculous turns that might well include hitting Goblin Dark-Dwellers with Hazoret's Undying Fury and casting Early Harvest from the graveyard to do more fun things. We could also look at ways to get Hazoret's Undying Fury back in your hand, just in case we're interested in casting it a second time. Spoiler: we are.
There's nothing wrong with casting this for value, of course. I can certainly see this in something like a Mardu deck that could reasonably expect to hit two or three high-impact spells for this cost, possibly even planeswalkers. The drawback there would be that the "Time Walk yourself" drawback is much more painful if you aren't doing something unfair. Don't overlook the possibility of using Wildfire Eternal to cast this, a prospect that makes me very tingly. Then again, Wildfire Eternal itself makes me tingly, so the bar was set pretty low.
Okay, so cycle standouts it is. I instantly jumped on the power of this card when it was previewed, but several of my friends were skeptical. "But Lansdell, what Deserts are you fetching to get the Zombie tokens? Are there even three playable Deserts?"
Short answer: I do not care.
Much like Hazoret's Undying Fury, there's something very important missing from this card – the word "basic" in front of "land cards." Go get double Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, you say? Don't mind if I do. This is the missing ramp spell I have been waiting for, and will be in the deck I play in Week One (stay tuned next week for that...maybe). One of the big things you want to be doing in a ramp deck is hitting a smooth ramp curve: 2-4-6 or 3-5-7. The best ramp spells in Standard right now are all over that curve, but adding Hour of Promise gives us the 3-5 we have lacked. Once we hit seven, we have plenty of options that are not ramp but are game-winning: World Breaker, Approach of the Second Suns, even Nissa's Revelation. To say I am excited is more than a little understated.
With that said, are there enough playable Deserts to include in such a deck that we can possibly get those Zombie tokens without hurting our gameplan? Hostile Desert is pretty good if we can afford a colorless land, and Hashep Oasis might be worth a look. Desert of the Indomitable and whichever other color you want to play are also plausible one-ofs. If you do decide to play Desert ramp, Shefet Monitor is almost an auto-include. The effects of some of the Desert cards are reasonable when they are free, and there might just be a G/B deck here that also runs Ramunap Excavator and The Gitrog Monster for some serious value.
This card puts me in a weird position: on one hand it is a very sweet, very powerful card that I am almost honor-bound to try to cheat onto the battlefield in Standard and possibly even Modern. On the other hand, it's a rules nightmare that is reminiscent of Humility, mainly because it is a one-sided Humility. Just for fun we have the added joy of explaining how this works with a Gideon that animates (it's a 5/5 or 4/4 and it still has its abilities, because timestamps) or a Vehicle (the Vehicle will have its printed power and toughness, again because timestamps).
But it's so sweet! We have so many powerful and expensive enchantments in Standard right now that I am really sad we have no access to something like Lost Auramancers...or really any incentive to play an enchantment-based deck. Sandwurm Convergence and Overwhelming Splendor are both virtual "I win" cards, but they are costed that way. Even with From Beyond as another enchantment that provides a way to ramp, we are still lacking anything to interact with the card type. For now I am putting them in the old notebook for Standard and turning to Modern for some help.
Lost Auramancers is the first place I would look for a way to cheat this out. The requirement to have no time counters on the card when it dies is a challenging one for a creature that dies to Lightning Bolt, but that card is seeing a lot less play now. We also have the option of Solemnity, which we talked about in great detail last week. There's also the wonderful Starfield of Nyx, which not only lets us have a cheap Overwhelming Splendor but also won't animate it to make it easier to remove because it's an Aura. With Idyllic Tutor and Enduring Ideal both legal in Modern, we have the makings of a strong deck here. That deck can also play Sandwurm Convergence as an additional win condition, along with the usual suspects for this style of deck.
The Hour Is Near
The Prerelease is this weekend, which will give us all the chance to get our hands on these cards for the first time. I have always found one or two surprising cards at the Prerelease that end up drawing me in for Constructed, so I am looking forward to that.
For now, though, that's all we have for this week. As always, thanks for stopping by, and until next time...Brew On!