It's that exciting time again: a new set on the horizon! This week I'll be highlighting some specific cards for Limited, cards that are either hard to evaluate or just showcase a new mechanic. I'm sure plenty of you are looking forward for this set to shake up the hyper-aggressive world that is Amonkhet, and I can't tell you if that will happen for sure, but it does look promising.
What made Amonkhet so aggressive was the number of one-drops combined with effects that boosted their stats. This set doesn't have that feature, but it still looks like attacking is favored over blocking. So while the hyper-aggressive decks may not be as linearized, I am still expecting an aggressive natured format. The mechanic Afflict really exacerbates this. It may be impossible to stabilize at a low life total given the existence of this mechanic.
Anyway, it's impossible to know right now and only time will tell. But let's take a look at some cards that illustrate the new mechanics:
This card is absolutely terrifying. Essentially, if this card had any of its stats adjusted slightly (one less mana on activated ability, one more point of toughness, etc.) the card would be pretty bananas. As is, what is keeping the card down is its Grey Ogre stat line. Three mana for a 2/2 is just terrible in current formats. But if you're attacking, the card is scary.
You may be confused at why I think the card is so good (honestly, I don't know how good it is, but it has the potential to be very good). My reasoning is because of the threat of activation. If your opponent is at eight life and you have six mana, they have to block the card. If they don't, you just pump twice, and then you have a creature with Afflict 2, and they'll just die. Overall, I'm quite unsure where this card will land. I expect the stat line to make it just a solid black card, but not busted. Probably a card that I'm happy to take third or fourth pick, and could see as a signal.
This card singlehandedly changes the way combat math has to be calculated for future turns. In fact, the whole Afflict mechanic does that. So just be careful. I'll be on the lookout for how this mechanic solidifies in limited, but my guess will be that it warps the combat environment by a reasonable margin.
So this set, along with the last one, has a good number of Deserts. And coincidentally (not at all), they all go into your graveyard pretty seamlessly. It's really hard to evaluate the consistency and/or density that you'll have them, but my guess would be it's not hard to play two or three in your deck. This means that the "Deserts matter" cards that aren't good without a Desert aren't going to be very good.
Looking at Sidewinder Naga, a three-mana 3/2 is fine but would get cut from most Limited decks. A three-mana 4/2 with trample would pretty much always make the cut, though. So I'll lean towards playing this little Naga with a couple of Deserts, but the card seems replaceable.
It would take a much better upside, like that of Sand Strangler, to make me go out of my way to pick up Deserts. Plenty of the Deserts are solid, and you should play the first couple of copies anyway, so I expect Sand Strangler to be good. But the balance between when to pick up Deserts versus Deserts-matters cards is going to be a difficult one to perfect.
Oh boy, the aggressive mechanic of the set is coming back. Red flags all over for everyone, right? Well, don't be too hasty, because this set comes with all kinds of goodies that shouldn't scare you. Exert isn't solely an attacking mechanic now! There are creatures that exert on attack, but there are plenty that simply tap to exert, which leans away from aggression.
I expect Fervent Paincaster to be quite good. Three mana for a 3/1 is pretty bad as stats go. Allow it to ping players and I'll probably play it a fair amount of the time. Let it ping creatures, and sign me up! Looking at the set, there are also a fair number of one-toughness creatures. I'll start the format first-picking the card, not because it's a bomb, but because it seems better than most commons. For now I would see the card as a signal if you see it late, but it's hard to tell. I just can't ever imagine cutting it from a red deck.
I'm going to start by saying that I'm biased and absolutely love this magic card. I really want it to be the best blue common, although it probably isn't. Two mana for a 1/3 is fine, but it would get cut without any other fluff. Yet this fluff is pretty great.
Unblockable threats are nothing to scoff at. If you're in a stall and have this, or better yet two of them, you can just start cycling and getting in without going down on cards. That's a pretty big game. Seems like a card that fits perfectly in a blue tempo deck, which fits the bill of many of the blue commons. Blue has fliers, cards with Afflict, Unsummon…
The other nice thing about Cunning Survivor is that not every blue deck will be able to utilize the card well. This means that you can wheel a card that is great in your deck! I'm going to start by assuming this card is pretty good and probably draft a couple of decks with multiples. I'm hoping that's a plan, but we'll have to wait and see!
Embalm is back...but forever? I guess just as a 4/4? Hmm, well, it's definitely a super-solid mechanic for Limited, assuming the games don't end very quickly. Most Eternalize cards have pretty expensive flashback costs, so if the format ends up being too fast, then they're going to take a hit. Luckily, Sunscourge Champion is both on the cheaper end and gains life.
This card is very solid. The front side is good, but nothing to call home for. The back side is also good, but given that you have to discard a card, it's not busted. Combine them and this is probably better than most commons by a fair margin. I'll take it early, and it will make me lean white. Not a card I'm slamming, but I don't see myself unhappy to first-pick it.
Eternalize as a mechanic could change a lot about the format. If every deck has a good amount of access to 4/4s, then five toughness is going to be premium, and 4/5s get much better. So let's keep that in mind.
My guess is that the combination of Exert and Afflict is going to keep Eternalize in check, and the format will keep an aggressive, although not necessarily hyper-aggressive, nature. You won't be dying on turns 4 and 5 as much, but the super-durdle decks still may not have legs.