Welcome to the Hour of Devastation Ari Lax awards, following last set's Amonkhet Awards show. While there was a smaller set of submissions, that doesn't mean there still isn't enough to crown a winner in each of our many categories!
The "Monstrous Carabid: Why Is This Constructed-Playable?" Award
This does not include that time I put Paralyzing Grasp in my Constructed deck for a Pro Tour, I'm talking about actual playables I'm happy to put in a deck.
Definitely Not Winner:
Striped Riverwinder at least kinda looks like a solid creature on the battlefield. It's Gurmag Angler with upside!
I'm debating adding Giant Cockroach with a single keyword to a Modern deck. That clearly means cycling is as good as dredge, storm, and cascade. To be fair, one of those stupid mechanics is involved in cascade as well as a Time Spiral card, so everything about "normal Magic" is already out the window.
When was the last time a 4/2 mattered? I did a Gatherer search, there are maybe five playable ones in the history of Magic. Time to add one more to the list because it has the ability "B: Put this in your graveyard."
That kind of nonsense is part of why Magic: The Gathering is the best game ever.
The "Drake Haven: Most Likely to Trick Me into Playing It" Award
This is the inverse of the above award. It's a card that just kinda looks good enough to get me to keep putting it into decks, but turns out to be a bit too... something to really be good.
After mentioning it as a possible playable my article two weeks ago, I realized Adorned Pouncer was rare and not uncommon. For some reason, that has made me feel like I'm supposed to try to play it.
I think the key is finding a way to bypass the first cast if you want to make a 4/4 with double strike immediately. But you also want to cast the front side on curve. So there's a mix of pump and long game and.....
And then I realize things like "Eternalize makes a token that doesn't work with Always Watching" and "4/4 dies to Glorybringer." Right-click, delete decklist, start again.
Ooh, what about that cool two-drop Cat? I'm sure there's something there!
River Hoopoe just reads like it has just enough push to matter. A 1/3 body for two and a long-game lifegain source feel like they would have mattered at different points of Magic's history, but now I'm not sure. There's just so many Tireless Trackers, Glorybringers, and planeswalkers that can provide runaway card advantage for less mana per activation and less mana invested in the effect, as Hoopoe makes you actually spend mana to cast the card versus, say, Glorybringer just knocking out a creature.
Now I know why the Hoopoe has such a sad song. It regrets not being printed in 2010 where it would have made a difference.
The "Jar of Eyeballs Hulking Cyclops: What Is That Flavor?" Award
Sometimes a random Squadron Hawk carries two Swords for the win. Magic doesn't always have to make sense, but when the issues are between the current story's creative design and the current set's card design I smell a great opportunity for a rant.
"How easy it must be to play protector when you think yourself untouchable. How wrong you are.... except when you just make a bunch of Knight Ally tokens and don't attack. Stop that. It's not fair. Where do you get all the Horses for these Knights anyways?"
Hour of Devastation is a clear winner because both it and the cards it flavor fails with are likely to be Standard players. I would not be shocked if the issue happens often.
Casting Hour of Devastation and having their planeswalker survive is a disaster. So when Nissa, Vital Force; Liliana, Death's Majesty; or Jace, Unraveler of Secrets immediately +1s to get to six loyalty, Nicol Bolas's signature spell sure looks dumb. Great job defeating the Gatewatch and then just letting them hang out and keep doing whatever they want. I'm pretty sure that's not how the story actually plays out, but I could be wrong.
This is so absurdly prevalent I actually forgot about the fact that Bontu the Glorified and Oketra the True have six toughness when I wrote this. At that point you wonder what the anti-indestructible clause is even doing there, especially when they can cast their Archangel Avacyn after and still just attack for four.
At least it cleanly kills Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. It's hard to stay mad for long if the card actually accomplishes something that great.
The "Censor: Yes, Cycling Is That Good" Award
So many mediocre options become awesome with the mystery box fallback option. Censor was compared to Stymied Hopes, but it turns out the card is a Constructed staple. With another set of cycling cards, what is going to be this set's replaceable best?
The reason Supreme Will isn't an outright winner is that it's not actual cycling. Not on technicality, but on cost. Having the replacement mode still cost three mana removes some of the utility that Censor can provide in keeping land-light hands or letting you cast Harnessed Lightning and dig deeper on turn 3 or 4. I'm unlikely to have a full set of Supreme Will in my decks, but it's a good two-of to round out a counterspell suite that hits a little bit harder than Censor on both sides.
If there's one thing a deck playing ramp spells hates, it has to be topdeck mode. Technically you have the best topdecks possible, but that's only 15% of your deck. Too often you just draw Rampant Growth into land into another Rampant Growth and just die.
What if your lands had cycling…and your ramp spells…and probably some of your interaction? Suddenly "topdeck mode" is getting closer to a coin flip of bricks and hits. That's really scary for any deck trying to go toe-to-toe with you in a long game. There are only so many times you can get Ulamog-ed in a row and hope to get out of it.
Beneath the Sands is something I can't really remember ever having existed. There have been ramp spells that provide some incidental value, like a solid body, but never something that just rebuys you a draw to your best spells.
The "Overwhelming Stampede: Magic 2013 Designers Rolling in Their Grave" Award
Magic 2013 is basically everything a Limited set should be. Previous (and subsequent) Core Sets had uninspiring gameplay often ending with whoever drew more cards and found their game-ender. Magic 2013 had an absurdly balanced approach where many different cards could matter across a game, balancing threats to answers mattered, and only one mythic rare was a lights-out unstoppable card (Jace, Memory Adept).
Normally there would be a reaction tweet here, but my hot take on seeing Overcome was not fit for publication on this website.
We determined Overrun was too good five years ago. Why are we suddenly seeing Overcome at uncommon. Is +2/+2 actually enough less to matter? I honestly doubt it.
It's even in a small set! We just came from Aether Revolt as the last small-set Draft format where people got mashed by Ripscale Tusker all the time. Do you remember how often that happened and how much it sucked?
Welcome to your Limited format for the next three months. Stuff, stuff, stuff, oops, looks like the green player cast creatures this game, so you're dead. Thanks and try harder next time.
I look forward to the next set's previews so I no longer have to deal with losing to Overcome. I hope I don't see Saurian Mind Control and Pirate Fireball and end up just as disappointed.
The "Fatal Push: Obviously the Best Card Is Removal" Award
This is a classic, filling me with memories of Conflux being "Path to Exile, Volcanic Fallout, and Uno cards" when it first hit Standard. Aether Revolt ended up having a little more than Fatal Push, but small sets expanding on a theme often struggle to have higher-impact cards than their best answer. What does the last small set ever bring?
The more I think about Abrade, the sillier it gets.
What about the good threats against "deal three damage"? Heart of Kiran? Verdurous Gearhulk? Skysovereign, Consulate Flagship? All dead. It even takes out Torrential Gearhulk better than Harnessed Lightning.
There's definitely a range of creatures that won't die to Abrade. Longtusk Cub. Glorybringer. Basically anything with the type Eldrazi. But that all means Abrade is going to push things hard towards the midrange center. More than any other card in Hour of Devastation, Abrade is going to have a visible impact on the Standard metagame.
Basically, if you wanted to do anything fun or cool in post-Aetherworks Marvel Standard, you still have a few days on Magic Online before the red Dromoka's Command shows up.
The "Blue Eyes Alternate Dragon: Magic Is Officially Yu-Gi-Oh! Now" Award
There's nothing wrong with learning and borrowing from other card games. That said, Yu-Gi-Oh! does some really weird stuff. Has Magic officially jumped the shark into that realm?
The first sign was the rarity creep. Super Secret Tech was a joke in 2003; now we have Masterpieces. When Unstable comes out and there's a mega secret hyper rare that only gets shipped to you if the scratch-off code on your hyper Masterpiece lines up with that box's winning numbers, don't laugh; that's Magic in 2040.
Then came the Egypt set. Nissa is going to solve the puzzlebox of leylines or whatever and the plane of Amonkhet is going to become her alternate self and hybridize with Emrakul and she is going to become the greatest planeswalker or whatever. And Liliana Valentine will take a heel turn and then kill her last demon and kinda get forgotten, and Jace will just get straight up sent to the Shadow Realm.
And now we have former $100 cards printed as commons.
Okay, joke's over. I spent way too much time doing research to force it to work.
Strategic Planning is actually a pretty awesome card. Everyone is comparing it to Anticipate, but it is definitely not playing the same role. Anticipate being an instant is key for many decks, allowing you to Harnessed Lightning if they cast a real threat and cantrip if they don't. The card it should be compared to is Grapple with the Past. It doesn't have the same late-game power, but you never brick off it early and aren't locked into specific creature densities to ensure a hit. Instant is a better delirium card type than sorcery, as you have Traverse the Ulvenwald slots locked in, but presumably by cutting down on creatures for Grapple hits you can make up this up in deckbuilding.
A good home for this is the Temur Delirium, sorta Temur Emerge deck that Brennan DiCandio played at the #SCGINVI last weekend. I tried to think of what I would cut for it, but I'm really unsure my suggestion of "a Servant of the Conduit, and a Grapple with the Past, and some creature" is better than shuffling the deck and swapping three cards at random. Delirium is super-finicky, so just add some, play games, and see what feels right.
- 3 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 2 Glorybringer
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 3 Servant of the Conduit
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 1 World Breaker
- 1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
The "Still Still Not Torrential Gearhulk Award: Next-Best Control Finisher" Award
To bring back one of my favorite categories from last time, Torrential Gearhulk is that good. You try to do other things with control decks, but it just sucks compared to instant 5/6 card advantage death. You might find some other awesome card. It's not an instant.
Then I played a match against Temur Energy and got Confiscation Couped. What enchantments am I stealing again? Is there really something that costs more than five or six that I need to steal, and even if there is, can't I just bank energy for it?
A sizeable six-mana flier with built-in card advantage is a pretty big deal. I tested a ton with Curator of Mysteries and it sucked to trade off, but if I was up a couple of cards, I'm sure it would just be a Mulldrifter situation where I was happy to do so. Despite being legendary, it's also pretty nice in multiples. Double Fact or Fiction on the second copy for just four mana is pretty nice.
Instant speed, you say. Actually just kills them in multiples, you say. Rotates at the same time as Hour of Devastaion you say.
I hope all the Sphinxes die in the story so I don't have to feel bad about never playing this one.
That's it for this set. I would like to thank the show sponsors for this set: Cruel Ultimatum, Browbeat and rest of the Judgment punisher card cycle, and whoever is afraid of Life from the Loam plus cheap cycling lands in Modern. Join us next time on Ixalan to see which is worse for life on a plane: a giant asteroid impact or Nicol Bolas.