Doing this article in two parts was not my preferred approach, fellow brewers. In all honesty, I did not expect to have that much to say about just three colors, and we haven't even thought about double-face cards yet. Good grief, this set is fun. Before we take up even more time with the prologue, let's dive right in, shall we?
Let's leave aside the fact that we are getting both a Minotaur planewalker and (probably) a B/R planeswalker in the next set.
Let tomorrow's Chris drool over that prospect while we salivate over Angrath's Marauders and their potential home in God-Pharaoh's Gift decks. You thought Angel of Invention was good as a 6/6 with flying, vigilance and lifelink? How about when it deals twelve damage instead?
Damage doublers have historically missed the mark, either because they were symmetrical or because they did nothing on their own. This card at least attacks and blocks and doesn't leave you vulnerable to huge chunks of damage, all categorically beneficial. I doubt we will often cast it fairly, but that's fine. Oh, and it's overkill, but I really like the interaction with Neheb, the Eternal. Just remember the afflict life loss will not get doubled.
The first two cards we look at in red make me wonder if Big Red isn't due for a comeback. At this point that archetype is the new mono-black control in that everyone thinks it's coming back every set, and it never does. Now we have Chandra, Torch of Defiance and a couple of mana rocks for ramp; Sweltering Suns and Fiery Cannonade for the early-game; Hour of Devastation in the mid-game; Otepec Huntmaster to make our top-end more accessible; and powerful threats. We might need a little more to make the archetype a contender, but we certainly have a good foundation.
This card is going to finish games out of nowhere, mark my words. There's a combo waiting to happen that I just haven't found yet, but it probably involves Scrap Trawler and maybe something like Servo Exhibition. Heck, Panharmonicon wouldn't go astray, and we still have the Puzzleknots and Prophetic Prism. This effect is very powerful, able to go to the face or pick off attackers, and it'll be one of my first targets.
Balduvian Horde, how I missed you!
Printed in Alliances, it was originally touted as the best card in the set and its price was considerably more than that of some weird five-mana counterspell from the same set that let you cast it for free if you wanted to lose a life (ugh) and exile another blue card (double ugh).
Only one of those stood the test of time.
Rowdy Crew tries its best to rectify the issues of its predecessor. Same cost, trample tacked on, but we no longer get a guaranteed 5/5. Instead we get to draw three (sweet!) and then discard two at random (ugh) to maybe make that 5/5 happen. At worst, we get a 3/3 trampler for 2RR that drew us a card, which is a reasonable deal, and at best we get 5/5 that cleared out some dead draws and gave us a good card for the same cost.
I accept your terms.
You know I am going to cast this while I control a Boros Reckoner. I know I am going to cast this while I control a Boros Reckoner. My editor knows I am going to cast this while I control a Boros Reckoner. Let's get that part out of the way.
What is less obvious is that we might want to do this in Standard. It's a potential last-gasp answer in a Big Red deck, but also Wildfire Eternal would really like to help us drop a huge flaming rock on the battlefield. All we need to do is find a few creatures who will stand atop the smoldering crater, ready to pick up the pieces of anyone who dared to survive. Enrage is a possible mechanic to help us clean up, and of course we could just beat down with Gods instead.
I wish I had known about this card when I wrote my article on Treasure, because this might be one of the missing pieces to make Revel in Riches an actual deck. It might only make you one Treasure a turn, but it does that for free and the drawback is not actually a drawback; the opponent is going to be attacking us anyway, and we are going to be removing their creatures. Four mana is a little on the steep side, but the deck I envision is not going to be in any hurry to win. Perhaps a Mardu deck with Anointed Procession, removal, sweepers, and some planeswalkers. Marrrrdu sounds like just the place!
It may seem like an innocuous uncommon, but there are some words that are not on this card: "you don't control." A 1/4 that can fight seems pretty awful until you remember all the enrage triggers it's going to get us. It's also particularly adept at picking off the likes of Earthshaker Khenra and Bomat Courier while blocking another creature all day and all night. Decent flexibility for something that, on the face of it, wouldn't impress in many sets.
I have always loved Quirion Dryad-style creatures. Managorger Hydra was a card I played perhaps a little too much, and I have often tried to make Miracle Grow work. Deeproot Champion doesn't care about the color of the spell, but you must cast it and the spell has to be noncreature. Okay, I can work with that.
The obvious first place for this would appear to be in a Pummeler shell, which already has plenty of pump spells to trigger the Champion. It doesn't make energy, which could work against it, but the concept is worth exploring.
Perhaps instead we want to look at a U/G tempo deck that uses Herald of Secret Streams and Jade Guardian (more on that card in a moment) to get evasive, resilient damage through. Blue has a lot of "get out of the way" spells right now with Unsummon, Perilous Voyage, Depths of Desire, Watertrap Weaver, Winds of Rebuke, and Commit. Conveniently they all trigger the Champion as well. Obviously we won't want all of them, but having a large base from which to choose is a boon.
A four-mana 2/2 with upside might seem like a strange choice for inclusion, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the most important and infuriating line of text on this card might be the first one in the text box. It's been a long time since we had a reasonably cheap creature with hexproof, and when you combine this with Deeproot Waters, we have the basis for a Standard-legal hexproof Aura deck. As I said above, Herald of Secret Streams is a nice partner for this strategy, and we have a couple of solid Auras in U/G: One with the Wind, Cartouche of Knowledge, and Cartouche of Strength spring to mind. Add in Dowsing Dagger and maybe even Prying Blade and we have a good start for the deck. We might need another set to make this truly scary, but the base is there.
I paired these two because I think it's very likely they will be joined at the scales for a long time. Although Ripjaw Raptors and its ability to draw cards is clearly the splashier effect, I actually like Ranging Raptors a little better. Both cards combine with Walking Ballista insanely well, and Ranging Raptors makes it easier to draw gas and to load up your Ballista.
Enrage is such a cool mechanic that any playable effect is going to make me pay attention. These two cards have the most potentially broken effects. The focus on basic lands with a couple of cards in this set really makes me want to cut down on the colors I play, but if we are getting all these lands I am going to want some top end. Fortunately, we can use the Raptor twins as fixing with just basics if needed. I am really excited to jam both of these cards, and will probably be doing so very early on.
Hey, look, top-end for our ramping strategy! Awaken-on-legs is an interesting choice for the set that kicks awaken out of Standard, but here we are. I love that this card not only does not tap to awaken a land, but it can also re-awaken one if you need to pump it for any reason. In a format that is basically giving us Gaea's Cradle, a mana sink that is relatively beefy on its own is not something to sniff at. If we end up with something in the format that makes arbitrarily large amounts of mana, this would likely be my finisher of choice.
One of the biggest questions I am asking myself early on is whether or not Gishath is worth the investment. Very few people will try to tell you that the card isn't powerful, but we just don't know yet if the format will allow eight-mana spells to ever be cast, let alone resolved. Normally we could rely on some sort of reanimation, but there are currently few spells to do that…and they are in black.
A second concern is whether or not the format is conducive to a Dino deck that wants Gishath. A 7/6 with trample, vigilance and haste looks impressive but is ultimately just the kind of "keyword stew" creature that doesn't make it into Standard. If we can get even one free Dinosaur off the trigger, though, we are probably in a really good place. Whether or not we can balance those that we want to cast for free with those that we just want to cast will be the second defining question. I hope it happens, because I want to smash people with this.
Huatli is interesting. Making a significant threat or blocker for no loyalty cost is a real boon, especially if we need to make a five-mana investment. The first ability is just kind of there and I can't imagine it will often be relevant; into an empty battlefield, you want the token, and if you're ahead, you want the Falter effect. If you're behind, you probably want the token, but that's really the only time I can see wanting the lifegain unless you happen to be playing Crested Sunmare. And if you are, props. It's possible you might also need the first ability to make sure you can stop the opponent's whole team from blocking, but we are deep into hypothetical territory now.
If we do in fact have a more middling aggresive deck like Dinosaurs could be, Huatli promises to be a powerful contributor. That contribution may be out of the sideboard, letting Samut, the Tested play in the maindeck with her enrage synergies. We could also see Huatli in a Mardu or Naya planeswalker deck where her middle ability is the main reason to play her. She's the kind of card that is solid but not amazing, which is right up my alley.
Okay, I know it's no Blood Baron of Vizkopa. We loved it because it was so good, but it's gone forever now. That being said, I am excited to play Vona, Butcher of Magan in any deck that wants to gain life. Which, for me at least, is a lot of them. Even if the five-mana cost is a little steep for my first love in Modern (Soul Sisters), I might still have to try it.
The key behind that activated ability is that you simply don't have to play it. A 4/4 with vigilance and lifelink in the Vampire deck fits well with the expected play style of "gain all the life" even without the ability to just reach out and nuke something, and seven life just isn't that steep of a payment for the effect. Right, Griselbrand? Ultimately, I'm not sure Vona will be good enough to make the grade, but I will go down trying.
Bring on the Release!
If I didn't talk about your favorite card this week, I may have touched on it in my article on Treasures. The double-face cards, while exciting, are all relatively straightforward and not really tickling my brewer's fancy. If you have cool plans that I didn't mention, leave it below!
For now, though, that's all we have for today. My Prerelease impressions are coming soon, followed by my favorite article to write – Brew Blitz! As always, thanks for stopping by. Until next time...Brew On!