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"I've learned something about myself. As a brewer, when I read over a spoiler, I'm not looking for the best cards. I'll skim right over an Abrade like it's nothing."
That really struck a chord with me, as over the years I've become the exact opposite. I love digging through preview season looking for individual cards that can interact in the current Standard landscape, knowing full well that something that the brewers concoct may very well change everything.
After all, you never really know what's going to happen during preview season, but facts do remain facts. Glorybringer is still going to kill creatures with four toughness, but we at least now have two-mana removal that kills it.
Today I'm going embrace who I am. I'm not going to try to step on any of my coworkers' toes and try to brew up some crazy decks. That's just not me and I'd probably do it worse than they would anyway. I'll leave Lich's Mastery for Patrick Chapin; Muldrotha, the Gravetide for Todd Stevens; and whatever cards Sam Black likes to Sam Black. Today I'm going to look through Dominaria under the scope of whether certain cards pass "The Standard Test," and trust me when I say I'll be grading on a (mana) curve!
The Bard Narson Grading Scale
Before we get into the cards themselves, I'll define what I look for in new cards. Right off the bat, expensive synergies get docked a grade. Cheap cards that need synergy will be given a closer look. Expensive synergies are just not good enough nowadays. Take U/W Gift, for example. It got a lot of professional players all hot and bothered these past few weeks since it looked like a deck worth playing, but at the end of the day, the cheeky U/R Gift took all the thunder away.
That's because it used synergies designed by Wizards of the Coast and thus didn't have as many hoops to jump through. What looks good on paper isn't always what is good in practice. The cheaper the synergy, the better chance it will have in Standard. Period.
What I'm looking for is cards that can hold their own on the battlefield. For example, The Scarab God deserves an A, as it's difficult to kill with its five toughness, gives you something to do with your mana, and has an immediate impact on the battlefield. One less toughness would greatly diminish its grade, as then it could be killed by Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer.
Cards that win the game all by themselves aren't the only cards that can get the best grades, though. Great removal deserves attention as well, as mythic rares wouldn't get a chance to shine without them. There wouldn't have been Temur Energy without Harnessed Lightning, and "Snek!" would just be a meme without Fatal Push to boost Winding Constrictor.
Also, don't look too deep into my grades. They are, after all, just a mnemonic device that breaks up the monotony of evaluating new cards. How could I really grade these cards before they even step foot into Standard?
The first three cards taking The Standard Test are the planeswalkers from Dominaria, three iconic characters from the storybooks and three interesting pieces of cardboard being introduced to the vicious Standard format.
I discussed Karn, Scion of Urza in great detail last week, so take a quick look at that if you missed it. My opinions haven't really changed. There's a good chance that some sort of artifact deck comes out of Standard that can utilize its -2 ability, but without that, this card doesn't seem that great to me.
Card advantage is extremely important in Standard right now, but we aren't just drawing cards with these effects. Champion of Wits is either being eternalized to create a 4/4 body or cheated onto the battlefield via God-Pharaoh's Gift. Chandra, Torch of Defiance can enter the battlefield and kill a creature or generate mana to cast things like Abrade or Lightning Strike to keep the battlefield clear of danger.
Karn, Scion of Urza is just...drawing cards.
Now, of course this can be put into any deck, which is a big boon for its chances in Standard, but that doesn't change the fact that it feels more like a role-player than the game-changer.
"Because he's the hero Dominaria deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A Planeswalker once more."
I wanted to hate Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. A U/W planeswalker that draws cards? Yuck!
I wanted to… But I can't…