There is an aura surrounding the Amonkhet spoiler season. We've seen a lot of fun and interesting cards, but the question we are all asking ourselves is "will it matter?" Will these new perfectly fit toys be enough to overthrow the domination of Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai or the Mythic-infused power combo of Heart of Kiran and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar? I don't know that answer. I can only hope it is yes.
In the meantime, I want to look at some new cards from Amonkhet that have caught my eye. I'll say that Amonkhet looks amazing, not necessarily from a power level standpoint, but from a design and flavor perspective. I'm generally a curmudgeon during spoiler season. I don't get that excited by many new cards; usually only a few per set really give me that tingly feeling. With that said, I think the flavor and design of Amonkhet is really cool so far, and I'm actually excited to check in every day and see what new stuff is out.
This card really jumps off the screen. In terms of power level alone, this could easily be the best card in the set. This card may not initially look great, but the ability to turn cards into 2/2 Drakes at instant speed can take over a game really quickly. Imagine, for example, a game where you play a Noose Constrictor on turn two, a Drake Haven on turn three, and then on turn four you can discard four cards to attack for six damage and put eight power and toughness of flying into play. Your opponent now has to individually deal with four drakes that will all be threatening their life total.
Generally speaking, cards like this probably won't end up being in the same deck as something like Noose Constrictor, as that sort of all-in combination isn't always the most effective. However, there are a lot of ways to discard cards in Standard.
The easiest option is to just use Amonkhet's cycling cards. Draw a card and get a 2/2 Drake is a pretty nice use of two mana. So far, we've already seen a number of great cycling cards, from the land, err, cycle, to the new Oblivion Ring variant. Already, we have some nice synergy with Drake Haven from those cards alone.
Another option is to use madness cards and madness enablers from Shadows over Innistrad block. We've already had cards like Fiery Temper, Bloodhall Priest, and Voldaren Pariah see play, generally enabled by powerful colorless utility cards like Smuggler's Copter.
What's that? It's banned? I must have forgotten that tidbit. Oh wait. That's right. I didn't forget. I just can't help myself. Started from the bottom, now we're making 2/2 flying creatures and dealing three points of damage to the face.
Madness cards – now enabled by far worse options like Crypbreaker, Haunted Dead, and Key to the City – get double duty with Drake Haven. I can imagine a deck playing Haven alongside cards like Nahiri, the Harbinger and Key to the City. Said deck would be able to filter through cards while generating a Drake advantage along the way.
Contrary to popular opinion, this is not the crossover sequel to Castaway and Get Out, featuring Tom Hanks going to visit Wilson's family only to find out that they might not be as open and welcoming to non-volleyball relationships as he had hoped.
This card is dope. It's an instant-speed answer to Planeswalkers and other problematic permanents. I've been wanting them to print a Hero's Downfall or Oblivion Ring for a while now, and we kind of got the love child of those two cards in Cast Out. I expect that this card will see a lot of play and may even end up simply being the best card in the set.
Not only is it an instant-speed Oblivion Ring for only one more mana, it also cycles, and it cycles cheaper than most cards do. That really pushes this card over the top. It's rare that your catch-all removal spell is going to be bad, but in the situations where it is, you can just cycle that thing and move on with your life.
Being able to cycle an enchantment is also great for enabling Delirium. Delirium isn't exactly a powerful ability in white, but for all you Shaheen Soorani's out there (I only know of one, personally) this might be a way to turn on Descend upon the Sinful, the card you try to slot into every single deck.
I haven't seen a lot of fanfare surrounding this card, but I think this could easily be a sleeper. The big key here is that you get as many tokens as -1/-1 counters that get applied. So when you slam your Black Sun's Zenith to wrath the board, you're going to have a lot of insects ready and willing to assist in the overrunning of your opponent. So far, we've seen a few cards that willingly self-apply -1/-1 counters, such as Channeler Initiate, Exemplar of Strength and Crocodile of the Crossing. Archfiend of Ifnir is there to supply your opponent's squad with -1/-1 counters and I suspect there will be even more cards that do this.
I think it would be very easy for this card to get out of hand if you have enough cards that interact favorably with it. I could easily see this card generating 10+ insects over the course of a game in a synergistic deck, which is a lot of insects, and if you have some way to pump those tokens, then that could very easily just be game over.
One brief note is that Winding Constrictor may get a lot worse with all these -1/-1 cards running around. When that -1/-1 turns into -2/-2, that's a definite feel bad.
I think engine cards that continue to generate an advantage as the game progresses all have the potential to be great, and Nest of Scarabs is a lot like Drake Haven in that it has that potential for glory.
Speaking of a potential for glory, here's Glorybringer, the latest in a short line of five-cost dragons with haste and a relevant ability – also known as the successor to Stormbreath Dragon and Thundermaw Hellkite.
I suspect Glorybringer will also see play as a 4/4 haste Dragon for five with an ability has already proven itself to be worth playing in most formats. I think Glorybringer's ability is close in power level to both Stormbreath Dragon and Thundermaw Hellkite. Being able to take a turn off to kill something is really good. I like how Glorybringer is really good vs. Gideon. You can kill their Gideon and one of their best creatures and completely restabilize the board.
It's interesting to think about how this card will play with Archangel Avacyn. Avacyn can come down and slay Glorybringer, but Glorybringer can actually do the exact same thing and come down and slay an Archangel Avacyn. It will be neat to see if that ends up being a relevant part of the upcoming Standard format.
This card will see play for sure. Servant of the Conduit sees a lot of play, and while Servant's energy production offers value to other cards, Channeler Initiate can play with cards that utilize -1/-1 counters, such as Nest of Scarabs. Of course, it's also just a creature that taps for mana three times and then is a medium-sized beatstick. I like how you can use it to ramp for a few turns, and then once you get to a point in the game where you don't need the mana anymore, you can just start smashing face. I like it.
I'm kind of surprised they printed yet another Gideon in the form of Gideon of the Trials. Actually, I don't like it. Gideon is one of my favorite planeswalkers of all time. I loved Gideon Jura and I used to always hope that they would eventually print other Gideons. But it's being overdone at this point. I'm tired of seeing a new Gideon, Nissa, Chandra, or Jace every set. To me, these characters have seen the limelight for so long and are so one-dimensional that they are pretty boring. They repeat abilities on them so frequently because they've run out of design space.
This is yet another Gideon that turns into an indestructible creature. Why not show off some other planeswalker? Why not focus on planeswalkers that have a bit more depth and interesting design space surrounding them? I really hope they stop focusing solely on the Gatewatch every single set and stop allowing the Gatewatch to completely dominate card design and development. I'd like to see more planeswalkers like Nahiri, the Harbinger. She was a character with some amount of character and some Ambiguity as to whether her motivations and actions were justified or villainous.
That said, I'm having a hard time evaluating this card for Standard. It seems pretty strong on turn three, as you can lock down your opponent's creature and then set yourself up for future turns. It also plays nicely after a Heart of Kiran on turn two. The downside is that the double white casting cost can make it tough to cast early for non-dedicated white decks. Basically, the not Craig Wescoe's of the world may struggle to slide this one out there on turn three from time to time.
I think this card is awesome in Modern, though. Some decks, like Ad Nauseam, will have severe issues beating this card when you emblem it. I also like how "you can't lose the game" means that you can also pair Gideon in Modern alongside cards like Pact of Negation or Pact of the Titan. You can play Gideon and then play a bunch of Pacts and you don't have to worry about losing the game. Too cute, maybe, but seems like a sweet area to explore.
Finally! They heard my pleas. They are printing one-mana cat creatures that don't completely invalidate Squire as a Magic card. I'm looking at you, Sanctuary Cat. I'm looking at you with only hatred in my heart. Sacred Cat, you're cool.
I can't pronounce this card, and I don't know why they printed this card. I don't think it's particularly good. It dies to everything, trades with Rogue Refiner and Scrapheap Scrounger and the like. I just don't get it. Countermagic isn't good in Standard, and it hasn't been in a while, yet they are printing hate cards for it.
Meanwhile, we're getting eaten alive by Heart of Kiran and Gideon and Felidar + Saheeli. Where are the hate cards for those? Cast Out is a great start, but give us some Pithing Needles or Hero's Downfall, not a card that hoses countermagic when nobody is playing countermagic and it isn't even good. Just why! Blach.
I've got an idea for a card.
Creature - Donkey Boar
When Slithering Donkboar comes into play, name an oppressive Mythic Rare. Your opponents can't cast cards or activate abilities of the named card.
If your opponent casts a Gideon, Saheeli Rai, or Heart of Kiran, throw it in the trash.
- Brian Braun-Duin