Hey everyone! It's finally spoiler time, a favorite time of year for most Magic players. In fact, many players compare spoiler season to Christmas (weird, right?). We have seen roughly forty cards as of the time this article goes live and I think the set looks pretty exciting so far. Today I'm going to talk about a few of the cards that have been spoiled and how they will impact Standard.
Drown in Sorrow
Drown in Sorrow is the Born of the Gods card that I'm the most excited about. This card is practically an Infest with the added bonus of scry 1. If you don't remember playing Infest back in the day, believe me it was a powerhouse in both Standard and Block. Its first printing was Onslaught and I remember playing it a lot against those Tribal Goblin and Soldier decks. It was reprinted in Shards of Alara but it wasn't played much during that time at all. Shards of Alara was a dark time for Standard with Caw-Blade, Jund, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in the format and the little creature decks just weren't powerful enough to give Infest any love.
Now we have a new Infest, this time with scry attached to it! We all know how powerful the scry ability is in Standard. You may remember when the Scrylands were spoiled and many players complained about how bad they were. They were too slow and scry 1 just didn't do enough. Well after we played with the Scrylands for a few weeks, everyone's opinions infinitely changed. Scry is amazing and having a board sweeper with scry attached is borderline insane.
Drown in Sorrow will change everything when Born of the Gods becomes legal. Monoblack Devotion is arguably the best deck in Standard right now but there are times where it fails in a metagame full of fast aggressive decks. Here is the list that Owen Turtenwald piloted to a first place finish at the SCG Open in Indianapolis a few weeks ago.
The reason why Owen's Monoblack deck was able to perform so well was because the tournament consisted of a bunch of midrange and control decks. There were a lot of RG Monster decks, Selesnya, and UW and BW Control; Monoblack just crushes those strategies. Had the metagame been full of faster aggro decks like Red Deck Wins or Monoblue, the Monoblack deck would have had a much more difficult time.
Drown in Sorrow is the card that the Monoblack deck needed to beat the aggressive decks consistently. Instead of being forced to play bad removal spells like Pharika's Cure, we now have access to a mini Wrath of God. It's a little scary that this one card can make Monoblack Devotion nearly unbeatable. Without Monored keeping this deck in check, it is possible that it can dominate every Standard tournament.
The real reason why I like Drown in Sorrow so much is because it makes other control decks playable again. Grixis Control and UB Control were not at all Standard playable because they were just missing that Wrath of God component. Grixis had Anger of the Gods, but it just didn't do enough and hurt the manabase quite a bit. It just wasn't worth it to play these decks when it was much easier to play white for Supreme Verdict. With Drown in Sorrow, we have much more deckbuilding options for control players out there and I'm excited to start brewing new control decks with this card.
Many players have referred to Pain Seer is the "new" Dark Confidant, but if you think this card is on the same level as Dark Confidant, you will be disappointed. Dark Confidant gave you a card every turn, no matter what. Pain Seer requires you to untap with it. That means you can really only play this in a deck where you are doing a lot of attacking. Rakdos Aggro is a perfect fit for this guy but you would never want to play this in a control deck.
If your opponent has any creatures in play, they will snap block Pain Seer every time. Even worse, if they control a creature with toughness greater than two, your Pain Seer will become the opposite of value. Pain Seer is a Build Around Me card, and to play him optimally you will need to be playing an aggro deck with lots of removal to clear blockers out of the way.
Of course, there is a card that gives you a way to tap your creatures without actually attacking - Springleaf Drum - and I'm sure that many players will try to build Pain Seer decks that utilize this card. It's a cute combo and is even mana acceleration, but remember you are using two cards to gain one card each turn. That means that your Pain Seer will need to be in play for two turns for you to break even and another turn to net you a card. That is a lot of work! Springleaf Drum is a cute little card but we are not playing Affinity here.Tribute
Tribute is an interesting mechanic but I'm not sure how much it will affect constructed play. Tribute is a new keyword ability on creatures where your opponent will get a choice to either have that creature enter the battlefield with some number of +1/+1 counters or your creature will get some other cool ability.
There are two cards with tribute that we've seen so far that look constructed worthy. The first is Flame-Wreathed Phoenix. This guy will either be a 5/5 flyer for four mana, or a 3/3 flyer that basically can never die. Aggro decks will have a really hard time getting through this guy and it will put them in very awkward situations. Do you let this guy be a 5/5 and never be able to get through again? (Or worse, give them a four turn clock...) Or do you let him be a 3/3 that is unkillable with Lightning Strike or other removal spells? If you're playing a deck with real removal such as Supreme Verdict or Doom Blade, the choice is easy. Just let him be a 5/5 and kill it, but if you are playing a creature deck like Selesnya or Gruul Aggro, your choice much harder.
The other tribute card that looks interesting is Fanatic of Xenagos. This guy will either be a three mana 4/4 or a slightly better Boggart Ram Gang. Fanatic of Xenagos is an extremely efficient creature for its cost and is the three drop that the RG Aggro decks were looking for.Gods
Any time a Magic card has the word "God" in its title, it has to be good, right? I think both of the Gods spoiled so far are amazing and will undoubtedly see constructed play. They look a bit harder to turn on with a requirement of seven devotion, but the fact that you can have either color makes it actually quite easy.
One thing to remember about Gods is that each hybrid mana symbol - such as the mana symbols in Judge's Familiar and Boros Reckoner - only counts as one towards your devotion. That means Judge's Familiar does not add two devotion for your Ephara, God of the Polis, and Boros Reckoner won't add six towards a RW God. Adding two per mana symbol is quite broken and it would imply that triple hybrid cards like Nightveil Specter and Boros Reckoner will turn on their Gods immediately. That seems a little too good for Standard.
Mogis, God of Slaughter is amazing in a Rakdos Aggro deck. Anyone who remembers playing Sulfuric Vortex back in Onslaught Standard will surely agree. The main problem with Aggro decks in general is that they run out of gas pretty easily. They have little ways to gain card advantage and relying on the top card of your deck every turn is not something you want to do. Mogis, God of Slaughter gives you a reusable source of damage every turn and is very hard to remove from the battlefield. If your opponent stabilizes at six life, they have three turns to kill you before Mogis, God of Slaughter kills them. This guy puts your opponent under constant pressure and is exactly what Rakdos Aggro needed to be more competitive in Standard.
Fated Conflagration has been getting a lot of hate since it's been spoiled. Most of the time, a four mana spell that can't even damage a player is not what a red deck wants. See Fanatic of Mogis for comparison. That guy is also four mana but it is so much more broken. Fanatic of Mogis has the potential to do seven or more damage to a player and can even hit Planeswalkers if you need it to. The downside of Fanatic of Mogis is that it can't kill creatures (that's Flametongue Kavu's job).
Fated Conflagration is certainly a much worse card than Fanatic but it can do things that most red decks have a hard time doing. For one, the card doesn't require the same setup that Fanatic of Mogis does. You don't need a high devotion count to make this card optimal the way you do with Fanatic of Mogis. Not being able to damage players is a problem, but we really can't ignore a card that can out right kill a Jace, Architect of Thought, Garruk, Caller of Beasts, and Chandra, Pyromaster, even after their +1 abilities have been used. Red decks usually have a miserable time dealing with a Jace's +1, as five loyalty is very high, especially when your creatures are getting smaller during your attack step.
The scry 2 ability is an added bonus to this card. It's nice, but don't go out of your way to cast it on your turn if you don't need to. Most of the time, you will EOT kill a Planeswalker, Polukranos, World Eater, or other giant fattie. Overall this card is not great but it is a very useful sideboard card that can get you out of a lot of difficult situations.
Kiora, the Crashing Wave
I like this Planeswalker a lot for a few reasons. One, I really like Simic and what the color combination is capable of, and two, I love ramping. This card ramps you by one for two turns, and drawing an extra card in the process is also pretty nice. I don't really think that this guy really has a home in Standard right now. There is not enough ramp to make a good ramp deck. We have no Rampant Growth or Farseek in the format and creatures like Kiora's Follower and Voyaging Satyr are not reliable mana sources as they just die to removal. In addition, there really isn't anything worth ramping into right now. At the moment, Standard is all about devotion, mana curve, and mana efficiency. If you want to make a lot of mana, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is your best option.
Kiora reminds me a lot of Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. The +1 stops a permanent for a turn, the -1 draws cards or just gets ahead in some way, and the Emblem wins the game. It does almost the exact same thing! It's also a mana cheaper than Tamiyo which is pretty cool. The problem is if you start ramping early with Kiora, you will have no way to protect her. You will have to play early defensive creatures in order to ensure that Kiora survives to get you that extra mana which is actually really hard to do. Kiora definitely has potential and while I don't think it's amazing right now, it definitely can be in future Standard.
The final card I'd like to discuss is Ragemonger. Any time that a cost reducer is printed in Standard, we have to take a look at it. Take Sapphire Medallion and Goblin Warchief for example. Those cards each spawned decks in their respective sets. Ragemonger reminds me a lot of Edgewalker from Scourge. It is practically the same creature with the same type of cost reduction, but of a different tribe. Frank Lepore already talked about Ragemonger a lot yesterday so check out his article here.
When Edgewalker was spoiled, there was a lot of hype over it. Clerics for days and Rotlung Reanimator combo decks were all that were talked about. Unfortunately WotC did not push the Cleric tribe very hard and Edgewalker didn't really see any play outside of limited. Even in limited, Edgewalker was usually worse than a random morph creature and didn't do much except make your Grassland Crusader cost five.
It seems like WotC is really pushing the Minotaur tribe in Theros block. We already have a few min-lords in Rageblood Shaman and Kragma Warcaller, and both Fanatic of Mogis and Boros Reckoner are already very powerful on their own. We really only need a few more cheap Minotaurs printed in Born of the Gods and Journey into Nix in order for this deck to be mildly competitive. As of right now, the Minotaur deck is much too slow to work in Standard. Of course, Ragemonger helps with the speed of the deck, but if you don't draw it, you will be stuck with all of these expensive creatures in your hand. Does it really hurt to ask for a Minotaur equivalent of Skirk Prospector and Goblin Piledriver?Wrap Up
I'm really looking forward to what the rest of Born of the Gods has to offer and will be refreshing my browser daily at midnight to see the new spoilers (it does kind of feel like Christmas). I'll be making my way over to the west coast this weekend to play some Theros Limited at GP Sacramento, my first GP in six weeks. I can't wait to play some competitive Magic again and I hope I'm not too rusty after my break. If you're there, feel free to say hi! Thanks for reading everyone!
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