Every set I like to go over the top cards that pique my deckbuilding interest. Usually I think the cards I'm talking about are pretty good and flying a little below the radar. As I often mention, the possibility definitely exists that sometimes I will be way off and the cards I pick will be terrible. On the other hand, sometimes I'm right on the nose with these articles and certain some cards end up being ridiculous hits. The thing I try hardest to accomplish is to provide you guys with a perspective on some cards that you might not have initially had. Maybe you'll see a card in a new light, or discover an application you might not have thought of; if so, then I consider these articles a success.
If you're looking for a list of the straight-up Top 8 best Oath of the Gatewatch cards you're in the wrong place. You will find no Kozilek, the Great Distortion or Kozilek's Return here (though that doesn't mean I'm not extremely excited for those two Kozilekian gems). The following are some of the unsung heroes of the set that I would personally like to build around based on the merit I see them possessing.
Without further ado...let's begin!
8. Captain's Claws
I originally had Oath of Chandra in this spot, but I just couldn't get myself into it. If it did damage at the end of every turn you controlled a planeswalker, that would be one thing. Regardless, looking at the costs on Captain's Claws is pretty exciting. Only one mana to equip? That's a ridiculous Bargain, and once you have at least one token, you can pretty much chain them together to infinity for an endless stream of attackers. Usually an artifact like this would have a cost of four and an equip cost of at least two, but two and one is actually quite surprising to me.
And that says nothing to the Ally abilities this will trigger for free, turn after turn. Even if the 1/1 gets chump blocked every turn, in an Allies deck this is basically a free trigger every time you attack, for every one of your creatures! If Standard doesn't want this card, I can definitely see it finding a home in any of the numerous Modern Ally strategies. This isn't even legendary, so if you draw and equip two (which only costs two mana once they're in play), you'll be making two 1/1s per turn and triggering all your ally abilities twice! I think you get the point.
7. Sphinx of the Final Word
It seems like every set we get one of these bad boys. The last one I can remember is Pearl Lake Ancient: an evasive, removal-dodging finisher for blue. After that we had Dragonlord Ojutai. So I guess Dragonlord Ojutai is the last one I can remember...
This one immediately reminds me of Sphinx of Jwar Isle from the original Zendikar, so I can only assume it was at least slightly inspired by that guy. Despite costing seven mana, I think this card has all the workings of a true control finisher: hexproof, making your Counterspells uncounterable, making your other spells uncounterable, being uncounterable himself...
Let's be honest, this guy has a lot going on and the only real danger he faces is that of sacrifice effects or sweepers. So as long as he can avoid the random Bearer of Silence or Crux of Fate he should be fine. The only question remaining is whether he's a better finisher than some of the other options in the format right now, such as the aforementioned Dragonlord Ojutai. Also worth noting that Crackling Doom will be rotating out when Shadows over Innistrad rotates in.
6. Stone Haven Outfitter
Now I'll admit that I don't know if this card will see much play, if any, in Standard. The area I'm looking for this card to shine in is actually modern. The fact that you can play something like a Mortarpod and sacrifice it immediately to draw a card is awesome. The fact that the germ is a 1/2 is also pretty sweet. Batterskull now enters the battlefield with a 5/5 germ. If they kill the germ, you draw a card! Our own Craig Wescoe discussed this card last week in conjunction with Puresteel Paladin, and I can definitely see the appeal. Draw cards when equipment enters the battlefield, draw cards when equipped creatures leave the battlefield, draw all the cards! Yeah, this is something I can get behind.
5. Jori En, Ruin Diver
I hate to say it, but this is another card that I feel is perfect for Modern. We don't really make Standard cards in such a way that we can chain multiples together every turn, unfortunately. No one is casting their Siege Rhino and their Abzan Charm in the same turn...at least not often enough for this little 2/3 to get much value from...also, we'd be playing five colors at that point, which is an entirely different problem.
This is a card I could completely see finding a home in Modern U/R tempo decks where you're able to cast a Lightning Bolt and a Gitaxian Probe on the same turn. Or cast a Remand and a Thought Scour on the opponent's turn to draw, what, three cards in total? I've never been a fan of the U/R tempo decks in Modern, but I'm not above seeing some definite potential here. Heck, the turn you play Jori En, if you play any other spell you'll draw a card. She's also a merfolk if that does anything for you!
4. Sifter of Skulls
I opened this guy in one of my Prerelease pools and I was all, "ey, Melissa, dis guy any good?" She knew I was referring to his Constructed applications and gave me a kind of "meh," but I'm not so sure. There's a pretty popular deck in Standard right now that uses cards like Nantuko Husk and Rally the Ancestors. Perhaps you've heard of it!
Even before the four-color Rally deck was a thing, there was a B/G version of the Aristocrats running around, and a creature that can make more creatures when you sacrifice your other creatures is kind of exactly what a deck like that wants. This is also a card that goes great with something like Evolutionary Leap or Blisterpod, netting you two 1/1 tokens. Four mana is a lot, but not really when you're talking about a kind of advantage-generating engine. This also has four power, which means it can be a formidable beater or a decent top deck in the late-game.
3. Dimensional Infiltrator
I'm kind of a sucker for an Eldrazi. I'm not sure why. I guess it's just kind of cool that we have all these small ones to complement the humongous ones we've been playing with for years. It's an interesting dynamic. Dimensional Infiltrator reminds me a lot of Frenetic Efreet. It flies, it's blue, it's a 2/1, and it can attempt to save itself depending on what we ingest from our opponent's library.
As a 2/1 flier with flash, I think this is a pretty awesome little creature all by itself. It lets us hold up removal or Counterspell mana, and if we're in the clear we can play a threat. Who knows, maybe we can exile something as well. Cards like this really excite me because they make cards like Ulamog's Nullifier (Mystic Snake 2.0) a lot closer to being a reality. No longer do we have to actually connect with our ingesting Eldrazi multiple times, although I certainly wouldn't mind this little guy having ingest. Nevertheless, I think this card is pretty sweet, and alongside cards like Fathom Feeder, Wasteland Strangler, and Ulamog's Nullifier, I wonder if we have the makings for a sweet U/B Ingest Control deck yet.
2. Eldrazi Displacer
I can't help but think of Restoration Angel when I see this guy. Sure, it doesn't fly, or have flash, and it only has three toughness instead of four, but those are just silly details!
Seriously, whenever a card is discovered to be capable of an infinite combo mere moments after it's spoiled (along with Zulaport Cutthroat and Brood Monitor), there has to be a lot of potential right below the surface. (Or on the surface, I don't know! It's an Eldrazi; I'm not looking that close.) Sure, the combo requires three cards, but Eldrazi Displacer has so much more potential than that, including simply blinking things like Kitchen Finks, Siege Rhino, or Goblin Dark-Dwellers to name just a few. Heck, even if we're just using the Displacer to save another creature without a triggered ability, that's just fine too. Of course having that ability leaves the Displacer with a pretty sizable target on its head, but that's usually the sign of a pretty solid creature.
1. Sylvan Advocate
This is probably my favorite non-Eldrazi creature in the set. I compared this guy to Tarmogoyf on Facebook and, while that may be a bit of a stretch, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility. A 2/3 with vigilance for two mana is great by itself. But at any point when we have six lands in play, this guy immediately and permanently jumps up to a 4/5 vigilance elf, able to tangle with a Siege Rhino, for the same two mana. In addition, it makes our Hissing Quagmires 4/4s and our Shambling Vents 4/5s with lifelink. What about getting this guy back in the late-game with Ojutai's Command?
Sylvan Advocate singlehandedly makes me wants to take a second look at every card in the format with awaken on it just so I can exploit the "+2/+2 to lands" ability. This is basically a Scute Mob that isn't absolutely terrible in the early-game, enters the battlefield huge once the land requirement is fulfilled, and also has another relevant ability on top of all that.
Oath of the Gatewatch seems like a pretty sweet set. There were a ton of cards that I didn't even talk about simply because they seem so obviously good. This is something I mention frequently - how the line between the great cards and the bad cards is getting finer and finer - but it's the truth.
I know some of you are going to assuredly disagree with some of these picks, and maybe some of you are going to think a few of my choices are obviously good; that's fine! It's actually the exact reason I decided to stop referring to the cards in the column as "sleepers." Like I said in the beginning, these are basically the cards I'm excited to build decks around, so hopefully you'll be excited to build decks around them too.
Either way, I hope I've given you some things to think about and maybe you've seen some of these cards in a new light. Maybe comparing them to older cards might have helped, or maybe you just think they're all junk! (But that's not very nice, and these cards have feelings too.)
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I'll be back again on Monday with some Modern action, so be sure to tune in then! Thanks for reading and I'll see ya soon!
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