When it comes to cards that most caught my eye from the new set, the truth is it was mostly all cards that would slot into a control strategy in Standard. Abrade is a versatile removal spell. Hour of Devastation is a...devastating...board sweeper that finally provides value against cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Supreme Will is a versatile card that is good early and late but for different reasons.
And finally, there is Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. Bolas is a planeswalker that is certainly overhyped, but at the same time it still is a very powerful effect, even though it costs seven. I felt like Bolas is a card that best slots into the Blue-Red Control deck that already exists in Standard. A deck designed to snowball, it uses efficient answers coupled with card draw to greatly disrupt the opponent in the early turns of the game and then relies them eventually stumbling or flooding out or drawing irrelevant cards to turn the corner with card-draw spells which shut the door on a chance of coming back. Bolas is the perfect top end to a snowball strategy, since he pretty easily closes the door on a comeback.
The flaw with a snowball strategy is that if things go wrong early, the deck struggles very hard to Recuperate. Thankfully, a lot of holes with the strategy get fixed in Hour of Devasation. Hour of Devastation, the card, provides a way to claw back from being behind. Supreme Will bridges the gap between the card draw spells and the early game interaction by being capable of both interaction and selection. Abrade handles problematic early permanents that can run away with the game too quickly, such as Heart of Kiran. It also kills cheap threats or late-game big threats like Torrential Gearhulk or Verdurous Gearhulk.
Bolas is a very easy splash off of cycle lands and Aether Hub that may or may not be worth it, but the option is certainly there.
I don't want to spoil too much, but I was extremely impressed with Bolas, which greatly overperformed, and Hour of Devastation seemed pretty good, although not as insane as I had been expecting. Abrade was worse than expectations, and Supreme Will was way better than expectations and I would add more copies into the deck. Being able to dig for sweepers against some strategies and countermagic against others is really nice.
Overall, the deck seemed good, and likely one I will continue to work on.
- Brian Braun-Duin