The release of Hour of Devastation is quickly approaching, and the new cards it brings to Standard are going to play an important role in setting the metagame's course after the banning of Aetherworks Marvel. The set has almost been entirely revealed, so there are many cards to analyze. Like in all sets, the majority of cards are slated for Limited play and won't make an impact in Constructed, but a few cards stand out for their efficient rates or powerful abilities that could earn them a place in competitive Standard.
The versatility of multiple modes is the hallmark of a Constructed staple, and it's what made cards like the Lorwyn Commands and the Khans of Tarkir Charms so powerful in their Standard formats. Last week I discussed how the spoiled modal card Supreme Will is surely going to be a big player in Standard. Since that time, its black equivalent Doomfall has been revealed, and this equally versatile and powerful spell also has all the makings of a Standard staple.
Doomfall combines a Diabolic Edict effect with a discard spell like Thoughtseize. One of the biggest problems with discard is that it's a poor draw later in the game when the opponent has emptied their hand, but Doomfall avoids that problem by impacting the battlefield. It's a versatile piece of disruption that can deal with creatures and non-creatures, so it will have applications against every opponent. Doomfall has applications in all sorts of decks, and the versatility is especially strong in a control deck that can't afford to draw cards that don't interact with the opponent. It's also a convenient way for aggressive decks to fit discard into the main deck to combat control and combo opponents while not giving up any ground against other aggressive decks where the edict ability will be effective.
This new modal card is also a good sign that we can look forward to a cycle of these cards. It's likely the cycle is restricted to the colors of Nicol Bolas, meaning I fully expect to see a red version, but perhaps white and green are coming too. Any of these would have a shot to be Standard-playable, so I'm excited to see what they bring to the table.
Adorned Pouncer might not look very impressive, but double strike comes with a lot of potential upside. Adorned Pouncer has an eternalize ability that's cheaper than the eternalize ability on the rare creatures in other colors, which leads me to believe that if any have Standard play in their future, this one is the most likely. Five mana for a 4/4 double strike creature is quite strong and can tangle with just about anything or quickly kill the opponent, and that's without anything to boost its size.
Buff effects will be quite effective on Adorned Pouncer, so I could see it finding a home in aggressive decks that feature them. For example, it would do a lot of damage very quickly combined with Consuming Fervor or cards like Cartouche of Zeal in a White-Red Aggro deck. It could help fill the two-drop slot of a more midrange green-white deck that follows it up with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, Rishkar, Peema Renegade and Verdurous Gearhulk. Adorned Pouncer plays quite well with Resilient Kenra, another new eternalize creature, so these two could find themselves side-by-side.
Adorned Pouncer also happens to be a Cat, so it could be at home in a Cat tribal deck, which is made possible by Pride Sovereign joining Regal Caracal as another payoff for the tribe.
Nimble Obstructionist puts Stifle on a 3/1 flying, flash body reminiscent of Vendilion Clique, and this unique pairing creates a powerful combination with potential in Standard. The card is primarily an evasive threat with flash, so it will function well in decks with Counterspells and other instant-speed plays, like in White-Blue Flash. The ability to cycle and Stifle an ability gives it the unique ability to stop many of the most troublesome cards in Standard, including the cast trigger on Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. The Stifle happening on cycle and not when entering play means the card doesn't offer the crushing tempo of playing a threat at the same time as countering an ability, but it instead offers the card advantage of drawing a card, which will be especially devastating when the ability can be used to cleanly trade for an opposing card, like when countering the ability on Evolving Wilds or Vessel of Nascency. Nimble Obstructionist already has a home in White-Blue Flash, and it could fit into all sorts of blue strategies, so I expect it to have a great future in Standard.
As a 5/5 creature for three mana, Ammit Eternal hits very hard relative to its cost, and there aren't many creatures that can stand up to it early in the game. Its drawback is that the opponent's spells Shrink it, but it grows right back to a 5/5 if it can connect with the opponent. There's a lot of incentive for the opponent to block it, but Ammit Eternal fights back with its Afflict ability punishing blockers and still allowing it to deal damage.
Assuming the opponent plays a spell a turn, Amnit Eternal will normally enter combat as 4/4 creature, which is still a good rate and large enough to fight blockers. Ammit Eternal will also be a strong late-game topdeck when the opponent is out of spells to cast to Shrink it. It's also a Zombie, which means it can benefit from all sorts of tribal synergies, like Liliana's Mastery pumping it or even Binding Mummy clearing out blockers. It may very find a home in Zombie aggro decks, but it is powerful enough without help that I could see it being used in all sorts of black decks, even in the sideboard of a control deck as a surprise threat.
Aggressive red decks have often been a key component of Standard metagames, but they have had a hard time in Standard lately, where red plays a minor supporting role to other colors in decks like Mardu Vehicles and Temur Energy. In order for a true red aggro deck to be competitive it requires a critical mass of efficient creatures and burn spells, and a card like Earthshaker Kenra could fit the bill. Offering both haste and the ability to shut down a blocker, Earthshaker Kenra perfectly fits the identity of an aggressive red creature deck that is designed to deal 20 damage as quickly as possible. Earthshaker Kenra goes farther by offering value from the graveyard with its eternalize ability, which can be utilized later in the game to weather the opponent's disruption and help the deck push through the last points of damage it needs to win. Aggressive red decks typically don't include any sort of card drawing spells, so it makes great use of this sort of incidental card advantage that Eternalize provides. The card advantage from the graveyard could also be put to good use in a more midrange Big Red style deck as a six-mana play above Glorybringer on the curve.
In the context of the current metagame,Earthshaker Kenra is particularly adept at pressuring planeswalkers like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar because it can shut down a Knight Ally Token, and it keeps aggressive decks honest by demanding they leave up extra blockers or be forced to take extra damage, especially if it's combined with other cards that turn off blockers like Ahn-Crop Crasher.
Razaketh's Rite combines the powerful ability to tutor through one's deck with the versatility of being cycled for just one mana. It's a unique card because it's so efficient to cycle when unneeded, but very useful when it is cast. The two halves of the cards, tutor and cycle, also both work towards the same end of increasing consistency, so in some ways it's like a weird black cantrip that serves as its own sort of Ponder or Preordain. It seems like an ideal card for a deck that wants to use cycling synergies with something like Drake Haven, but it has the potential in all sorts of black decks, especially controlling decks with a package of silver-bullet cards. It will be best of all in combo-style decks that want to assemble a specific combination of cards - an obvious home for Razaketh's Rite would be in the New Perspectives combo deck, which relies on a critical mass of cycling cards to function, but also needs access to a specific card to win.
The Scarab God offers the ability of exiling a creature from any graveyard to create a 4/4 token copy of it, essentially allowing it to eternalize any creature on-demand. Being able to make tokens from the opponent's creatures is a rather unique ability, but what's more exciting is using this ability to power a reanimator strategy in Standard. Token copies of creatures retain their abilities, and will trigger enters-the-battlefield abilities, so there's a ton of potential to abuse creatures that are useful for reasons beyond their size. There are plenty of nice options available, like Void Winnower or even Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, and Hour of Devastation also happens to have some juicy new reanimation targets, the most impressive being Chaos Maw that will clear the way for 4/4 creatures to take over the game. Razaketh, the Foulblooded is the closest thing to Griselbrand in Standard, and it could be effective in a reanimation deck if it has other creatures to fuel its ability.
Another new card, Hour of Eternity, can immediately eternalize one or more creatures, so it may be even more important than The Scarab God as the primary reanimation spell in the Standard reanimator deck. One could go even further with God-Pharoah's Gift, which eternalizes a creature for free every turn and even gives it haste.
The Desert land type started in Amonkhet is really being pushed in Hour of Devastation with a huge variety of new Desert lands and cards that benefit from them. The most startling is Hour of Promise, which searches the library for two lands and puts them into play. It finds any lands, which will be very useful for finding creature lands or any others with unique abilities, but Hour of Promise only reaches its full potential when combined with Deserts. Creating two Zombie Tokens along with ramping two lands is a lot of card advantage, and it helps to maintain the battlefield before more powerful spells come online and take over the game.
Requiring three Deserts means that Hour of Promise will require a deck that plays enough Deserts to reliably have one in play before casting it, but assuming there are enough good Deserts and enough of an incentive to ramp mana, the card could be very effective. Such a deck would likely include Desert of the Indomitable as an easy Desert to include in a green deck and with the upside of cycling to help prevent flood later on, and it could include silver-bullet Deserts with various forms of utility. Some Deserts disrupt the opponent's plans, like Scavenger Grounds to remove graveyards and Endless Sands to protect creatures from removal, while Hostile Desert and Hashep Oasis can be used aggressively. A deck heavy with Deserts may also want to take advantage of some of the other payoffs for including them, like Ramunap Hydra as a large creature that dominates the battlefield on offense and defense.
Do these cards have what it takes to make it into Standard? What new Hour of Devastation cards are you most excited to play with?