Spoiler season is once again upon us, this time a little sooner than we are used to. I always find this time of the year really fun because there is so much to look forward to. Of course, there are always the powerful bombs that everyone will drool over, myself included, but I often go into a spoiler season looking for other, more specific things.
In any given Standard format, there are bound to be cards that have an extremely high ceiling of potential, but often are missing something important to actually get off of the ground. For example, if Goblin Warchief were printed in the next core set, but there were no other competitive goblins running around, that would be an issue. We know Goblin Warchief is powerful. We have seen it win Legacy tournaments even! The card is nothing without context though and a world where no other goblins exist would be a sad day for Goblin Warchief.
That is the point where most spoiled cards get their yay or nay and then we move on, very rarely modifying our early assessment. With a card as powerful as Goblin Warchief though, one should not just give up. Every set released while Warchief remains in Standard has the potential to be a goblin gold mine. If a handful of strong goblins are printed, all of sudden that sad Warchief turns into a Constructed powerhouse.
To me, having some of these cards in the vein of Goblin Warchief in the back of your mind makes for a much more exciting spoiler season. Now, you can still get excited by the strong commands or planeswalkers, but the occasional niche common is also going to get you excited as well, which is a lot of fun.
There are quite a few of these "build-arounds" looming in Standard, some of which have shown their power before while others are still waiting for their big break. I always like to comb through Standard to make note of cards who might skyrocket in value/power should a certain something see print. While there are certainly more, here are some of the cards I am keeping a close eye on as Dragons of Tarkir becomes spoiled:
I have been a pretty big fan of this card ever since it saw print and I think it remains one of the more powerful engines available in Standard. Taken to an extreme, imagine every creature in the format were a Zombie and then imagine not playing this card in most, if not all, black decks?
Of course, the thing holding Stockpile back is that every creature is not one of our undead friends and there are currently not enough high quality zombies to really consider this. The card works for nonzombies, but not in the powerful way we want it to. If there were two or three really solid zombies in Dragons of Tarkir, I could see this enchantment being viable until it rotates out here in a few months.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx / The Gods
Nykthos remains one of the most powerful cards in the format waiting for a new home to welcome it in. Monogreen Devotion and the various spin offs of the deck have continued to have success in Standard, of course, but with each new set I am always hoping for a couple of mana dense creatures to lift back up the other mono colored decks.
As I wrote about before, I think Monored Devotion is already a legitimate deck that can only get stronger with Dragons of Tarkir, but other colors might be receiving some love as well. Monoblue in particular still has Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves which are two incredibly powerful cards that just need a boost from some type of supporting cast. One-drops are great and all, but we are specifically on the lookout for any UU or UUU cards to keep such a deck aggressive but mana dense.
Of course, other colors and/or gods are going to look for different things. Monoblack probably needs a few too many pieces to come together for example and the Monored/blue deck plays out quite different than what the green deck wishes to, so keep that in mind while rummaging around for support!
Chord of Calling
If you had told me a year ago when Chord was reprinted that it would have a very small overall impact on Standard, I simply would not have believed you. A tutor that comes at instant speed and has a way to cheat its mana cost is just such a powerful tool. But, over the last year, very few decks have taken advantage of the convoke spell and we have one set left to change that.
Realistically, a couple of different things would need to see print to really push this into Constructed tier one decks but we know that these things all share something in common. We are on the lookout for strong creatures, including those with niche application. Hushwing Gryff is a great example of the kinds of stuff that might get this card into decks again.
One big thing that has hurt Chord is the fact that Genesis Hydra exists and they both fill very similar roles. If there is a real reason to run Chord over Hydra, it is going to be a true toolbox engine, so perhaps we might get there once we have a fully spoiled set!
Crucible of the Spirit Dragon
People laughed at this card when it was first spoiled and I will admit, it is not exactly the most jaw-dropping of lands, but the storage lands didn't necessarily elicit a reaction either and they proved to be quite strong in a variety of decks.
Crucible of the Spirit Dragon will not be everywhere that storage lands were, as it is only a single card whereas there were five storage lands in Time Spiral, allowing you to play them in basically any deck. Imagine if there were only a single one of those dual-land storage lands though and that might end up being about the same amount of play as the Crucible sees.
With enough dragons, I can easily see a midrange deck that has 8-16 dragons in it using this as both a mana fixer and just a utility land while some control deck with a few dragon win conditions might use these lands to power out their win condition while keeping plenty of mana up for counters and removal to protect their new threat. We know there are plenty of dragons in this set, now it's just a matter of finding the right combination to take advantage of our newest storage land!
Not much to say here other than to be on the lookout for the tribe that has been pushed the hardest in Tarkir block. I think that with Just Fate Reforged the Warrior deck is already a thing, although it is limited to being both black and white as not enough quality incentives exist within a single one of those colors.
With Dragons of Tarkir, I both want to be on the lookout for more black/white warrior incentives, but I also want to pay attention to monowhite and monoblack warriors, as there might be enough there at this point. While you lose out on the lords (Chief of the Scale / Chief of the Edge), in theory you get better mana and still have warrior incentives such as Raider's Spoils or Mardu Woe-Reaper.
In the end, it will be likely that only a two-color version of the deck is competitive, but that is one more archetype to add to Standard at least!
Soul of Ravnica
This has been one of my pet cards for a while now and I always attempt to sneak it into decks but have never had it really be successful. One of the big issues is that most of the multicolored cards I want to run with this are vulnerable to removal, making this quite the gamble to spend a bunch of mana on.
In Dragons of Tarkir, I really want to see what sort of multicolored cards we get that are either noncreature, or are creatures with protection elements to them. Right now, I think a solid Sultai list might be able to use the Soul, but it would be nice if that expands with this set.
Another pet card of mine and hopefully a card that more than just me is looking at. Again, while the puzzle is not hard to solve for this, it is important to remember it is around. A card like this has the potential to be very powerful under the right circumstances and we are just an Akroma away from that happening.
Large dragons have the potential to own a lot of keywords which gives me some hope for this delver. Even if his time to shine is not now, we have another 15 months to keep an eye on this (although only about six with Chromanticore still around).
Waste Not has started to see some fringe play in recent months thanks to the printing of Dark Deal. It turns out that drawing both cards can lead to some pretty disgusting openings. If anything even remotely close to Dark Deal sees print in this set, this deck could move up a peg. I would highly doubt we see another black card draw/discard spell like this, but blue or red might step in and I would love to see that.
Aside from the home run, there are plenty of singles and doubles hoping to be had. Any viable discard spell is something to consider. Rakshasa's Secrets is already seeing play along with other Mind Rots like Tasigur's Cruelty, so it would not take Blightning to get people excited here as the bar is relatively low. Waste Not leaves us in just a few months so I would not be surprised to see something that puts it into the competitive ranks just before it departs us.
As far as tribal things are concerned, this is probably one of the lamer to get excited about, but the Whelming Wave bug kind of hit most members of Team TCGplayer throughout our testing together. At first, the card seemed really strong in block when paired with Scourge of Fleets and Dictate of Kruphix, but we ended up on Constellation as a safe choice instead.
Later on in Standard, Whelming Wave once again proved to be valuable in a Fog style of deck and we toyed around with it but could never quite tune it to perfection.
While the card was largely intended as Evacuation in these decks, when there was synergy to be had, Whelming Wave took really nice advantage. You can be very behind on board but when four mana resets your opponent's side and leaves you with eight to ten power in play, they have a problem.
The creature types for Whelming Wave are all rather narrow, so there is a good chance nothing will come of this, but it is a card I like to keep in mind nonetheless.Wrap Up
We seem to be getting a handful of cards each day and the Prerelease for Dragons of Tarkir is just around the corner. As I mentioned before, this set seems rather powerful and can easily shake the foundation of what we know Standard to be. Decks like Abzan are not likely to go anywhere, but a whole host of new strategies is potentially on the horizon.
As usual, myself and TCGplayer will be running a full set review and breakdown for Dragons of Tarkir the week following the Prerelease, so be sure to check that out! Until then, enjoy spoiler season and thanks for reading!