We are currently knee deep in the muck of Hour of Devastation preview season and that can mean exactly one thing: people are wrongly evaluating the new cards on the internet and it is our duty to correct them. This is, in fact, a sacred tenet of the internet. We must root out and correct erroneous remarks made by complete strangers and me must also defend our own erroneous remarks to the grave lest we risk losing our right to internet freely.
Today I want to look over some of the key new cards from Hour and talk about whether they have the mustard to cut it in today's Standard environment. Call me the Colonel, because I'm about to perform a mustard check. Colonel Mustard, that is, and it's time we all got a Clue about whether these cards are good or just Plum unplayable.
I'm going to talk about each card and how good I think it is relative to how good everyone that I've seen talking about it thinks it is. Therefore, just because a card finds itself with an "overrated" moniker doesn't mean that I necessarily think it's unplayable, just that I don't think it's nearly as good as others do. Granted, it probably will be unplayable, but that's just true of most cards.
Let's hop and skip to the cards. And also to my lou.
Nasty Bolasty. Little Nicky. Nicole B. Whatever you want to call this badass Dragon is fine by me. Just don't call him a gamechanger.
Now, I actually think Nicol Bolas is a fine card, but in terms of seven-plus mana Planeswalkers, it falls a little flat when I compare it to something like Ugin. Ugin was game over the moment you cast it against many decks, because you could protect Ugin no matter what the board looked like. Frankly, if Hero's Downfall didn't exist, Ugin would have ruined Standard.
Nicol Bolas isn't nearly as good at protecting himself. Bolas can throw seven points of shade at a creature or player, but that costs a lot of loyalty and can only deal with a single threat. For seven mana, that doesn't seem powerful enough. Bolas starts with a high loyalty, meaning it can survive a wallop or two, but I don't know if that matters enough unless the +2 ability is hitting better options than Attune with Aether or the +1 ability can successfully tear apart the hand.
Even when I compare Nicol Bolas to something like Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Elspeth seemed a lot better at protecting herself than Bolas does, and being able to protect yourself is often the most meaningful characteristic when it comes to playable or unplayable planeswalkers.
Bolas will see some play, but I just don't think it's as good as the hype.
It's a six-mana 4/4 with an expensive ability. I've seen a lot of people hyped about this card but I just don't see it. Sure, it comes back when it dies, but then you have to invest another six mana into it again, just to have a 4/4. Making hasty flying creatures whenever you draw a card is very good, but the key is that you have to get to a point where you can actually do that, and I think that's going to be tough in a format with Harnessed Lightning, Grasp of Darkness, and Unlicensed Disintegration.
On the other hand, I think this card is actually good. A five-mana 5/5 is much more impressive than a six-mana 4/4 and the ability is far more immediately impactful. Instead of getting a loot and a 1/1 flying creature for four mana, you get the best creature in either player's graveyard, body-shifted to be a 4/4, as well as any enters-the-battlefield effects that creature has.
Havengul Lich saw Standard play, and I think this card is better than Havengul Lich by a fairly significant amount.
I think this card falls in the middle. I think it's definitely worse than The Scarab God but better than The Locust God. My issue with this card is that -1/-1 counter synergies aren't really good enough to see play in Standard, at least not yet. This card plays really well with a bunch of cards that distribute -1/-1 counters, but without that synergy, it costs a lot of mana to kill creatures and draw cards with his ability. I think this card needs the right set of situations to have an impact in Standard, and I'm not sure when that will be or exactly what that would look like.
One big plus for The Scorpion King is that he has a really strong body. 6/5 for five that returns is nothing to scoff at. Still, I don't think he's going to cut it, at least not compared to The Scarab God.
A three-mana Wrath of God variant? To my knowledge, we've never seen a Wrath of God be this cheap before. There is just one issue. Drawback. Yup. Your lands don't untap next turn.
I think that drawback is too much to overcome. You get to Wrath their board, but you give them two free turns to rebuild since you effectively Time Walk yourself to accomplish it. We need to also take into consideration our current Standard environment. While Wrath of God is good against decks like Zombies, it's really not that great against other decks. Temur has haste threats, Black-Green Energy has Vehicles, and Mardu has both Planeswalkers and Vehicles. Destroy all creatures just isn't what it used to be.
Now this I think is very good. It costs a full double of what Bontu's Last Reckoning costs (let's get real here, the 10-permanent thing isn't happening very often), but it is going to be way more effective at doing what you want it to do.
For one, blowing up Vehicles and Planeswalkers and Clue tokens is enormous. This format is, in many ways, dominated by those card types. This card is also great against a variety of fringe decks, by virtue of blowing up enchantments and artifacts as well. Really, only in a true-control mirror will this card be bad.
Planar Cleansing always saw play when it was in Standard, and that was in a format where we didn't have Heart of Kiran or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I'd expect to see a bunch of this card. Just don't play it in the same deck as Cast Out and Stasis Snare. That's a *deflating sound* in the making.
When will they stop? This is starting to get absurd. I mean, come on. How many Zombie Crocodile Demons will they go through before they finally realize we're getting sick of them always printing Zombie Crocodile Demon tribal cards? Seriously, explore some other creature types once in a while. Variety is a good thing. Use it. Geez.
With that aside, I think this card is pretty good. I haven't seen much fanfare over Ammit Eternal but it does some things. Oh yeah, it does.
I'm not sure how easily this is going to slot into the Zombie deck. It has to compete with Lord of the Accursed and Diregraf Colossus in the 3-drop slot, or it has to replace another card elsewhere to make additional three-drops. With that said, it seems really strong in that deck. It has an enormous body, and while it shrinks when your opponent casts a spell, it's still very difficult for them to block, especially with all the removal that Zombies plays, which means that it won't be that hard to connect with it and reset the counters. Even if they do play the "chump it repeatedly" game, it still drains them for three damage each time they throw something under this full-sized bus, which isn't irrelevant for a deck like Zombies, which is looking to reduce the opponent's life total to zero as its primary game plan.
This card could also see play in non-zombie decks as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see this in something like G/B energy.
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack doesn't think this is a good pick.
I've seen a lot of love for this card, and I am going to be that jerk who tells everyone that this thing that people enjoy isn't actually good. I don't think Nimble Obstructionist is gonna make it in today's world. For one, in Standard, I don't think a 3/1 flying body for three mana is anywhere close to a relevant size. Walking Ballista and Whirler Virtuoso are focal points for, well, basically all the best decks in Standard right now. This card does not match up well against either of those cards.
Paying three mana for Stifle + draw a card is pretty neat, actually, but the problem I see is that being able to cycle this card for value is the best-case scenario for this card. People are touting "it gives you options" as a reason why this will see play, because when Stifle + draw for three mana isn't good enough, you can just play a flying creature instead. The problem is, that flying creature is basically never going to be good, so whether this card ends up being valuable is entirely on the back of the cycling part. Options don't matter if half of the options are completely unplayable.
I've also seen a lot of comparisons to Vendilion Clique and I think those comparisons fall flat for one giant reason. Vendilion Clique gets both the body and the ability. That's important. This card gets either the body or the ability. Far less good. Keep in mind that Vendilion Clique also sees very little play in older formats and usually only in very specific decks or matchups. To me, this is a worse version of a card that already doesn't see that much play.
I think this card has...how do I say it...ah yes. Promise. This card has promise. Five mana is a lot for a ramp spell, but as we've seen before with Nissa's Renewal, it's not too much to preclude a card from seeing play. Unlike Nissa's Renewal, this isn't going to gain you any life, and it's probably not going to make you any Zombies either, as I believe the most common mode is going to just be searching out two copies of Shrine of the Forsaken Gods.
What does finding two copies of Shrine of the Forsaken Gods do for us? Well, it means that we can cast big daddy Ulamog the next turn. Ulamog is pretty good, or so I've heard. I wouldn't know, personally, as I never hit Ulamog off of Aetherworks Marvel. It was only Attune with Aether and occasionally Rogue Refiner if I got lucky. Still, I have heard tales that it ends games.
I don't know if ramp is going to be a playable strategy, but if it is, this will be at the centerpoint of it.
Now this is a choices card that I actually like. The difference between this card and Nimble Obstructionist is that both options seem solid to me. This card is a lot like Censor, where if it isn't good to cast the card, you get to trade it in for the best card the top of your deck has to offer.
I expect control decks to play a lot of this card. I think it is way better than cards like Void Shatter, which can only do one thing. I wouldn't want to cut out something like Disallow completely from the deck, because having some no-holds-barred hard countermagic is good in many situations, but I like that this card is way more versatile for the first six or seven turns of the game than Disallow and is mostly going to be better.
I love this card. I love that Wizards of the Coast has shifted their design philosophy and is again willing to print cards that can undermine mechanics or strategies. I think it is very important to have checks and balances on Standard and ensure that a healthy format can develop. If this card existed before, it would have certainly helped curb the dominance of energy strategies over the past six months.
I think this card is good, however, I don't think it is nearly as good as others do. I've seen people discussing this card as though it would single-handedly beat decks like Temur Energy. Shutting down energy production and +1/+1 counters is certainly a thorn in the side of that deck, but that will hardly beat a deck that plays Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer.
It's certainly way better against Black-Green Energy, where it shuts down all sides of Winding Constrictor and also neuters cards like Nissa, Walking Ballista and Verdurous Gearhulk. Against that deck, I think it will be a huge problem, but I don't think it's a "throw three of these into the sideboard and assume I have a good matchup" kind of hate card. You can still easily lose to Planeswalkers, Tireless Tracker, and so on.
It's a powerful card, but it's not a full solution by itself.
I absolutely love this card. It's a giant middle finger to your opponent. I mean, it costs eight mana, so it better do something great, but this card invalidates everything your opponent could even dream of doing. Except play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, of course. This doesn't do much against Gideon. But against most everything else, it's lights out. Their goose is properly cooked to the right internal temperature when you slam this one into play. This makes all their creatures worthless and prevents all their other abilities from doing anything either, including cycling. Cycling is a little too overwhelming for them when this is in play.
I love expensive "screw you" cards like this. I'm looking forward to casting this card at some point in my life. This card could also be pretty awesome in the classic tier 19 Enduring Ideal archetype in Modern, which is always looking for ridiculous expensive enchantments.
I have a feeling this card isn't going to be a big player in Standard because it costs so much mana and doesn't do much against Planeswalkers, which are everything in Standard, but I do love this card anyway.
Verdict: Overrated, by me. Underrated by everyone else because this card is awesome.
- Brian Braun-Duin