Finally, we know everything in Hour of Devastation. Personally, I'm dissecting each and every card to prepare for the upcoming Pro Tour, and since I haven't had a chance to actually test much in paper yet this is going to be mostly my initial analysis rather than one honed by rigorous testing. It can be fun to rank cards early on like this, and then go back and take a look to see how accurate you are, or if others agree with your assessment. Let's dive right in.
Overall, white seems pretty weak, and this is actually the only mono-colored white card that has made the top 10. After seeing plenty of strong white cards in Standard like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, looking at white cards from a net set where nothing really jumps out is nice. As for Pouncer, a two-mana 1/1 with double strike may not seem like much, but eternalize changes everything. I'm happy Adorned Pouncer is not in red or green because of how easily it goes in the Red-Green Pummeler deck, but there may be a way to incorporate this card.
Adorned Pouncer is going to be great alongside pump effects, and there are a decent amount of them in the format. This is a nice aggressive creature that wants to be played in a deck that can help grow its power. The eternalize cost may be five mana, but the fact that the Zombie Token will have double strike means this is an eight-power attacker. Right now, Adorned Pouncer is flying under the radar with a price tag under a dollar, but keep an eye out for this one – it's a nice sleeper pick.
This is a solid piece of removal. It is true that white-black decks already have many removal spells to choose from, and this is an example of another good one. Still, this is going to be good against both big and small creature decks alike, as it will be a two-for-one most of the time. It doesn't need to be played alongside other cards that put -1-1 counters on opposing creatures, though that would make the aftermath even better.
The Grind half of this card is going to be great on early creatures, especially those with only one toughness. Casting Grind early and then Dust later to finish the job on the opponent's creatures is certainly a reasonable approach. The other option is waiting until six mana to exile two or more of the opponent's creatures right away. The versatility and power is here, though of course the downside to any multicolor card is the commitment it takes to be able to play it.
This is a Lava Axe on steroids. Typically, direct damage or cards that make the opponent lose life are not good in Constructed, but I expect Torment of Hailfire to be the exception. Most decks don't have permanents lying around they want to sacrifice, and then other decks won't have any nonland permanents in play at all. Torment of Hailfire is a late-game mana sink, so I wouldn't expect to see decks play more than two copies, but the power level is there.
With five or more mana, Torment of Hailfire becomes a good way to close out the game. As long as you are able to get in some damage early, the life loss should threaten lethal. There shouldn't be many cards in hand got the opponent later in the game they want to dsiscard, and they are forced to make an impossible decision. That said, this card will be high variance, as you really don't want to play it early on in the game.
I've heard a lot of varied opinions on this. A three-mana, straight-up Damnation is pretty cool, and this card definitely means you won't be getting overrun by the first assault of creatures. What the card is worried about is the second burst of creatures. If you are forced to tap out in order to sweep the board and then the opponent has more threats to follow up with, not being able to untap your lands for a turn is a pretty big downside.
My initial inclination is that how good this is will be dependent on how the metagame shakes up, and it may end being primarily used as a sideboard card. Having access to a sweeper like this is a pretty big deal for black decks in general, as before we saw cards like Yahenni's Expertise or Flaying Tendrils being played, but those cards have no way of getting bigger threats off the board. With various bigger midrange creature decks being played, Bontu's Last Reckoning could be in a great spot.
Okay, these are two different cards, but I believe The Locust God and The Scorpion God deserve recognition and I didn't want to include one and not the other. All of the gods are really strong in Hour of Devastation, and The Scorpion God could be great alongside a card like Grind // Dust to have some additional ways to put counters on the opponent's creatures. Plus, The Scorpion God has the best power and toughness ratio of any of the Gods.
The Locust God is the only six-mana God in the set, and that also unfortunately means it is the same mana cost as Torrential Gearhulk, a big negative. However, The Locust God is very powerful as it is going to be very hard to get through an army of insects, and it becomes easy to fly over for the win. The card works well alongside other card draw effects as an easier way to make lots of insects. His ability to loot is a bit expensive, but you are getting an additional insect as well so there's a payoff.
There are a few more sweepers in Hour of Devastation than we are used to seeing in a single set. Considering its name though, this is the signature one of the set. Dealing five damage to all creatures is pretty nice, that should be enough to kill all but the largest threats. The real kicker here though is that Hour of Devastation goes after planeswalkers as well. There are very few sweepers we have seen printed that also deal with planeswalkers, and now we have two new ones (the other one being Hour of Revelation).
Sweltering Suns was good against a deck like Zombies, but sometimes their creatures simply became too big and got out of range of cards like Sweltering Suns or Radiant Flames. Hour of Devastation seems like a nice addition to red midrange decks.
Of the three Gods, The Scarab God seems to be just a bit better, and more flavorful. Zombie decks have already been proven to be popular, and this card synergizes really nicely with that tribe. Being able to scry is going to ensure drawing gas for the remainder of the game. The challenge will be actually finding a home for The Scarab God, as there is currently no Blue-Black Zombies deck seeing play. The fact that you can exile opponent's creatures in order to create the Zombie Tokens is a pretty big deal, since some blue decks don't have that many creatures of their own. The Scarab God, if left unchecked, has a mana sink that will take over the game by making 4/4's.
It would be really cool to see a Cat deck be legitimately good in Standard, but Pride Sovereign also doesn't require being played alongside other Cats, since it create them itself – one activation of Pride Sovereign and it has done its job. The Cat Tokens have lifelink, and then you still need to answer Pride Sovereign later. This is the type of value creature green decks have been looking for, and I could even see Green-White Tokens making a resurgence.
The downside to Pride Sovereign is that its vulnerable to sweepers. It doesn't feel great sinking mana into creating a bunch of creatures and then the opponent clears them all away. But maybe there is a world where we see a card like Regal Caracal see some play because of Pride Sovereign now being in the format.
Expect Grixis Control decks to emerge as a result of Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh. The card is simply too good to ignore. I will say that Hour of Devastation has a lot of attractive expensive spells, and this is the Cream of the Crop. My personal favorite ability of Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh is the first one (it gains the most loyalty), though clearly they will all be useful in different spots.
I'm expecting to hear stories involving using the opponent's own Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to win off an activation of Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh, or on the flipside finding an opponent's Attune with Aether and dying a horrible death with Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh in play. However, in general it seems pretty hard to lose once Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh enters the battlefield, as you can always tick it down to kill a creature, or Redirect the seven damage to an opposing planeswalker.
Okay I'm cheating a bit here by not having each of these in their own slot, but these are all from the same cycle, and as a whole they deserve the number one spot. Also, we get to talk about more cards this way! Out of the three, personally I'm most impressed by Supreme Will by a small margin (though all three are great). I'm okay paying one more for Mana Leak if it means we also have the option to Impulse. Mana Leak has classically been a card that has grown worse as the game goes on, and this gives you another option. The downside to Supreme Will is it is entering a format with a lot of countermagic options already, and it may not be better than Censor.
Abrade is removal that red has desperately been waiting for, being an instant in a world where most red removal has been sorcery speed. Being able to answer Vehicles like Heart of Kiran is also really nice, so I expect Abrade to see the most immediate play of these three cards right away.
As for Doomfall, the fact the opponent gets to choose what creature they want to exile is a little annoying, so you really want to time this so the opponent doesn't have good options for what to exile. Being able to choose any non-land card out of the opponent's hand is also a nice luxury to have.
Thanks for reading,