Hour of Devastation previews have begun, and with the Prerelease just a couple weeks away we'll soon have the cards in our hands. There are already some impressive ones spoiled, and they'll almost assuredly have an impact in Standard and beyond. Today I'll cover the most important cards spoiled so far by explaining their applications across formats.
The card that has the most people talking is Solemnity. It has potential in every format as both a hoser and as its own unique form of combo piece.
For Standard, at first glance it's tailor-made as an anti-Aetherworks Marvel card, because it prevents players from receiving energy counters, but we'll never know just how effective it would have been in this role given the recent banning. The card does have the ability to hose other energy decks in various ways, like completely shutting off Harnessed Lighting. It seems quite effective against a Black-Green Energy deck with Winding Constrictor synergies, as it will also stop +1/+1 counters from Verdurous Gearhulk and Rishkar, Peema Renegade and completely invalidate Walking Ballista. There is also the potential to use the ability for your own benefit, like with Thing in the Ice, which will enter play with no counters and thus flip after one spell is played.
Solemnity starts to get really interesting in Eternal formats. In Modern, it's a simple and effective hoser for Infect that acts like a Melira, Sylvok Outcast but in white. Infect isn't really a top-tier deck in Modern anymore, but Solemnity will always threaten to hose it if the deck does see a resurgence. It would be a fine sideboard card in a deck with a poor Infect matchup, like Ad Nauseam, but that deck may put the card to great use even without Infect in the metagame. Solemnity forms a combo with Phyrexian Unlife by stopping the Infect damage it would deal, essentially making their controller invincible as long as both enchantments stay on the table. I could see Solemnity making it into the main deck of these Ad Nauseam decks to give them another sort of combo, but it might be a better fit in the sideboard to stop the opponents that are most susceptible to the effect.
Solemnity hoses plenty more in Modern, including stopping Devoted Druid from being able to untap itself, so it stops the combo with Vizier of Remedies. It makes Arcbound Ravager enter play as a 0/0, and it will stop Modular from happening when any already in play die. It stops Steel Overseer from functioning, and even stops Infect from Inkmoth Nexus. Solemnity stops Engineered Explosives from entering play with counters, which is further notable because this protects it from one of the major ways Modern decks deal with enchantments. Solemnity also hoses Aether Vial and Chalice of the Void, which could be relevant in Legacy too.
The greatest number of applications for Solemnity are in Legacy because it offers many cards to combine with it in broken ways. The most startling combo is with Dark Depths, which it will prevent from receiving counters. This means its ability to sacrifice and create a 20/20 will trigger immediately upon entering play, so it's like a Thespian's Stage or Vampire Hexmage that can be used multiple times.
Solemnity also happens to work really well with cumulative upkeep cards by preventing them from ever receiving age counters. This means their upkeep costs will always be free, which really breaks some cards. Glacial Chasm, for example, combines with Solemnity to prevent its controller from ever being attacked or taking damage, so along with the Dark Depths synergy, Solemnity could be a real player in Lands decks. As an enchantment, there is potential in an Enchantress deck with Elephant Grass, another cumulative upkeep card that's great to keep around forever. People are exploring the possibilities of Solemnity with all sorts of cards, like in a blue deck with Mystic Remora, or with Infernal Darkness in a black deck to hose opponent's mana even harder than Blood Moon.
Solemnity and its various synergies will certainly see Commander play. All of the Eternal combos apply here, and it's going to be used in more ambitious projects, like with fading and Vanishing creatures. For example, it's fantastic with Chronozoa, which when combined with a sacrifice outlet will create an infinite number of creature tokens. It's also a great hoser for some of the more degenerate things in the format, including a couple commanders themselves, Atraxa, Praetor's Voice and Meren of Clan Nel Toth. It's a great enchantment to tutor up with Zur, the Enchanter, too.
My favorite card spoiled so far is Supreme Will, and it's unlikely to be topped. Supreme Will is essentially Mana Leak and Impulse combined into a charm-style modal card. The flexibility of two options comes at the cost of an extra mana compared to either of these spells, but this decreased efficiency gives its controller the ability to craft their own path forward. It comes with the upside of a card that's effective in all stages of the game, so it never becomes dead later on like Mana Leak. Leaving up mana for a counter will never feel so good, because if the opponent declines to play anything, the mana can be spent and the card cashed in for a new one. The card reminds me very much of Abzan Charm, which was both disruption and card drawing, it helped defined Standard. Supreme Will may have an even bigger impact as it's relatively much more accessible in terms of colored mana requirements.
I expect to see Supreme Will effectively put to use in all sorts of decks. It's tailor-made for control decks, where it's fantastic with Torrential Gearhulk because after being cast early as a Mana Leak it can be flashed back later as an Impulse. It will be great in a more aggressive deck like White-Blue Flash, and it would be effective in a deck like Temur Energy as a counter more flexible than Negate, especially in a world without Aetherworks Marvel. Supreme Will would even be great in a combo deck as a way to slow down the opponent or protect its combo while functioning as a way to dig for combo pieces. Like Censor before it, Supreme Will is going to change the way we look at untapped blue mana.
Ramunap Excavator is nothing more than Crucible of Worlds on a 2/3 body, but that means it is one of the most uniquely powerful effects in Magic with the upside of being a creature.
In Standard, a lot of the value here is with Evolving Wilds to create an engine that ensures never running out of land drops as long as there are still basics to fetch. It can play any other lands that make it to the graveyard too, so it works well alongside graveyard enablers like Grim Flayer and Vessel of Nascency, so this will be a natural fit into Delirium deck. It's a perfect target for Traverse the Ulvenwald, which also opens up the possibility of playing lands as silver-bullets to abuse with Ramunap Excavator. Recursive Blighted Fen is a great way to gain control and lock an opponent out of the endgame and certainly something I'd want access to in my Delirium deck if I had Ramunap Excavator. Another bullet option is another important new card, Scavenger Grounds, which will hose the mirror match, Torrential Gearhulk, any anything else using the graveyard.
Ramunap Excavator is slated for a rich life ahead of it in Commander, but it will also make an impact in the Eternal formats where Crucible of Worlds is legal. Being a creature gives it great interaction with Collected Company, Chord of Calling and Green Sun's Zenith, so there's potential as a silver-bullet creature to combine with Wasteland or Ghost Quarter to attack manabases, possibly in a deck with Knight of the Reliquary, like Maverick in Legacy or Bant Knightfall in Modern.
Ramunap Excavator will also work well with another one of the most important new cards: Hostile Desert.
Hostile Desert is a rather unique card that doesn't really have a comparison on how it's fueled from lands in the graveyard, but this steep drawback belies its high power. As a creature land with a large body and a low mana cost, it's very efficient, and as a colorless card like Mutavault, it's very accessible. In a format like Modern or Legacy, it's easy to fuel with fetch lands, which I suppose makes it most similar to Deathrite Shaman, which is so good it's banned in Modern and on the short list in Legacy. If a deck can support the colorless land, there's an incentive to play Hostile Desert, so I expect it's going to be playable in Eternal formats. It stands out in Dredge, where it could be effective as a one or two-of that can be milled and then returned with Life from the Loam.
In Standard, Hostile Desert isn't competing with so many other strong colorless lands, but it's also harder to fuel. There are some decks that will be able to take advantage like Delirium decks, so Hostile Desert looks like a good silver bullet for Traverse the Ulvenwald as a creature land that's more robust than Hissing Quagmire. Hostile Desert seems extra impressive in Blue-Red Emerge, which is an aggressive graveyard deck that can fuel it with its many discard effects and can make great use of the extra threat. The deck also doesn't have stringent mana requirements, so it can support the colorless land.
Abrade is an efficient piece of creature removal with the flexibility to destroy an artifact, and it's clearly designed to be a Standard staple. It would have immediately been adopted as a way to deal with Aetherworks Marvel, but now it will have to fill another niche. It's a perfect way to destroy Heart of Kiran on your own terms, which not many cards can claim to do, and by dealing three damage it destroys Winding Constrictor. Against control decks, it doesn't go dead because it can take out Torrential Gearhulk or Dynavolt Tower. The value of Abrade will hinge on how the metagame develops, but efficient creature removal spells are also going to be part of the equation, and Abrade offers an alternative to Harnessed Lighting with a different sort of upside.
I could imagine Abrade making an impact in Eternal formats because the flexibility doesn't come at a steep premium, so it's relatively efficient as both a creature removal spell and artifact destruction. It seems like a fine sideboard option as a piece of artifact hate that can also be used to take out creatures. In a deck like Storm, for example, it stops Chalice of the Void or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, so it does what few other cards can, and might be the best one for the job of fighting back against hosers.
Banning Aetherworks Marvel has essentially meant banning Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, since no one's main play is to cast it. Like when Emrakul, the Promised End was banned, the top end of the format has been opened up to a new win condition, and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is poised to fill that void. It offers a diverse set of powerful abilities with a high starting loyalty, and it all combines to create a convincing finisher. Being in Grixis colors is restrictive, but like Cruel Ultimatum it's worth the cost, and its high power will lure players into the colors. A resurgence in Grixis control is imminent, and the deck that wonPro Tour Kaladesh before falling from the metagame is going to make its way back.
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is also quite interesting with Oath of Nissa, which can splash the planeswalker all by itself, or at least help a deck that uses other fixing like Aether Hub and Servant of the Conduit, and even Channeler Initiate, which could form the base of a midrange ramp deck that puts the planeswalker into play early on and takes over the game.
What do you think are the most important Hour of Devastation cards spoiled so far? Share your thoughts in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!