Rather than talking about the bannings announced this week I decided I would try to stay positive. After all, a new set is about to drop, and it is during these times, before the formats solidify, that our worlds are the most open to possibility.
So let's glory in it!
By the way these cards are my favorite ones, not just what I think might be the best ones. Though I suppose some of them will also be among the very good. As with a lot of the opinions I hold, many of these choices will be tinged with nostalgia; will hopefully avoid the madding crowd; and seek to attack strategies rather than presenting really obvious inclusions and play patterns.
The Birth of Meletis
I kind of feel like this card is everything to everyone. And what more could you ever want than that?
To start with, it's very cheap at only 2 mana. The Birth of Meletis is going to signal a snap-keep on a two lander all day, across multiple formats. It's not exactly a cantrip, but it can smooth your draw and (provided you have two lands to start) ensure that you'll hit your third land drop on turn three.
Given a second, it can also provide a great blocker for only 2 mana... And going long, even create some distance between a potentially dwindling life total and a Red Deck's sweaty hand. Unlike a traditional Wall of Omens, The Birth of Meletis also puts itself into the graveyard (eventually), giving you potential synergies around Threshold, Delerium, or Delve in non-Standard formats... As well as novel opportunities for recursion.
While I'm not sure this land is on par with Wrenn and Six or Sunbaked Canyon in land or near-land categories... I can imagine it being a little too good for Standard. Stretch your mind a moment and imagine that The Birth of Meletis is a Modern-appropriate card on cost and power level.
Can you imagine wanting to combine Hall of Heliod's Generosity with this enchantment as its target? Sometimes the problem control decks will have with this kind of recursion is that it - almost by definition - limits the range of their topdecks. But The Birth of Meletis is kina sorta like putting a Plains that can block on top of your library over and over. Which is kind of cool, isn't it?
Speaking of mislaid "Heliod"-themed cards, Heliod's Pilgrim is a reprint... From M15. I always kind of thought it was weird this was a Core Set card; but at least it was largely in print at the same time as Theros Version 1.0.
So, it turns out that if someone has a type, I'm one of those someones.
R/W Aggro | 2014 Standard | Michael Flores, 3rd Place SCG Super IQ
- Creatures (18)
- 3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 3 Heliod's Pilgrim
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
- 4 Seeker of the Way
- 4 Wingmate Roc
- Planeswalkers (2)
- 2 Chandra, Pyromaster
- Enchantments (4)
- 4 Chained to the Rocks
- Lands (24)
- 1 Plains
- 10 Mountain
- 1 Evolving Wilds
- 4 Battlefield Forge
- 4 Temple of Triumph
- 4 Wind-Scarred Crag
I played Heliod's Pilgrim in a Standard Boros deck years before any of my Modern finishes with Boros. I am pretty sure those Monastery Swiftspears are the same physical cardboard as the ones I played to a different IQ Top 4 just last week.
While we don't have quite as nice a defensive Aura today, there are still some pretty decent options. I'm actually kind of partial to this one, from Throne of Eldraine:
This card sees relatively little play in Standard, somewhat outshone by Glass Casket. But I think Trapped in the Tower has some unexplored merit... At least so long as Rotting Regisaur is one of the top offensive creatures in the format. Double lockdown!
While I cut my one Dragon Mantle before that particular Super IQ; I would probably try at least one offensive Aura if I were to play a Heliod's Pilgrim deck in Standard today. Any choices are going to be color dependent, but I'd start by looking at Staggering Insight.
One of the most memorable moments of my Magic career was casting Omenspeaker in the Top 8 of a PTQ in Utah back in 2015. I had won my first PPTQ and chose to fly out to Utah and hang out with my friends Jack Stanton and Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Aaron Muranaka for the weekend. I played a deck of my own devising and was rewarded with my best matchup in the Top 8: Esper Dragons.
To start with, this card is an absurd combination of immediate abilities and stats for 2 mana. It's a great blocker, and will keep your deck moving. I deliberately played Omenspeaker back in 2015 to get Blue pips for Master of Waves, and Thassa's Oracle is literally twice as good at that! I like the card Augur of Bolas, but you kind of have to warp your deck design around playing that card. Thassa's Oracle will be better with more Blue permanents around, but doesn't actually require you to do anything to produce value and cost-effectiveness... And at some point in the game, a string of them will just start threatening death.
This is the kind of card players commonly sleep on. Don't.
My friend Jon Becker has quite a few good qualities. Despite being a card carrying member of the Tongo Nation, Becker played on Team Red Bull with YT and Brian Kibler back in 2001; wrote The Little Village That Could; and made one of the finest plays I had ever seen prior to The 10 Greatest Battles of All Time. He is also my son Clark's godfather. He also loves Loves LOVES Spiders.
Finally. FINALLY! They made a good Spider that not only Jon, but I - and all of you, I hope - can get benind: Chainweb Aracnir!
This card is medium main deck-able. Like I don't know if it's burning down a whole lot of Gruul four-ofs, but I can totally see two copies in some decks, and all four in total seventy-fives. It's awesome.
Against decks with cards like Aphemia, the Cacophony or the ubiquitous Brazen Borrower... It's just card advantage. And card advantage against their very good threat... For only 1 mana! But that's not all. Chainweb Aracnir can put a control deck on the clock, because it's only 1 mana. So you can start poking at their life total.
But here's the thing: They'll want to ignore it. After all, it's only one damage. Itt's like a twenty-turn clock, right? But they can't HELP but kill it when they spring their Time Wipe or whatever. And that's when you get them. The Escape is reasonable, as is a 4/5 freebie. The fact that it can defend against a wide variety of creatures the second time around is not nearly as exciting as its ability to tear the odd Master of Pranks, Dragon, or Demon out of the sky.
And it's not like it fights. Chainweb Aracnir is an assassin.
Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths
I think I just like this one for all its weirdness.
Make no mistake: It's a new kind of Fact or Fiction. You "only" ever get two cards (and probably face down)... But you get them along with two other cards. One is a 3/2 menace, and the other is a Black Lotus-plus to cast it.
Atris will be a very strange card in practice. I think I'd have to see some practicals with it. Like, when do you put the solo card face down? Is it supposed to be a bluff? Conventional wisdom will be that you can always get two cards for 4 mana, which is in-line with all kinds of 4 mana spells from Hieroglyphic Illumination to Glimmer of Genius. But here you have to spend the mana on your own turn, but in return you get a passable body. Not a great combat body, not a great blocker by any means... But a body that will get in more often than not; and you can always Always ALWAYS build your material if you want to.
But definitely a weirdo; and definitely my jam.
I like this card because it's going to beat you. It's relatively innocuous. 3/3 for two is actually pretty great. But it's not like Oko, Thief of Crowns or even Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Those cards are powerful on their faces. Bronzehide Lion is a little under-costed; but has kind of an over-costed special ability.
But that's the thing: Over-costed or no, it's free in the sense that it's attached to an under-costed creature. And as such will see play. The corollary being it's going to kill you.
You see, all you have to do is kind of leave up and its going to live through that Time Wipe. And hit you for three... Again. And again.
I tend to over-like Blue fatties; but this one seems pretty legit to me.
It's got a very low threshold self-preservation clause... That you can use even the turn you tap out for it.
And when you're actually on offense with it? It does everything. Life gain and card draw and buffing all at once are all fantastic... Especially the life gain. It's going to play a nice Baneslayer Angel between your draw step and its own ability. A Baneslayer Angel that, for once, might not die to Doom Blade.
Klothys, God of Destiny
This was recently described to me as an indestructible 2/2 lifelink creature. Which isn't exactly right; but pretty descriptively right.
I have been tempted to try to template a new Red Deck splashing Green for some time. We'd get back Destructive Revelry, side in Wrenn and Six, and win the mirror with Scavenging Ooze. Klothys, God of Destiny may be the best reason to seriously explore this idea.
If you were pining for a Walking Ballista infinite loop... Sorry to disappoint! I hope you did like some of what you did see.