This week, I am excited to bring you my regularly scheduled top 10 article! Thinking about the set in this manner helps me to determine what cards are powerful and likely to impact Standard the most. You are likely to see my normal controversial picks as well. Some of them have been flops, like Hellraiser Goblin, but I have picked some hidden gems as well.
The most important thing this article does is to help you see someone else’s perspective on the best cards in the set. These types of articles can help you identify financially profitable prospects and underappreciated new cards. This set is particularly difficult to analyze so additional perspectives are more helpful than in the past. One reason the cards are so tricky is because many of them have brand new, unique effects. These types of cards are always hard to decipher. In addition, many of the best cards in the set are so powerful because their application is so narrow. Will they be relegated to the sideboard or can they find a home in someone’s main deck? Continue reading to find out!
This is a new section that I thought I would add to my top 10 article. So often, there are cards players think will be good, but not everyone agrees. In this section, I will highlight some of the cards that don’t seem like they will pan out for constructed play. These can be cards that don’t have a home or ones that just aren’t up to Standard’s level of playability. Either way, hopefully I will help you avoid some possible FNM disasters with this list.
The number one offender on my overrated list is Spike Jester. Why is this card overrated? One toughness is a liability for an aggro deck in today’s Standard. Between Lingering Souls tokens, Arbor Elf, and every cheap removal spell, this power-creeped creature will underperform in this format. If that were not enough, Red Black Zombies (the most natural fit for this card) is not a playable deck at the moment. It’s possible that once Standard rotates, we will need to reevaluate this card for that format, but that is a while away.
Notion Thief. I almost typed Nothing Thief and that is quite a funny Freudian slip. Your thief of nothing will show up more times than you want to see him. Main deck seems unfitting for a 3/1 flash for four mana. In most matchups, his text box will be irrelevant. In the matchups where he shines, you will find yourself with more than a measly Notion Thief, you will have a Brilliance Thief! Players will cast this inefficient 3/1 on the prospect alone of stealing their opponents expensive Ancestral Recall. While this new blue dude will impact older formats, his applications in Standard are limited. This may be the type of card you see as a two-of in decklists though because of how good it is against certain strategies.
Finally, also getting the overrated stamp is Plasm Capture. Despite being broken in half in Commander, this clunky Counterspell is unlikely to provide major contribution to Constructed. Mana Drain is a ban-worthy card, but doubling its mana cost by adding green green doesn’t seem like the way to make the effect more balanced. If the mana cost was geared towards hybrid mana, it might find a home more easily, but alas that is not the case.
In this section were a number of close calls. There are more cards in this section than normal because there are more impactful cards in this set than previous ones.
Recently Zombies has not been good enough to compete at a high level. The version of Zombies I have seen players working on to some success is Black White. It is unclear if this card will be the punch Zombie decks need in order to succeed, but it is enough to explore the question. The natural way this card causes you to play can prove problematic though. For example, if this creature is in play, you should be trying to empty your hand as fast as possible so that you can take advantage of his ability. This type of play can be dangerous against many decks so beware of that tendency.
Armadillo Cloak is one of the best auras of all time so it’s no stretch to say this time around will be too much different. If you have doubts, start thinking about rebuilding a Bant aura deck with this classic reprint included.
Doubling the mana cost of Lightning Helix may not be enough to keep it out of the hands of tournament players. Four mana is a lot for a removal spell but since it is an instant that helps matters. This is no four-of, but it could still see play, especially once Thragtusk is no more.
This is at the top of my list of long-term impact. Right now, we have better cards like Hellrider, but once we have a new format, this seems perfect for the top of a Rakdos curve.
Will the possibility of reanimating Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker be enough for this card to see play? That is a powerful interaction to be sure, but it’s more likely that players want additional copies of Unburial Rites before that happens.
Many players want evolve to be a competitive deck archetype but the inherent weakness of each creature on its own is holding it back. This three-drop could be the key to success, but because he is only good if you follow up an already strong draw, I doubt he is the missing piece.
Four mana for a 2/2 isn’t good enough unless your name is Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells. By the time you get this guy in play, either your opponent should be dead or they have manipulated you into a game state where he will not be effective. His battalion seems like one that will never trigger and when it does won’t do damage because he will get chumped all day.
Think about this line of play. First turn you play Vexing Devil and they take four damage because that’s the right play. Then turn three you play my friend Varolz here. Fourth turn, for one red mana, you can add four +1/+1 counters to any of your creatures in play. That interaction is good enough to brew around him and past that, we will see. The fact that he is a sacrifice outlet may prove important as well.
Top 10 Constructed Cards
Is it better to stab someone in an alley or to instantly make their flesh and bones decay? Obviously instant decomposition is way cooler than being a murderer. Thus, Putrefy is better than Murder. More information you say? OK, if you played Putrefy when it was legal the last time we visited Ravnica, this explanation is not for you. For the rest of you, come join the Golgari side. Murder is decent, but it cannot kill an artifact nor a regenerating creature. Murder is already a playable card. Putrefy is just a better version of the same effect. It is not the powerhouse it used to be, but for the cost, you certainly get your mana's worth.
9. Sin Collector
Three mana is probably the most reasonable cost for Duress plus a body. I would much prefer this human cleric to cost two mana and provide you with a 1/1, but we don’t get a choice in the matter. In most Standard formats, it would be reasonable to play this as a four-of because every deck has spells. Unfortunately, Naya Blitz won’t be having any of their sins collected anytime soon. 40 creatures and 20 lands is the opposite of what you want to be playing Sin Collector against. Because he is so solid against other decks, it’s hard to believe that this card will go unplayed, even if only as a sideboard special. Not only can he be combined with Cavern of Souls, he can also be reused with Restoration Angel.
8. Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Unlike other players, I don’t have strong opinions about this card yet. At the moment, it seems decent and like it will most likely see some play while it is legal in Standard. The Baron of Blood has a lot going for him. Not only does he have a reasonable power and toughness to start off with, but he also has three keywords to support him.
Protection is not something we get as often as we used to. Because of that, I’ve noticed how undervalued those abilities are. More than one protection leaves the creature vulnerable to so few spells. The Baron is weak to Mizzium Mortars, but other than that, protection from white and black protect from the rest of the removal seeing play. By adding in lifelink to the equation, we arrive at a creature that can have a large impact on matchups. The rest of the text is just a bonus on top of an already solid combination of abilities. It seems like if you arrive at a game state where you are at 30 or more life and your opponent is at 10 or less, you have already won that game, but just in case, your Blood Baron will kill a turn faster than before, all the while performing an aerial stunt show for the audience.
7. Legion's Initiative
This is my sleeper pick for the set even though a ten dollar sleeper is a stretch. Other writers have compared this enchantment to Honor of the Pure, but I think Fires of Yavimaya is a better comparison. Both provide static effects for your creatures and then additional effects if you give up the enchantment. When I read Legion's Initiative the first time, it seemed like it would come back into play with the creatures you exiled, but that is not the case. For me to grasp the effect of the card, I pretend it says sacrifice Legion's Initiative to have this effect.
For this card to impact the game enough, your deck would need to contain red creatures or red/white creatures. This implies to me that the best home for it would be mono-red splashing white. With some initiative in addition to your Boros Charms, you are safe from all of the board wiping effects your opponent can muster. The mana cost seems misleading as well because it has more than one option. Not only can you play it for two mana and get in some early extra damage, but you can also play it for four mana and start protecting your team from disaster.
The more I think about Morphling’s new family member, the higher it moves up my list of great cards from this set. First things first, this is a seven-drop nearly every time you will cast it. Unless you are getting ready to die and desperately need a blocker, you will wait until you can protect it from whatever shenanigans your opponent has devised for your finisher. As far as the abilities go, unblockable is the best type of evasion and Otherworldly Journey is the best type of protection. I don’t know if existing in the same format as Sire of Insanity will allow this ‘ling to be as playable as it otherwise would, but it is a powerful addition to the lineage.
5. Advent of the Wurm
Despite talking about bringing the Tremors experience to Standard last week, I have some more tid bits to share. One of the main points against the instant speed 5/5 is the mere fact that Azorius Charm exists. Throughout the time since I wrote my last article I have been thinking if that was enough to barricade it from entering Standard playability. To decide this point, I tried to compare the charm’s effect to another card.
A comparable spell came to mind almost immediately once I set out down this path. Paying two mana to kill a creature is not an uncommon cost or effect spells have in Standard. Long ago, we had Terror which was upgraded to Doom Blade, sidestepped by Go for the Throat, and downgraded by Ultimate Price. Even if all the cards not legal currently would see tons of play, that doesn’t make them overpowered. Two mana to kill a creature is a common effect and even though blue-white shouldn’t typically get this effect, that doesn’t change the fact that it is a balanced card. Upon further reflection, I settled on the situation being ultimately better than if they were able to put the card back on top of my library as the text reads because that loss of a card can spiral out of control quickly. Adventing the wurm is going to be populating your Standard metagame all year so pack those charms or find another before the Tremors get you.
4. Sire of Insanity
Despite having both this card and Cavern of Souls to cast it counter free, players still think they are going to be successful with their typical Esper Control decks. How can this be possible when this one card single handedly defeats that strategy? As is, Esper Control must adapt to survive. Is this Craw Wurm impersonator good enough against the majority of other decks? The answer to that is a resounding no. I think this is a card much more suited to the sideboard, but the two copies players are trying to fit into their Jund control builds doesn’t seem crazy. Even Naya Blitz occasionally tries to hold a couple cards to recover from board wipe spells.
The existence of this demon will cause a metagame shift all by himself though. He would be higher on the list if not for the number three card.
3. Warped Physique
In the past, cards dependent on hand size have not been reliable enough for tournament play. It seems like this one might be the actual gold rather than the fool’s property though. Early in the game it is extremely good at taking care of anything your opponent can throw at you. Late game, you can draw more cards with Sphinx's Revelation or Think Twice so that your hand size is big enough to deal with larger threats. It is unclear whether warping the physique of a Sire of Insanity will become a reality but demoting a Champion of the Parish is probably enough for this solid removal spell to see play. Esper Control has been looking for an instant removal spell that can interact with a number of decks and this might be exactly what the control doctor ordered. This may not be the best card in the set, but it will be one that sees a lot of play.
2. Ral Zarek
The main place I’ve been thinking about using the Izzet planeswalker in is a Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration deck. This seems like the perfect card for keeping tempo on your side. Not only can you kill one of their creatures, you could also tap one the next turn to continue getting into the red zone. If you have a clear path, you can always Lightning Bolt them. I actually think about his -2 ability as Searing Spear because you must spend two loyalty to use it and that’s Searing Spear’s converted mana cost. Whichever spell you are mimicking, the ability is solid. This is a planeswalker with applications in all types of decks. Aggro decks can utilize him as described above, control decks will lean on the removal aspect but also appreciate the untap ability to gain more mana or grant pseudo vigilance, and combo decks can use the untap ability to do crazy things like untap Gilded Lotus or maybe an even more broken permanent.
1. Voice of Resurgence
If you read my article from last week, it should come as no surprise that I placed Voice of Resurgence at the top of the list. This card is powerful enough to see play not just in Standard, but in Modern and Legacy as well. One aspect of this hate bear that is not emphasized enough is that the power and toughness of the tokens changes.
If it wasn't clear, the token works like Soulless One, or if that’s too old school for you, Wayfaring Temple. What this means is that you can follow up your block or their removal spell with more creatures and the token will grow. It also means that if you populate that token, it becomes an exact copy of it that will grow according to the number of creatures you control. This new mythic is a great response to aggressive and controlling decks alike and because of that, it should see play in multiple archetypes.
Every time a new set comes out, I am reminded how important building sealed decks and drafting is to your overall game. Don’t undervalue the impact playing Limited can have on improving your skills. Both draft and sealed require skills that carry over to constructed formats. These ever changing formats don’t allow you to rely on professionals to build your decks for you, they make you do all the work. You can’t buy wins in these formats buy handing over cash for the newest shiny mythic rare or hot new tech.
Limited forces you to learn how to evaluate cards and form your own opinions about their strengths and weaknesses. You might talk to your friends between rounds about the deck you built, but ultimately all of the decisions rest with you. Limited helps you find the hidden synergies between cards that normally wouldn’t see play in Constructed. There are many opportunities to grow as a player because you are constantly trying to outplay your opponent with 2/2’s for two mana or something similar.
If you are having some problems being successful in Constructed or you think your game is stagnant, spend some time drafting or building sealed decks. In addition to the massive amounts of fun you’ll have, you will help yourself improve in areas you didn’t know needed improvement.
What are your thoughts on the top 10? Post your list below!
Until Next Time,
Unleash the Force of the Maze!
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