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Magic 2014 Top Ten

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Hello everyone. I'm excited as always to bring you the top ten constructed cards from the newest addition to our wonderful game. M14 certainly brings great cards into the mix of playablity, but how much of an impact will it really have? Which cards will find a home? Which cards will create decks on their own? This week, I'll answer these questions plus many more. Let's get started!

Lacking for Real Estate

M14 hits the metagame at a different angle than most core sets in the past have. The most important aspect of this set is the lack of mana fixing. With no cycle of lands to help our mana bases, how much of an impact will that have on Standard? The quick answer is we don't know.

Every year since I've been playing, the core set gave us access to lands to help make our decks more consistent. There have been a few different iterations over the years. I have played with the pain land cycle from Ice Age and Apocalypse. We all have used the M10 lands, reprinted over the last four years, to great effect, culminating by pairing them with the Ravnica duals for amazing mana. There was even a little while where all we had was City of Brass to help a couple decks.

What will Standard be like without tons of dual lands to help your deck flow consistently? Honestly I have no clue. Since this is a new concept, it is something we will have to keep a close watch on.

My initial impression is that it will be a good thing for the game. If I had to compare this lack of lands to something, I would foresee it being similar to when the Vivid lands rotated out of Standard. At that time, we went from casting Cryptic Command, Cloudthresher, and Cruel Ultimatum in the same deck, to something that was actually a believable deck again.

While decks in Standard aren't as crazy as during Lorwyn block, we have gotten used to the fact that we can play three colors with relative ease. In fact, often it's actually better to play three colors instead of two right now because of how many dual lands you have access to.

In Theros we are supposed to have access to some dual lands, though we don't know which ones, so the mana will be back to a much more normal level. This change actually excites me quite a bit because typically lower-powered formats are more fun. Think about decks in Standard if you actually had to pick only two colors. If that were the case, we would actually have a metagame instead of players just jamming whatever cards they wanted to play all in the same deck. For example, what if Jund had to play either as GB or as RB? I think that would be more interesting. Either way, Standard will be impacted by the lack of core set duals, hopefully in a positive way.

Let's see that Top 10!

10. Slivers

It was a tough decision, but in the end, none of the slivers stood out as a top 10 card. That's the point though right? None of them are good on their own, but when you play them together, they become an army, each with tons of abilities.

These latest additions to the sliver crew (bad art aside) are pushed in terms of power level. The only thing holding them back is their small numbers. There are fourteen sliver cards plus Hive Stirrings and Mutavault.

Although I have no idea if slivers will be actually good, I do know players will battle with them. This creature type is one of the most popular and there is a whole new group of players waiting eagerly to try this tribe out. The time between now and when Theros comes out seems like the best time for the deck because we still have all the dual lands plus Cavern of Souls.

My inclination would be that the deck wants to be green, red, and a third color because those colors are where the most powerful and aggressive cards are located. White is a logical third choice, but with slivers there are many options for how to build your deck. Good luck brewing slivers!

9. Witchstalker

The reason this wolf (I definitely thought it was a beast, but apparently not) is on the list for one obvious reason. It immediately goes into the Bant Hexproof deck.

This is the threat that deck has been missing. Not only do you now have a critical density of hexproof creatures, but you also gain a power similar to Voice of Resurgence. Making your opponent play their spells on their turn is a game-changing effect, especially for an "all-in" type deck like Bant Hexproof.

You could also play Gladecover Scout like the Modern version of the deck does, but I'm not sure the Standard enchantments are powerful enough to justify his inclusion. The other creatures in this cycle are also powerful in their own regard. Tidebinder Mage, Fiendslayer Paladin, and Mindsparker may all see play but they seem inappropriate for the current metagame. Look for them to improve once Standard rotates.

8. Lifebane Zombie

The last in the three-drop "hate" cycle for M14, this zombie attacks the format in just the right way. The problem is, what deck does he get played in? BWR Aristocrats maybe, but it doesn't really fit there. Will another spot open up for him or a new deck pop up that will utilize him? That is still uncertain.

His effect is perfect in this meta though. Removing Thragtusk seems particularly potent. His power and toughness are fine, but with only one toughness, he won't get very far through your opponents defenses, be they creatures or removal spells. I'm not sure this Selesnya hater has what it takes to impact Standard, but his ability is definitely powerful.

7. Xathrid Necromancer

This is my personal favorite card from M14. The last time we had a card like this was way back in Onslaught with Rotlung Reanimator. As you can see, these two cards are about as similar as they get. This necromancer is basically a functional reprint as the only thing that was changed was the creature type involved.

With the available card pool and the direction Magic has taken in the last few years, focusing on the human creature type is quite a boon. Even if all the Necromancer does is replace itself upon dying, that is probably good enough, but he doesn't stop there! I think there is something here and I for one will be working with this card to find the best home for him.

6. Chandra, Pyromaster

The Magic community is undecided about the newest addition in the line of mediocre red planeswalkers. Of all past Chandras, I liked Chandra Nalaar the best. In fact, I actually played her with some success during Shards block.

New Chandra seems about as powerful as her original version to me. The fact that she costs four mana helps her case a little, but I would have liked to see how much play she would have seen at three mana. Her plus one ability is not bad, but it's not amazing either. Luckily her starting loyalty is four (five after the immediate plus one that will typically follow), which is decent.

The card drawing ability is not bad either. I don't like that you have to play the card that turn or not at all, but even if it is a bit conditional, card drawing is always good. I imagine her ultimate is largely irrelevant, but it would be fine if you were able to use it.

Her best aspect is that she could fit into many different types of decks. An aggro deck would utilize the Falter effect as well as the card drawing and in addition, a controlling deck would take advantage of the one damage to a creature. Overall, I expect her to see some play but not a ton.

5. Path of Bravery

Previous versions of this effect were almost always two mana. Is three mana is certainly much worse than two (see Doom Blade below), but I'm not sure that is enough to stop this card from seeing play.

The fact that your buffs are conditional makes me pause, but any aggressive white deck, especially on the play, should be in a position to receive the benefits of the card. There are many questions surrounding this card's playability, but increasing the size of your creatures as well as giving them lifelink is a powerful effect. This may be a path to doing nothing though so tread lightly.

M14 does seem to have a trend of cards that don't really have a home currently. Often when this happens, many of these are plants for the next block. When that time comes, I think most of the M14 cards will need to be reevaluated with that context. (Can you tell I'm excited for Theros and a new Standard environment?)

4. Dark Prophecy

If it costs triple black, it must be powerful and this card certainly delivers in the power department. I am having a lot of Dark Prophecys that good M14 cards are going to go homeless for a while though.

What deck could play this? B/R Zombies seems like it would love this card but then again they only have Falkenrath Aristocrat as a sacrifice outlet and that deck isn't even very good anymore. Junk Aristocrats would probably abuse this card a ton but not without drastically altering the mana base to support a triple-black enchantment. That leaves us with the prospect of creating a new deck.

Is it worth it to build a deck around this card? I definitely think the power level is high enough to justify that, but I wouldn't even know where to start. The card is good, but that may not be enough.

3. Scavenging Ooze

Maybe not for Standard, but if we are talking about Modern, this is the most powerful card on the list. It amazes me that this card got printed for Standard. Maybe it is not as powerful without Green Sun's Zenith, but it will definitely see play.

Deathrite Shaman plus Scavenging Ooze is a ton of graveyard hate for Modern. It will certainly impact that format in ways we cannot fathom. Are there things that need to be covered in ooze in Standard? It does seem like another sweet card to help fight Junk Reanimator, but that is a rather obvious conclusion.

Less obvious is again what deck will play it. I've heard players comment that it could go into Jund Midrange. That seems fine by me, but I am wondering if that is the best home. Any green deck could probably play this scavenger in their sideboard though. M14 is filled with so many hate cards that maybe there is a new deck waiting to be built.

2. Garruk, Caller of Beasts

Six mana is a ton, especially for a low starting loyalty, but it will be worth it. As long as your deck is filled with a bunch of creatures, his plus one is as powerful as Jace, the Mind Sculptors zero ability. There I said it.

Of course Jace is better, no planeswalker will ever be better than he is, but the abilities are comparable. Think about how awesome getting a free Lead the Stampede each turn will be! Now that is a powerful effect.

The Caller of Beasts gets a very efficient way to bring his friends to battle with his minus three ability. The creatures' Dramatic Entrance may not be as surprising, but any ability that allows you to cheat huge monsters into play should be carefully examined. For now, I like the interaction of cheating Craterhoof Behemoth into play. For later, I think Theros may have a few huge giants or other mythical monsters we would want to get in play as soon as possible.

1. Mutavault

The most important and best card from M14 is Mutavault! Not only can lots of decks play it (as long as they turn their greed down a notch), but the fact that it is all creature types is hugely relevant.

Jamming this land into a sliver deck is obviously an automatic inclusion. But I guarantee this manland will see tons of play elsewhere, even if no one adopts it until after rotation (although I doubt it will take that long.) When Innistrad block leaves, we can no longer rely on the utility lands that have impacted Standard for two years. The ever-changing creature land is poised to immediately replace them.

Not on the List

Did you notice zero blue cards were mentioned?

First of all, it's been a long time since blue was this weak. If I recall correctly, it was before Worldwake came out and then we had Jace, the Mind Sculptor to make blue mages happy for all of time. Does that mean we will be getting more broken blue cards in Theros? I am doubtful, but certainly better ones than what M14 has to offer.

Sorry blue mages, you don't even get Unsummon or Mana Leak. You will have to settle for Essence Scatter and Disperse (at least for now).

I also want to include Shock in this section, not because of power level, but because it's an important downgrade. Shock has been played in Standard before, but now is not the time for its return. Shock is much worse than Searing Spear for this environment. Even after rotation, I doubt that we will see Shock at the top tables of any event. Paying attention to the available removal is a big part of deckbuilding though, so don't forget that it will be an option for the next year.

Honorable Mentions

Doom Blade: This almost-generic, two-mana removal spell almost made it onto my top ten for the set. Bringing its cost down to two mana from Murder's three is a big deal. Murder saw minimal play despite it being good in most situations based solely on the fact that it cost three mana. Having Doom Blade back is great and certainly a step up.

The reason I cut it from the top ten is because of how resilient the creatures in Standard are right now. So many of the creatures are indestructible, hexproof, or give you another creature when they die that even if Doom Blade cost one mana, it would still not be as good as it should be. Doom Blade will definitely see play, maybe a lot of it, but it won't have as much impact as it normally should because of how hard to kill creatures have become.

Young Pyromancer: This creature seems much better in eternal formats than Standard, but it could see some play. For this card to play a huge role, I think we would need to get some good burn spells in Theros though.

Chandra's Phoenix: This former Standard staple would go well in a deck that also has Young Pyromancer, but a deck like that trying to fight against Thragtusk seems doomed to go up in flames. Maybe this bird will return to the big stage, but now is not that time.

Kalonian Hydra: For a five-mana monster, this creature has certainly built a lot of hype. My opinion is to sell yours and take advantage of the press this guy is getting because it seems unimpressive.

Wolfir Silverheart is much better than this hydra in my opinion and he has seen very little play. Trample helps but not enough. It's more likely you will have a hydra back in your hand or in your graveyard than attacking your opponent.

Ratchet Bomb: This could be an important sideboard card. Keep it in mind when putting decks together.

Haunted Plate Mail: Some have said this could be the finisher in a control deck. That is an overly bold statement. I don't think this plate mail will be haunting anyone anytime soon. Let it rot in a closet and kill your opponent with Aetherling.

Encroaching Wastes: I'd take a Tectonic Edge over an Encroaching Wastes any day. Although it's been a long time since we had a Wasteland impressionist in Standard, this comedian seems unlikely to capture the hearts of players. You can start growing your Encroaching Wastes when you find a way to reduce the sacrifice cost, otherwise just leave them as wastes.

Well there you have it. The top ten is such a fun article to write. I hope you all enjoyed it as well. If you don't agree with my assessment, post in the comments below! What is your top 10? How is it different than mine? Let me know!

Until Next Time,

Unleash the M14 Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

10 thoughts on “Magic 2014 Top Ten

  1. Don’t forget, Lifebane Zombie has intimidate, so getting through opposing creatures with 1 toughness won’t be so hard. Nice article!

  2. i like this review… although i think you overvalue Garruk a bit in this top10… imo it will goes down in your list once you start to play it. i prefer primal hunter 1million time than this. at turn 5-6 if your kinda a midrange deck your hand is not that big. you might not even be able to play the 0 ability. you can sure dig for 1 or 2 creature but i’m not sure this garruk impact the game state enough. the primal hunter was so huge vs aggro vs control. May be in my head i don’t try to play it in the right deck.. Let’s see how it turns but i don’t have high hopes for it.

    don’t underestimate the power of Shock, because during testing with RG aggro, i can’t count the number of times i looked at pillar of flame… “why aren’t you a shock.at least?” and than looking in the gatherer if shock was legal in t2… as i see it, Spear vs Mortar and Pillar vs Shock are in the same boat in this deck. in some metas you want the sorcery speed and in other metas you want the instant speed. Boros Reckoner is better with shock in hand than pillar, believe me 😛

  3. I don’t think Path of Bravery and Dark Prophecy belong on the list at all (assuming we don’t see further support coming in Theros).

    Regarding Scavenging Ooze, it easily fits right into Jund, swapping in for Ground Seal. I’m sure it’ll at least see sideboard play in other decks as well.

    I think you missed the following cards in your honorable mention section:

    -Flames of the Firebrand

    -Brave the Elements

    -Celestial Flare

    -Elvish Mystic

    -Glimpse the Future

    -Angelic Accord

    -Quicken (instant speed Supreme Verdict in U/W/x control or Rakdos’s Return in Grixis, etc.)

    -Banisher Priest (probably not until after Fiend Hunter rotates)

    and I think Primeval Bounty belongs somewhere on the top 10 list, it seems similar to Deadbridge Chant as a way to gain value.

    1. I dont agree with your suggestions for the list, but I do agree that path of bravery should be something different. It should likely be Burning Earth. I completely forgot about that one. I think dark prophecy is very good though. All the cards you suggested should see play. That part is definitely true. I think llanowar will see a lot of play this time around. I like banisher priest quite a bit as well. Great feedback.

      Also, lifebane zombie having intimidate is hugely relevant for sure.

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