At first, it seemed like this was going to be a hard article to write because over the last couple of weeks I was harsh on a lot of cards from M15. Trying to decide which are the ten best cards in the set is difficult when a set isn’t good.
After reflecting on the set a bit more and playing with more of the cards, my opinion has changed quite a bit. There are plenty of great cards in M15 but the underlying issue I was facing was that M15 is less about flashy bombs and more about solid, consistent cards. There are a lot of cards designed to have decks built around them, but in the context of this Standard format, they don’t have the support they need.
Are there really enough artifacts for Shrapnel Blast, Chief Engineer, or even Hoarding Dragon to be worth casting? From my brewing perspective, I’d say no. I’ve talked to a lot of players that are trying to devise an artifact-based strategy, but there are not enough good artifacts to make a deck like this feasible right now.
I’d say basically the same thing about most of the cards like this from M15. Spirit Bonds is incredibly cool but it won’t take many games of having all your hard work undone by Detention Sphere and Bile Blight before you move on to another deck. I know you want to cast Ornithopter and get a 1/1 flyer to go with it, but that will have to wait.
Waste Not, Necromancer's Stockpile, Aggressive Mining and Goblin Rabblemaster all seem like they will suffer the same outcome of repeated crushing defeats because the reactive cards are so strong and these synergistic cards have a hard time functioning under a lot of distress.
M15 is an extremely deep set with a plethora of playable cards in constructed Magic. Many of them need a new Standard environment before they will have their chance to shine though.
As of right now, it’s not looking like the pain lands will make much of an impact on Standard. As a player who has played in many formats where they are legal, I know from experience how good they are. Many writers have said they are extremely good in aggressive multi-color decks and they are definitely correct. They are also good in control decks because they give you additional dual lands to rely on until you are able to draw other lands that won’t deal you damage.
I’ve noticed that newer players are hesitant to play both the pain lands as well as Mana Confluence because they cannot see the greatness-at-any-cost aspect of them. It is because of this fact that it may take longer for these lands to be adopted.
A mass bounce spell like this is hard to pin down in terms of power level, but I got to witness it being cast this past weekend. Some firsthand experience was exactly what I needed to give me some perspective.
From what I’ve seen so far, Aetherspouts will get you out of some sticky situations, but some board states it’s just an overcosted Azorius Charm. If there are many creatures on the board, one player can play around this card easily by not committing his entire board to the attack or by casting a strong creature during the second main phase of the game. Aetherspouts adds an interesting aspect to any game, but it doesn’t seem like it will impact Constructed very much.
[cardimage cardname='Hushwing Gryff']
Flying Torpor Orb seems great, but there are not enough enters-the-battlefield abilities in Standard and limiting your deck to play without them seems too harsh in Modern. This creature is quite good, but for now, he’s homeless. He will be chilling under the bridge if you need him though, but more like a super hero in hiding than a bum around a garbage fire.
[cardimage cardname='Reclamation Sage']
This Viridian Shaman upgrade is not quite good enough to crack the top 10, but don’t be fooled because it looks innocent. This card will see much play in both Standard and Modern. It is a strong upgrade to what we’ve had for a while now. Nearly every deck has an artifact or enchantment and some are built around one of those card types. Reclamation Sage is good enough to see main deck play in both formats, although likely in a limited capacity with more copies in the sideboard.
[cardimage cardname='Phyrexian Revoker']
Speaking of great sideboard cards that could see main deck play, Phyrexian Revoker is the perfect example. This innocent little hate bear will shut down whichever planeswalker you see fit, enemy mana creatures, or even the deadly Pack Rat. Most of these decks have answers to your 2/1 but forcing them to use it on your creature takes time and resources allowing you to use your tempo boost to build your board position. Phyrexian Revoker should see a lot of play in a lot of decks and ended in 11th place, just outside of the top 10.
10. [cardimage cardname='Diffusion Sliver']
Of all the cool and interesting slivers in M15, why would this one make the top 10 and not a card like Sliver Hivelord or Sliver Hive? Diffusion Sliver made the list for one simple reason, it is the only card that makes the sliver deck playable. While it’s no Crystalline Sliver, making your slivers into mini Frost Titans exceeds my expectations for what abilities slivers get in Standard.
If you want to get your Sliver Hivelord into play in Standard, you better be protected by Diffusion Sliver. In addition, running all four of this disruptive sliver will make it harder and harder for your opponent to catch back up because just like most other sliver abilities, it stacks! The road to competitive slivers must go through some diffusion first.
9. [cardimage cardname='Jace, the Living Guildpact']
And the winner for ‘Most Controversial Card in the Set’ goes to, Jace, the Living Guildpact! Jace couldn’t be here today as he’s still dealing with interplanar disputes, but I will accept it on his behalf.
As soon as this version of Jace was spoiled, players started taking sides. This is not the type of card that many people are indifferent about. On the contrary, players took their stance and started fighting for their cause.
Jace clocks in at 9th place because I’m on the decently playable side. I heard someone say that if this had been a planeswalker with any other name it would have been better received by the community and I think that’s the heart of the issue. We all agree that the +1 is mediocre and -3 is a lot for the second ability, but this is not the future future league and we do not have a say about what gets printed on the card. All we can do is test out each card and see how well it does in its final incarnation.
My verdict is that our newest Jace will definitely see play and is quite good in Mono-Blue Devotion. I wish the +1 was actually Sleight of Hand, because it would open up many more possibilities for this card to see play, but let’s not complain when blue gets downgraded a bit. Pseudo-scry is still a reasonable thing to do every turn and you only need three +1’s to set up the ultimate. Is this the best blue planeswalker ever printed or even the best in Standard, no and no, but he still has his uses and will see play.
8. [cardimage cardname='Hornet queen']
If you haven’t played any Commander you may not know the power of Hornet Queen, but you will. This more expensive Deranged Hermit costs two more mana for a good reason. One player told me he thought it cost five mana. When someone says something ridiculous like that we relate it to the time my buddy asked if Baneslayer Angel had vigilance. Both statements are equally as absurd.
Hornet Queen costs seven mana because it needs to cost that much for what you’re getting out of that mana. You will be playing against this card soon enough so prepare yourself. It’s not a question of if this will see play, but when and how much. It may not come into play when you hit five mana, but fifth turn is not out of the question especially in Mono-Green Devotion. Of course there are ways to deal with all the tokens simultaneously but if you can’t, that’s a lot of deathtouch to fight through.
7. [cardimage cardname='Frenzied Goblin']
Why would an innocent 1/1 for one mana break the top 10? Play against it while it has a Madcap Skills on it and you’ll never question its power again. Those of you who have been around since Frenzied Goblin was printed the first time nine years ago remember how good preventing blocks is on an aggressive creature like this.
Frenzied Goblin along with Stoke the Flames and Hammerhand are all going to see play in a new wave of red decks similar to Boss Sligh. Hammerhand offers three different abilities all for one mana and convoke on a burn spell is scary. Giving out convoke to every color is frightening but cool. It makes playing around things much harder for everyone involved.
6. [cardimage cardname='Ajani Steadfast']
If I am playing a token deck, the planeswalker I always want in play is Ajani, Goldmane. If I’m playing an aggro deck similar in style to Zoo, Ajani, Caller of the Pride is about as good as it gets. My control decks want Ajani Vengeant and my midrange decks want Ajani Steadfast.
When comparing new Ajani, it’s hard to see where he will fit. While he may not be as good at each of these roles as his other selves are, the cool part about Steadfast is that he will work in all of these archetypes. Using his +1 works well in any deck that has creatures. It allows you to punish other aggressive strategies by attacking while still gaining life and keeping a creature to block. You can use Steadfast’s -2 effectively in multiple strategies as well.
Giving all of your creatures a boost like Goldmane did is still powerful, but adding counters to your other planeswalkers is potentially broken. This past weekend I ran a TCG event at my store and the first place deck was a Bant Midrange deck that featured new Ajani alongside Kiora, the Crashing Wave, Jace, Architect of Thought and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Ajani is the perfect sidekick to any other planeswalker and he’s filled with potential.
5. [cardimage cardname='Sign in Blood']
When the best deck gets a card that makes it even better, the competitive scene should take note and they certainly have. Already, Mono-Black Devotion players have adopted Sign in Blood and the only question now is how many copies should be played. There is a real possibility that this is the card that makes Mono-Black too oppressive. I’m anxious to see what happens at the Pro Tour next weekend, but I’d hazard a guess the successful players will include a lot of Sign in Bloods.
4. [cardimage cardname='Genesis Hydra']
Genesis Hydra is just another dumb giant monster for the casuals and Commander crowd to cast. I’ve heard that from a number of players but that sentiment will soon come to an end. If you read the text box closely you will find out that the spell you reveal is uncounterable. Sure they can counter the hydra itself, but not whatever potent threat you reveal from his ability.
Genesis Hydra fits right in with the explosive mana generation of Mono-Green Devotion and is already starting to make waves in Standard. This green monster is like Bloodbraid Elf on crack and is well deserving of number four on this list. I'd pick up a playset of this bad boy as soon as possible because its one of the only cards in the set I expect to increase in price.
3. [cardimage cardname='Chord of Calling']
Wizards shocked the world with the announcement that Chord of Calling would be printed in Standard for the second time. The first time resulted in bulk rare status. Chord of Calling did not come into the spotlight until the Modern format was well underway. Now, thanks to Kiki Pod, we all know just how good the poster boy for convoke is. It didn’t take long for Chord to be adopted in Standard either. This is another auto-inclusion in Mono-Green Devotion. Some other strategies have tried out this tutor as well like Constellation and Slivers but they have yet to yield results the way Mono-Green has. If you have green mana in your deck, you most likely want some number of this spell to support your strategy.
2. [cardimage cardname='Garruk, Apex Predator']
I know I’ve said this before but it took four years and an additional three mana for us to get our second planeswalker with four abilities. I’ve already seen Garruk in Jund Monsters builds as a one-of and I expect some Mono-Black decks with green mana to adopt him also. Preying on other planeswalkers is his specialty but once you’ve dealt with them, you can start summoning your evil beast army. For seven mana, you should get an amazing planeswalker and Garruk doesn’t fail to deliver. His mana cost will prohibit him from seeing tons of play but this is definitely a card worth ramping into.
1. [cardimage cardname='Nissa, Worldwaker']
Garruk, Apex Predator may be the M15 headlining act but Nissa, Worldwaker is the real number one. Whether she is untapping your forests to play Polukranos, World Eater or creating indestructible 4/4’s with trample via Darksteel Citadel, Nissa is a powerhouse that demands your attention. The fine print on the green cards in M15 reads, go and build Mono-Green Devotion immediately, and Nissa is the core of the deck. No deck can withstand your 4/4 land army or your ability to ramp into insane amounts of mana.
There is a long list of cards that work great with tons of mana and two of them are on this very list. I’ve found that one of the best things you can be doing with your large quantities of mana is simply using monstrosity to Plague Wind your opponents’ creatures. If you thought Polukranos, World Eater was good before M15, wait until you’ve played him alongside Nissa and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
Well, there you have it, the latest installment of The Top 10! As always, I’d love to hear your input on the list. Do you agree with my pick order? Did I miss something that should have been on the list? What is your list? Tell me about these things as well as your experiences with M15 in the comments below.
Until Next Time,
Unleash the M15 Force!
MtgJedi on Twitter