Magic Origins looks like it will be one of, if not the, best core sets in Magic history. Let’s dive right in!
In truth, so many cards in the set deserve to be listed in this section. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve talked about many cards in the set, so if you missed them, take some time and check them out. If you take one thing away from those articles, what you should focus on is that there are so many playables, you’d have trouble fitting them all in a bag of holding.
We see this sometimes with sets over the past couple years. Instead of having a bunch of filler, much of that filler has playable applications. To put it in perspective, there probably isn’t much difference between the top 10 and top 20 in this set. We are going to focus on the top 10 today, but before we get to that, let’s take a look at some cards I haven’t discussed yet.
Erebos's Titan, just like many other cards in Magic Origins, suffers from wrong-place-wrong-time syndrome. Had he been printed in Theros block, there is no doubt in my mind he would have seen a ton of play in Mono-Black Devotion. The question is now, will that strategy be good enough that he will have a home. My initial reaction is no.
Some insight into my hesitancy might be necessary. Polukranos, World Eater is legal for play in Standard and that card is $3 now because it sees no play. I view Erebos's Titan as a similar card, so I don’t think it will see much play. It’s not that it’s not good, of course it is, but we play in an era when a card has to not only be good, but have a home and be better than the other cards in the format. I don’t think this new mythic meets those requirements.
We have the payoff for playing black devotion in Gray Merchant of Asphodel but since I had to re-look up the spelling, that tells you how often I’ve written about it in the last year. The problem is that there are not other good enablers worth playing. I think we’ve all had enough of Mono-Black Devotion anyway, but maybe this card is enough to revitalize the archetype.
The renowned mechanic, like so many before it, suffers from its effect not taking place immediately. When you need your creature to deal damage to a player before its effect works, generally that’s not a good thing. At least three of the cards with this mechanic might be good enough though. Relic Seeker, Scab-Clan Berserker and Honored Hierarch might be better than they seem at first glance.
Take Honored Hierarch, for example. We are losing Elvish Mystic when M15 rotates out of the format. That happens when Battle for Zendikar is added into the format. If no mana creatures are printed, then this will be our only option (at one mana) and if it’s our only option, its stock goes way up.
My opinion of Relic Seeker became more positive once I saw how many pieces of equipment were printed in this set. There are a lot of options right now and we could see even more printed in the next couple of sets as well. With Relic Seeker having solid initial stats, this could lead to him seeing some play.
Finally, Scab-Clan Berserker seems like it could be pretty good as well. I’m not sure if it’s better than Acolyte of the Inferno or Goblin Glory Chaser but these red renowned creatures provide decent starting stats along with good payoff for connecting once.
The problem with any of these cards is that they aren’t really good enough without dealing damage and triggering their ability. That means that when you are ahead, they are great and when you’re behind, you can never catch up.
Hallowed Moonlight is amazing and epic at what it does. I truly wish that Containment Priest was printed instead of this instant, but Hallowed Moonlight is a fine second place. There are not many reasons you would want to cast this spell in Standard but there are a couple green cards worth countering.
Basking in the Moonlight in Modern should be a common thing to do though. It seems like one of the best sideboard cards in the format. Hallowed Moonlight could even see play in Legacy as extra copies of Containment Priest.
Strong eternal sideboard cards are not what I’m looking for on the top 10 though, so it didn’t quite make the list. There are so many cards like this in the set. Magic Origins is filled with a diverse assortment of interesting cards that are difficult to analyze.
Depending on how the metagame takes shape, these cards could lose or gain value so keep your eyes open for profit possibilities. This is the type of set that people are going to make a lot of money on because in two months, the value of this set seems like it is going to shift dramatically.
Infinite Obliteration fits into the same category as well. We have never seen this effect for three mana and honestly cutting a mana from this spell changes everything.
First we had Cranial Extraction and that money rare saw tons of play back then. We’ve had many other cards similar to this one, but none caught my interest until Stain the Mind was printed in M15. Stain the Mind broke that four-mana precedent, assuming you were playing early creatures to turn on convoke.
Then they go and print Infinite Obliteration. This isn’t quite the same card though because you are limited to choosing a creature. If it hit any spell, I would have this highly rated in the top 10 and as is, it was one of the last cuts I made from the list.
Many of the decks you will be facing in Standard and Modern utilize creatures as their win conditions and even if they have multiple finishers, stripping one of them can provide an easy win for you. For example, taking Dragonlord Ojutai against Esper Dragons won’t necessarily win you the game, but it may make winning the game extremely difficult for your opponent. This can be applied to a variety of decks in many formats. The restriction to creatures only is a huge disadvantage, but it doesn’t negate its potency against certain decks.
Now that we’ve discussed some cards that were not quite good enough, let’s move on to the best cards in the set!
As you may know, this is one of my favorite cards in the set. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about a theoretical U/R Artifact deck and this card should be a huge part of making that deck work. I thought about choosing Thopter Spy Network for the 10 spot, but I think our red token maker has wider applications than its blue counterpart. Although these two cards go together like C-3PO and R2-D2, sometimes they go on missions without each other and the same will likely be said of these two new cards.
Merfolk are a beloved tribe that don’t get much love from the new sets being printed. When a card comes along that does impact these vicious water warriors, act quickly. Trade for every copy of this card at every opportunity.
This may only be selling for $4 right now, but this isn’t a card that will lose you money. Harbinger of the Tides is the perfect example of a card that will hold and gain value due to its play in multiple formats. This is a four-of, auto-include in Legacy and Modern Merfolk, but not only that, it may be the piece of the puzzle we were missing in Standard as well.
It seems like every set that’s released the Magic writing community has been focused on revitalizing the original Theros block archetypes Mono-Blue and Mono-Black Devotion. In the last set, Shorecrasher Elemental seemed like the savior of the archetype and if the format were set up differently it may have been just that. It turned out that crashing the shores didn’t quite make the deck viable so its second run at the top was halted rather abruptly.
This timeline can be visibly seen in the price trajectory of Shorecrasher Elemental. I think that card is an amazing spec right now and I paused writing this article so I could order multiple playsets for myself. I’d get them now before players start snapping them up to try Mono-Blue Devotion again for themselves.
What makes this creature so potent is the ability to play it as an instant. Four mana isn’t that much, but in all these formats, the decks are already set up to take advantage of playing their creatures at instant speed. For Modern and Legacy, players utilize Aether Vial, which has seen a lot of price growth lately. In Standard, we have the still not fully explored Collected Company. So, not only can you cast it for four mana at instant speed, but you can also cheat it into play in whatever deck you want to play it in. This makes the card much more potent.
At number seven we have a card that has started a slow burn in the hearts of players. Not much discussion has transpired on this particular fire-filled spell, which goes to show how jaded we have become about the relative power level of cards.
Flashing back to the printing of Char, players went crazy about how overpowered that card was. Most of the time Char was paired with Lightning Helix in Zoo style decks that put on a ton of early pressure and then finished their opponents off with a flash of burning rage.
Exquisite Firecraft is all of what Char was plus some sweet bonus throw-ins. Sure it’s a sorcery, but that certainly won't hold this card back from seeing play. Right now we have a dwarven forge’s worth of burn spells stacked up in the corner waiting to set players aflame. Between our new red card, Stoke the Flames, and Jeskai Charm, there may be a critical mass of burn spells to make burning players out a viable path to victory.
Even if a dedicated burn deck isn’t a tier 1 strategy, this card is going to be a mainstay in decks for the duration of its legality. As one of the many $4 cards in the set, it’s a good investment, especially if you are going to play it. The card may dip in value once the market is saturated with copies and if so, take that time to make some money.
When I saw a couple elves being spoiled in Magic Origins I was the skeptic, as I tend to be, but the more elves were spoiled, the more I warmed up to the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I like a walk through the forest as much as the next guy, but just because we love green doesn’t mean they will impact competitive play.
Then they showed us Shaman of the Pack. Not only does that card impact the playablity of the tribe in Standard, but it will likely overhaul what the tribe looks like in the older formats as well. Instead of building up your mana like a typical elf ball strategy, you now have access to another line of play as part of your tribe. Not only that, but we have seen past success with pairing black with elves back in Lorwyn block, so there is precedent.
If you are looking to build a Standard elf deck, don’t waste your time doing a gatherer search of available elven tools because there are a measly four to choose from. Elvish Mystic is the only one of them that is an auto-inclusion so we need to rely on Magic Origins if the deck will be immediately viable. Thankfully, Wizards was able to view the future and gave us all the tools we need in this one set.
There is no certainty that the deck will be good enough, but at least there are enough playables to give it a shot. Take a look at a first version of the deck.
As you can see, the majority of these cards are from Magic Origins. This is just a first draft, but if the deck is playable, it will likely look something like this. We have eight one-drop mana accelerants, card advantage, and synergistic interactions. I’m excited to try this deck out and I know many other players will be as well.
While the push for an enchantment matters deck is welcome, it may be too little too late. Or rather, this may be a flash in the pan strategy that will only be viable due to the number of sets legal in the format currently. Regardless, with the long list of playable enchantments we’ve collected thus far plus the intriguing new ones in Origins, Wizards has provided all the tools we need for this archetype. I think we should nickname this set archetype enabler because this set has brought tools for a diverse assortment of decks.
Focusing on the point, Sigil of the Empty Throne is the missing piece of the puzzle. This is the ultimate payoff we’ve been looking for. Sure we have various ways to gain card advantage and gain more resources than our opponent, but we were missing a good way to close the game. Starfield of Nyx looked to be what we needed for this role, but with Sigil being reprinted, it can be our back up. The Starfield can be Robin and we can let Sigil of the Empty Throne be Batman and lead this mission.
There are many combinations of viable cards that could lead us to victory, but lots of testing and theorizing will need to occur before we finalize the best version of this strategy. You can be sure that enchantments will become a regular part of the metagame though, so sideboard appropriately.
Reducing the mana cost on playable cards is not usually a good idea, but I love the direction Wizards is heading by giving more card draw to the red mages of the world.
Although this spell does not provide card advantage, because you are using two cards to gain two more cards, exchanging unused resources for more options is always a good thing.
This spell also has applications in multiple formats, and costing a single red is a big part of that. Snapcaster Mage and Young Pyromancer just found a new BFF, so beware. This means that foil copies should be quite valuable as well so snap those up quickly. Star City’s sold out price of $8 looks to be the only data I could gather, but that gives us a good starting point.
Like many other cards in this set, we are forging a new path with this card. This super Drown in Sorrow is certain to see play in Standard, but just how much and if it will be maindeck remains a concept firmly situated in the future.
The current state of the format isn’t one of rush strategies being dominant. Certainly Atarka Red is a deck to be feared, but it’s definitely not winning every tournament. Other than that, most other decks fall into the category of midrange. Although it’s one of the more aggressive decks in the format, even Abzan Aggro has a midrange feel to it.
Languish will flourish in a format filled with aggressive strategies, but that is unlikely to happen because Languish is legal. So, no matter how much game time this card actually sees, it is a major constraint on the format. It’s the only four-mana pseudo wrath spell we have access to at the moment but it will never rid you of the plethora of five-toughness creatures that are rampaging around the format.
3. Nissa, Vastwood Seer
As you may have noticed, Nissa, Vastwood Seer is the first planeswalker to crack the top 10 and she does so all the way at number three on the list. I mentioned the possibility of a top 20 with this set and if I outlined those as well, the other planeswalkers would likely all be in that list. Liliana, Heretical Healer nearly made her way onto the list, but her viability relies on other cards in the format that I don’t think exist just yet.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer on the other hand, will start seeing play immediately. I’ve seen her in action in some different midrange strategies and I’ve been impressed every time. No one wants to kill a Borderland Ranger, but if your opponent doesn’t spend resources to remove her, then she will turn into a real threat as the game progresses. I love the fact that her initial ability helps you build to her flip ability as well. This combination is certain to lead to her seeing play in a variety of strategies.
Although Nissa is unlikely to hold her nearly $30 price tag for long, she is still a good investment. I think a stabilizing price of $20-25 is completely reasonable and she may hit $40 depending on how many players decide they need her right away. These are things that cannot be said of many other planeswalkers which makes her an easy number three on this list.
It may surprise you to see this blue mythic rare on my list here, but I definitely have a high opinion of the card. Most of my thoughts about this Power 9-esque printing focus on older formats, but we may see Standard impacted as well. It’s no secret that this type of card screams combo and I’m not hiding that fact either. This card exists to help combo strategies.
In Standard, we have a couple different Jeskai Ascendancy combo decks that have done reasonably well from time to time. Day's Undoing could definitely help these decks become more consistent. Even the Temur Ascendancy combo deck could utilize this refueling spell. I mentioned a dedicated Burn deck earlier in the article and drawing cards in that strategy would be a deadly combination for any opponent.
Even if this draw-seven doesn’t end up seeing significant play in Standard, I believe it to be completely overpowered in Modern. Just like Treasure Cruise, Day's Undoing looks like it will be too powerful for the Modern format. I’ve been testing it in Affinity and it’s completely bonkers. There are plenty of other Modern decks that would love this card as well. Many decks are relying on their graveyard right now as well and a hidden benefit of this spell is that it shuffles everyone’s graveyards back into their libraries.
There are so many possibilities with this card and while they are exciting to theorize about, I believe this card will not stay legal in Modern for long. So, take advantage of its legality early and have a ton of fun drawing all the cards.
Drum roll please. Finally on our list, we have a card that some players called a mistake to have been printed the first time around. At number one on our list we have Goblin Piledriver!
This efficient, cheap threat comes ready to rumble with other mates in his tribe. To give it to the blue mages real good, he also has a seemingly random protection from blue ability. Piledriver has seen play in every format he’s been legal in with varying success. He was a part of Goblin Bidding, a tier 1 strategy back in Onslaught block Standard, and is still a major cog in the Legacy Goblins deck.
While it’s likely going to impact Standard, its printing has already impacted prices in Modern. Both Goblin Chieftain and Legion Loyalist have seen significant gains since Piledriver was announced. Even Auntie's Hovel rose in price! I expect Modern Goblins to make a big splash in the format and success is all but certain.
As a player who has cast Goblin Piledriver in a variety of formats, take it from me. Don’t underestimate the power of this card. In combination with any number of other goblins, this creature will punch a hole through your life total so quickly you won’t know what to do. Even if you are playing bigger creatures, Piledriver will always trade for the same or more mana investment from your opponent’s side of the board. No matter how big your blocker is, Piledriver can get big enough to trade with it.
Although many other spots on this list took some effort to determine, Goblin Piledriver was always at the top of my list. What do you think though? Did I get the list right? What would you change? What’s your top 10 list look like? Share your thoughts in the comments and as always,
Until next time,
Unleash the Origins Force!
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