Spoiler season is always exciting, as new Standard sets set the scene for what we'll be playing for the next year. Interestingly, Zendikar Expeditions have stolen the spotlight leading up to Battle for Zendikar's launch. There have been a number of very powerful cards spoiled so far, though the power might not lie exactly where we were expecting when we heard we were going back to Zendikar.
Today I want to talk about the cards spoiled thus far that I think will be pillars and defining elements of new Standard, and how we might use this information to reevaluate existing positions.
You don't need to hear much more than the words "fetchable lands" to understand the implications of this cycle. With only ally colors available, the BFZ duals don't make color requirements completely pointless, but they make it pretty easy to conceive of a manabase that can cast whatever spells you're trying to put in the same deck. The fact that these lands don't care what kind of basic you control to come into play untapped is huge, and you'd better believe we're going to see some insane manabases in the coming months.
Fetches don't only enable you to use these lands to stretch the sort of spells you can play together, but they also let you make super consistent two-color decks. With 12 fetches and four copies of a new dual, you get to start your mana at 16 sources of both of your deck's colors. This isn't exactly a free-roll considering that fetches cost you life, so I'd expect this to advantage aggressive strategies more than controlling ones.
In particular, these lands seem to greatly benefit Atarka Red. Atarka's Command immediately became a Modern staple and is already a Standard Pro Tour champion. I would wager that you won't be able to find $5 copies for very long.
When we heard we'd be returning to a plane with Eldrazi, there was a lot of excitement about fatties. Thus far, the fatties spoiled have been immensely underwhelming. There hasn't been a ton of new spells spoiled that benefit aggressive decks, but we already have a lot of powerful tools. From what we've seen, aggressive decks and midrange strategies are losing the least, and Horribly Awry is exactly the sort of counterspell that control decks need to thrive against these strategies.
Not only does Horribly Awry counter everything up to Siege Rhino, it also exiles the spell giving added value against Den Protector. This is by far my pick for the best card we've seen spoiled at this point. Not only is it just a great two-mana counter, but it's coming at a time when we still have Silumgar's Scorn. Not to mention Dig Through Time!
Let's face it, it's a great time to be Dragonlord Ojutai. I've been talking about this card for a few weeks, and I've never felt higher on it than now with a second bonkers counterspell entering the fray.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
I talked about why I think this card will hit last week, but it would be wrong to leave him off the highlight real. We haven't seen the sort of allies that would support a Standard deck yet, and I wonder what sort of commons we'll get to fill in the gaps.
Regardless, Gideon is just a great card that will see play. In particular, he's an obvious staple for Jeskai Tokens decks. An anthem/token generator is just the perfect top end for this strategy. He's also not a bad four in UW/x control decks, as a flood of 2/2s combined with a few removal spells or sweepers can be too much for a lot of decks to handle.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
With Hangarback Walker being a serious contender for best card in Standard, Drana gets bonus points for her synergy with Walkers, both while they're still alive and after they've popped. Drana also might be reason enough to go into black for token decks. Mardu isn't completely out of the question, though it remains to be seen how much else black adds to the equation.
If Ojutai is as big as I expect it to be, then Crackling Doom is an attractive inclusion. A couple Sorin, Solemn Visitor to supplement your Gideons makes for a great top end as well. Drana is pre-ordering for $12, which seems pretty reasonable to me. If the card takes off, there will be a window for short-term gains, though long-term I would imagine the price will settle closer to $8.
Greenwarden of Murasa
I imagine it's clear that Siege Rhino won't be leaving the limelight anytime soon. Elspeth, Sun's Champion, on the other hand, is. Warden of the First Tree is likely to keep Abzan Aggro as a solid deck, but the controlling versions need a new top end. Greenwarden not only offers a body that trades with Siege Rhino, but it also generates value that allows you to overpower Abzan mirrors.
Greenwarden is pre-ordering for about $7, and I could see it hitting $10-$12 before it levels off. Ultimately, I would guess that it only ends up seeing play as a one- to two-of, which would hold its price point down.
Four mana for a 5/5 or a 6/6 with vigilance and trample is a great rate. I expect to see decks featuring this card alongside Siege Rhino, though I'm not sure that this will be the best way to build Abzan. There are still a handful of removal spells that favorably kill off a mono-colored four-drop, but this is a reasonable choice as a beatdown curve topper. Pre-order prices are around $4, which I don't think you'll be able to profit off of. I see this card as having solid constructed potential, but that price is too steep to reliably profit off of in the Expeditions set.
Checking the Hype
Lastly, I want to talk about a card that I expect to cool off in light of the set spoiled thus far:
This is a spec that I've been skeptical of the entire time that it's been hyped. I didn't say as much because it was conceivable that BFZ would give us some great cards to push the card over the top, but it seems like the card is actually losing more than it's gaining with rotation.
Sylvan Caryatid and Elvish Mystic helped you ramp to six. Now they're gone, and the things that we're ramping into just seem clunky. There are still some great creatures to make us ferocious, but trying to make See the Unwritten work is going to result in us loading up our deck with uncastables and four copies of a card that our non-Rattleclaw Mystic mana creatures can't even cast.
When I think of See the Unwritten, the closest comparison I can think of is Summoning Trap. There was a time when Summoning Trap had a lot of powerful things going for it. It was an instant, it had a built-in way to hose counterspells, and the ways to ramp into both it and the fatties not only could cast it but enabled you to activate Windbrisk Heights. There's just nothing along these lines going for See the Unwritten.
See the Unwritten had its shot in G/r Devotion, and the versions including the card were ultimately deemed to be weaker than the versions just playing more permanents. I don't like the spec, and unless something crazy happens with the spoiler I don't expect this card to really take off.
With the full spoiler on the horizon, it's time to realistically think about post-BFZ Standard. At this point, aggressive decks seem poised to run extremely consistently off of the new cycle of duals, and midrange decks will have great mana to continue to support the high-powered gold spells of Tarkir block. Horribly Awry is my current pick for best spell spoiled thus far, and I would be amazed if control decks don't see a huge surge in power and tournament results with the inclusion of this new counterspell.
Thanks for reading.
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