Insider: The Many Faces of Champion of Wits

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If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode of the QS Cast yet, I highly recommend it. If you have, then you know that Chris VanMeter and I have exactly one thing in common: belief in Champion of Wits.

Champion of Wits is a card that I have been interested since I saw it in the spoiler, for a couple of reasons. First, there was its mana cost-to-power and toughness ratio. Three mana for a 2/1 was on the wrong side of the efficiency spectrum. The second standout was its ability: when it is played for three mana, it results in its controller drawing two cards then discarding two cards. The value hound in me immediately was crestfallen, as a card with the text “draw two, discard two” is card disadvantage.

Both of these attributes caught my eye, and not for the reason that you may think. I did not hang my head in disappointment at how bad this card was – no, instead I thought to myself, “This card was probably busted in development, huh?”

The reason I thought this is because a few minor changes could result in a very different and very powerful card. For example, what if Champion of Wits cost two instead of three? Or what if it drew cards equal to its power then only required its caster to discard one?

To me, these are the kinds of thing that I pay attention to. If you listen to Mark Rosewater’s Drive to Work podcast enough, you hear stories about cards that were changed because they were too powerful for their format, or they were the kind of thing that every deck played. A card-drawing engine that came attached to an uncounterable 4/4 could certainly be that, given the right conditions.

It is possible that the development team thought that this card would see a bunch of Standard play, and I'm wondering what they saw. I've come up with a slew of possibilities. Now that I have my playset of Champion of Wits, here are five things that I plan on doing with it while it is in Standard:

1. Discarding Two Champion of Wits to Another Champion of Wits’s Trigger

Champion of Wits has a small enough mana cost that I don’t mind playing multiples in whatever deck it is in. However, that does not mean that all I’ll be doing in such a deck is casting 2/1 Naga for three mana. I will probably have something better to do in the following couple of turns with the cards that I am keeping in hand after discarding two Champions. The decks where this would happen are decks that play Glimmer of Genius, Hour of Devastation and probably a couple of planeswalkers. In the case of choosing between playing a second Champion of Wits or casting a turn-four Glimmer, unless I am taking some serious beatdowns, I am picking the Glimmer line every time.

2. Putting Champion of Wits into My Graveyard with Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning is another card that perked the ears of value-seekers early on. The mana cost is the best we have been getting for card selection recently, and as far as digging goes, it lets you see lots of cards, and more importantly, it can find you lots of card types. I’m pretty interested in the applications of Strategic Planning when it comes to decks that want to play Descend upon the Sinful and Scour the Laboratory, which have not found a permanent place in any archetype yet, but with attractive ways to dump cards in the graveyard like Champion of Wits and Strategic Planning, there’s the opportunity to play a cool control game and draw, like, so many cards, you guys. Green has always been the delirium color of choice, but the options for your deck are now much broader.

I would like to take this opportunity to agree with you that yes, Scour the Laboratory may not be as good as Glimmer of Genius is in a vacuum, but the difference between card selection with Glimmer and card quantity with Scour is not insignificant.

3. Sacrificing Champion of Wits to Cast Elder Deep-Fiend

The deck that I am hoping to look at first for Grand Prix Washington DC is UR Emerge, which appeals to the part of me that likes having options on what to do with my cards other than what is written. I also really enjoy flashing in giant, land-tapping monstrosities to tap all your lands during your upkeep. The ability to put creatures onto the battlefield at times other than your main phase seems beneficial, especially considering the whopping three board wipes entering Standard with Hour of Devastation (the set), and making creatures with six toughness seems fantastic when lined up against Standard’s new darling, Hour of Devastation (the card).

4. Eternalizing a Champion of Wits a Couple Turns Early

Like one-mana cantrips, one-mana mana dorks like Elvish Mystic and two-mana ramp spells like Rampant Growth are now personae non gratae in Standard, but there are still some ways to make extra mana on my side of the board available. For example, casting a two-mana creature like Servant of the Conduit on turn two into Champion of Wits on turn three, then casting Hour of Promise on turn four puts me at seven mana on turn five.

Dedicated ramp decks would also benefit from the card selection provided by Champion to prevent gluts of expensive cards early or ramp cards late. Alternatively, The Scarab God's activated ability can eternalize Champion of Wits at a steep discount. I have a less clear vision of what this deck may look like, but alongside Lord of the Accursed and Gisa and Geralf, UB Zombies may have a chance to shine should synergy and the ability to grind out games be competitive in Standard.

5. Curving an Eternalized Champion of Wits into Casting Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh

Champion of Wits is blue; Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh has blue in his mana cost, so they go in the same deck, probably. The eternalize activation on Champion of Wits costs seven; so does Nicol Bolas. Naturally, my mind is bound to wander in the direction of the God-Pharaoh for as long as it is in Standard, so there’s a good chance that I will put the two together in at least one deck. Drawing six cards off of two Champion of Wits activations makes me confident that I will have drawn what will likely be my one copy of Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh by the time that I am able to cast it, too.

One of the things that I like about blue in formats like Modern or Cube is consistency. I can have a plan, and if I build my deck right, be reasonably certain of my ability to execute it. To me, Champion of Wits is the shining beacon of the possibility of some truly harebrained plans in Standard for years to come, and I can’t wait.

The Bottom Line

What does this mean for the future price of Champion of Wits? Given that it has already jumped from near-bulk to $3, there's a chance that it doesn't go higher than $5, although I could see it rise to $6 if it is a star at the Pro Tour this weekend. However, one of the important things to keep in mind with a card like this is that the cards that play well with it could get a boost too. If Champion of Wits is big, I'd watch out for Descend upon the Sinful, Hour of Promise, and Elder Deep-Fiend to see a rise in price to accompany a rise in demand.

To be the very first to know when I have done something cool with Champion of Wits, follow me on Twitter and Twitch, and subscribe to my YouTube channel!

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