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Insider: Digging for Clues to Future Standard

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Welcome back, readers!

I realize that the title for this article would have been far more apropos with Shadows over Innistrad, but that's in the past and won't benefit us now. So why am I bringing up clues now?

One thing you may have noticed is that Wizards often puts a card (or two) in a set that doesn't seem to fit all that well—these are clues for something to come. Sometimes these cards can spike massively when the cat is out of the bag.

One of the most memorable examples of this was Eye of Ugin.


When this card came out, its first line of text meant nothing (except making Changelings cheaper). The second line of text was popular with some Commander players, but it was basically a bulk rare. Then Rise of the Eldrazi came out and it jumped up in value.

Since Worldwake, WotC has been a bit less obvious with these cards. Now we're more likely to get a card that's not so useless on its own, but whose synergy increases with a subsequent set. Most recently this happened with Nahiri, the Harbinger which jumped up after Emrakul, the Promised End came out.


Of course it's not always a hit. There was a lot of speculation around Dark Intimations, as it came out before we had another Nicol Bolas legal in Standard. Sadly for any who jumped onto that bandwagon, it didn't pan out.

It's just about finding cards that seem out of place or are clearly clues towards something to come. Ideally those cards are also good enough to see play on their own, and they just get better with whatever WotC releases. This was the case for Eye of Ugin, which could fetch up giant colorless creatures like Darksteel Colossus (a casual favorite at the time). Likewise for Nahiri, the Harbinger, which could fetch up Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in Modern or act as removal in Standard.

So what do we have in Standard currently that seems a bit odd?

Arcane Adaptation


The main reason I see this card as being a bit odd is that we had a similar rare back in New Phyrexia, Xenograft, and it was never anything more than a bulk rare. Adaptation has a lower mana cost and it affects creature cards not in play, which means it can be used with cards like Goblin Ringleader (or similar types that care about creature types from zones besides the battlefield).

It's still a three-mana do-nothing when it enters the battlefield unless you already have the relevant creature types in play. Being in blue is unfortunately a strike against it too—outside of Merfolk and possibly Faeries, blue tends to be the color that plays the fewest creatures. It would care about this type of effect the least of all the colors.

This is definitely not a card I'd go and buy copies of, nor would I aggressively stockpile them, but it does seem an odd inclusion for the Ixalan set.

Ashes of the Abhorrent


At first this seems like a hate card that is meant solely to turn off the embalm and eternalize mechanics. But it also prevents spells from being cast from the graveyard, which really only affects Torrential Gearhulk.

It's entirely possible that this was added to the card to make it better in eternal formats—but it's odd that it seems like a more restrictive Grafdigger's Cage, which seems some play in eternal formats but isn't a "must have" in most sideboards.

Aven Mindcensor


This card used to be a powerhouse in Modern (and was sitting at almost $15 briefly). Last week I discussed why I like this card as a potential speculation target. It seems like a very odd inclusion for our current Standard metagame though.

The number of cards that allow you to search your library that are currently legal in Standard is 42 (nine of which are from the Planeswalker decks and search for a specific planeswalker from those decks). In fact, only about four see some amount of play in competitive Standard. Thus it seems odd that one of the best search hosers in Magic's history is reprinted at rare and does very little in Standard.

It's important to consider that the manabase is skewed towards allied colors in our current Standard. While I know WotC is hesitant to bring fetchlands back to Standard, they do really boost set sales. We've only had the Modern Masters 3 reprinting of the original Zendikar fetches (which are enemy-colored). It also seems a bit odd that they made the Amonkhet cycle lands multiple land types (and given they always enter tapped, fetching for them would still slow players down).

Solemnity


Solemnity has combos with a lot of older cards (especially ones with cumulative upkeep). But outside of being really good against GB +1/+1 counter decks and energy decks, it doesn't seem to do a whole lot in Standard. It's definitely possible that it's just a random card that WotC wanted to add to the card library, but it seems to be an odd choice for inclusion in the set.

It does combo okay with the Amonkhet creatures that enter the battlefield and put -1/-1 counters on creatures you own (allowing players to play more powerful creatures for less mana as long as they have the Solemnity in play). But those creatures tended to be in the GB spectrum (and Solemnity is obviously a white card).

At its current price of around $3, I don't think I'd be gung-ho picking up extra copies for any future Standard potential, but if it continues to drop and hits the $1.5 mark, I'd reconsider doing so.

Tilonalli's Skinshifter


This seems like a card that might be loved by casuals, and that could be its sole purpose. I highlight it, however, because it references a character (Tilonalli) that hasn't been spoiled yet.

That isn't enough on its own to make it interesting as a speculation choice. I do like that it isn't restricted to creatures you control (so in theory it could act as a great answer to an opponent's powerful creature that happens to be able to attack the turn it comes into play). It's also unfortunate that it can't copy legendary creatures or trigger any enters-the-battlefield abilities, which in the past has been the most desirable effect from Clone variants.

Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign


Here we have another card that I don't know if WotC simply wanted to make, or if they plan on pushing the Sphinx tribe moving forward. Though seeing as there were zero Sphinxes in Ixalan, that doesn't seem all that likely. A quick search shows that there are currently a grand total of five Standard-legal Sphinxes (of all rarities), so it seems like this card may not have been designed for Standard.

I will say it does have a fun interaction with the first card on our list, but that's the type of thing you will typically only see at FNM.

Conclusion

Well, I had honestly hoped to find the next Eye of Ugin when researching and writing this article—sadly, it seems like the few potential speculation opportunities are more Dark Intimations than Relentless Deads. However, I think it's important to keep doing these types of searches after each new set to see if more opportunities arise.

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