One of the tactics I often use when writing Magic content is to consider: “What is the biggest and/or hottest story in Magic right now?” and then try to address that topic in a unique way. Well, it didn’t feel too difficult to put my finger on the hottest subject in the game today:
I woke up this morning and had so many notifications on my phone that I was actually a little worried that something awful may have happened! “Is it World War 3?!” Nope, just Assassin’s Trophy. What a relief that the world as we know it isn’t over and that the Golgari have a really exciting new Modern staple!
Let’s start by getting the obvious out of the way: Yes, the card is going to be a Constructed powerhouse across a wide array of formats. Just look at the card, the cost, and the text, and it is clear this is a great mana rate for a desirable, powerful, and flexible effect – and in a popular color combination for Modern play.
It’s a little weird to be getting another busted control card that pushes the give-an-opponent-a-basic-land downside – there are already so many (Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin, and Path to Exile), but that is what the card does! With so many good basic land-related effects piling up, perhaps that is a good angle to start speculating along in the future: things with basic-land synergies.
Analyzing the Card
The most exciting part about this card is – well – basically everything.
The cost is pushed to the limit: a two-mana instant that answers any permanent (even lands!) The flexibility of dealing with anything for two mana, in a color combination that wants to kill things, is crazy good. I also believe that the card shores up known weaknesses for the Golgari tribe in Modern.
Golgari-based decks, including Jund and Abzan, have been on the downswing ever since UW Control has surged into popularity on the heels of the Jace, The Mind Sculptor unbanning and printing of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Golgari decks aren’t exactly known for their nimbleness in the red zone, and a powerful planewalker backed up by a Terminus or a few removal spells can drown a The Rock deck in card advantage in the blink of an eye.
Or how about this scenario: the UW deck taps out for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria on turn five, uses the plus-one to draw a card and untap two lands, and then Logic Knots your Maelstrom Pulse. So awkward. So annoying. But no more!
Azorious Walkers have put The Rock decks in a difficult position over the past two months. GB needs to play removal for fast creature decks (as does UW), but between playing discard, cheap removal, and threats of its own, GB doesn’t have a ton of space for multiple copies of cards that deal with resolved planeswalkers such as Maelstorm Pulse or Never // Recover.
The great thing about Assassin’s Trophy is the card is a good enough at being a cheap removal spell that we can play many copies without bloating up the deck with expensive CMC spells, which keeps the critical mass of cheap removal and answers to planeswalkers, enchantments, lands, and artifacts much, much higher than ever before. In a BG deck, the overall converted mana cost of spells goes down, as the number of flexible answers actually increases, which is very happy news for fans of BGx.
It’s not just murdering Teferi with the untap trigger on the stack that I’m excited about:
There are plenty of great artifacts and enchantments (alongside busted blue planeswalkers!) that make having flexible removal like this a total asset over the course of a 15-round tournament.
Remember how annoying it was to draw Abrupt Decay the turn after an opponent’s Search For Azcanta flipped? Never again. Assassin’s Trophy can hit lands as well! However, before you get too excited about Stone Rain aggro, remember the opponent also gets to search up a basic land. However, against decks that don’t play basic lands, the Stone Rain for value could be very real. It’s just another option offered up by a very useful spell two mana spell!
Basically, for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned, we can safely assume that the card will see considerable tournament play in Standard and Modern for years to come. It is a unique effect, in the sense that it is so flexible, and surprisingly cheaper than any other comparable effect. So: it’s better and cheaper than other cards that perform a similar effect.
I think it is very reasonable to assume that Assassin’s Trophy will be a major player coming down the pipeline in the fall. It just makes sense to target black-green cards now, since it is very likely that Assassin’s Trophy will improve black-green’s stock in the fall.
Liliana is always one of the focal points of any good BG-based midrange deck. Three-mana planeswalkers obviously pack a punch, but Liliana is particularly synergistic in a grindy BG discard shell. Liliana has always been one the best cards in BGx, and I’d expect the prices of these to tick up on the heels of such a powerful new printing.
Two-drops: you need ‘em, Golgari has ‘em.
You merely need to look at the best three options to realize that BG has a literal embarrassment of riches in the two slot. Grim Flayer has always impressed me as a beefy, card advantage-providing creature. Goyf is Goyf. It is also worth noting that Dark Confidant may improve marginally in new BG decks, since more expensive spells like Maelstrom Pulse can now be replaced with a cheaper spell.
Thoughtseize is another card that I’d expect to go up in value if BG becomes better. The same can be said of Inquisition of Kozilek. One-mana discard spells, leading to the ability to pick apart an opponent’s strategy before it is ever played, is the calling card of the Golgari.
The next card I love as a pick. I’ve actually picked up several playsets of the card over the past week because I thought it was a good speculation target before Assassin’s Trophy was revealed.
Now it feels even better. The BG creature land is one of the best ones in Modern. It sees a ton of play and is in one of the best color configurations for playing creature lands. BG feels deep enough to field an unbelievably well-rounded deck without splashing a third color, which makes Quagmire a great pick-up.
Another card that feels well-positioned before the new printing, and even better after, is Field of Ruin. I’ve had multiple people describe the card to me in terms of “a Top 5 Format-Defining Modern Card.” I don’t disagree – it is a huge role player
I think it gets even better in a BG deck with this new printing. You can sort of overload “giving opponent basics” to the point where many decks will simply run out. Alternatively, consider that in most matchups, you don’t card about their lands, just their threats.
I think I’ve made a good case that Assassin’s Trophy will have a big impact, particularly in Modern. It isn’t just that the card is inherently great, but it is great in a way that straight-up helps seal up a known weakness of the archetype, planeswalkers.
I like staying ahead of the curve on a card like this, and simply picking up extra copies of the best-positioned cards to fight alongside it. I love the idea of straight GB “good stuff,” and my picks reflect that dynamic in a direct way. However, I think the same could be said about moving into Abzan or Jund for potential picks: Bloodbraid Elf, Siege Rhino, and even Lingering Souls. If Assassin’s Trophy makes it better, it is probably a solid speculation target!
What cards, strategies, and synergies are you looking at in light of Assassin’s Trophy?