Magic Origins spoilers have slowly been trickling out from the Mothership and beyond, so let’s take a look at some of the previews we’ve been given so far and what it could mean for Standard and other formats.
The planeswalkers of the set have been spoiled and it’s the first time we’ve seen walkers that start as legendary creatures and transform into planeswalkers when a condition is met for them to trigger their “spark”.
Kytheon / Gideon
Wow, this has got to be the most insane Savannah Lions variant the Magic community has received yet! So this is what a one mana planeswalker looks like (well, sort of). We’ve all wondered how Wizards would be able to print a planeswalker at one mana as a balanced card and I think we have our answer here.
Of course, the only downside to Kytheon is his legendary status. Only being able to have one Savannah Lions out on the field at a time is a bummer in white weenie decks but the great thing here is that he dies pretty easily, so the odds of you having one stuck in your hand for a long time are almost zero. A similar case study here is Isamaru, Hound of Konda. Even though it is also a legendary creature, in Kamigawa Standard he was still played as three to four copies per aggro deck even with the legendary drawback. This makes me think that the legendary status will matter but not as much as as legendary creatures that cost three or more mana. But wait, I haven’t even discussed the indestructibility! For three mana, having a way to ensure that Kytheon becomes Gideon is super important for such a fragile 2/1 body. You could also just sit on him if you need a blocker, making him indestructible and chumping non-tramplers all day. So basically, the card is nothing but upside as long as you don’t get another one or two of them stuck in your opening hand or within your opening draws.
The Gideon counterpart is also pretty awesome. Gideon Jura was certainly played in Rise of Eldrazi standard, and Kytheon offers us a Jura-mini just for attacking and beating face. Unfortunately, this Gideon doesn’t kill creatures (let’s be real, for one mana that would just be way too powerful to -2 to kill a creature) but it can boost its loyalty very quickly and mess with your opponent’s combat. Think of the +2 as an opposite Frenzied Goblin. Instead of being unable to block, the creature is forced to attack Gideon, removing it from attacking your face and thus “removing it from combat” and being able to block when your next combat phase comes along. The +1 also affects combat quite nicely, by having an attacker become indestructible or untapping an already tapped attacker and having an indestructible blocker for next turn.
All in all, Kytheon / Gideon is a very solid card and I expect it to see a ton of Standard play, especially in the fall when aggro decks will tend to gravitate towards the Top 8 of tournaments.
The text here is hard to make out on the right, so here is the Telepath Unbound text:
+1: Up to one target creature gets -2/-0 until your next turn.
-3: You may cast target instant or sorcery card from your graveyard this turn. If that card would be put into your graveyard this turn, exile it instead.
-9: You get an emblem with “Whenever you cast a spell, target opponent puts the top five cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard”.
Jace certainly feels like he has potential for Standard as well. Merfolk Looter has been well received in Standard environments throughout the years and a Looter with upside is very appealing. My current thinking is that he will slot into the Sidisi-Whip deck quite nicely, and will continue to support Sidisi, Brood Tyrant after Theros block rotates from Standard.
After filling up your graveyard, Jace can then create a mini Yawgmoth’s Will situation that gives one of your instant or sorcery cards flashback until end of turn. Even the ultimate ability is kind of cool, since it allows you to put a fairly fast clock on your opponent since all of your spells will also have Tome Scour spliced onto them.
All in all, this Jace doesn’t excite me in quite the way that Kytheon / Gideon did, but the control and Sidisi players among us will have a cool new toy to play with soon.
I’m a huge fan of Liliana in eternal formats. I’m thinking that the new wave of Collected Company decks in Modern might try experimenting with her since they have so many ways of sacrificing creatures for value. Unfortunately, with the banning of Birthing Pod there are fewer ways to sacrifice your own creatures within the deck, but I think there are enough tools in a format like Modern to really push Liliana to the next level.
In terms of Standard, I’m not sure what type of sacrifice outlets we’re going to be getting in the future but currently the ones that exist are meh at best. She has weak stats for the mana cost and can be removed very easily before being able to be transformed into her ‘walker form. I think people will try to make her work in Standard decks but I’m not sure if the support exists to really get your mana’s worth.
*Sigh*, why is Chandra always so bad? Red players never get a break. Remember Tibalt? Chandra isn’t that bad, but she is still pretty boring and lackluster compared to the other ‘walkers seen so far.
You have to do soo much work to transform her. However, one interesting trick is that you can attack with her to deal two damage, then cast a red spell during your second main phase to untap her and then tap her for the third damage in order to transform her into a ‘walker. So, sometimes you will only need one spell to transform her rather than two.
The planeswalker side is fine. +1 for two face damage is pretty nice, -2 for two creature damage is alright, and the ultimate ability if you get it off is certainly devastating. However, I’m just not sure that this Chandra has what it takes to see Standard play. She seems even more frail to me than Liliana, and I think that Liliana is going to have a hard time seeing Standard play currently. I think she would have been much better with Haste, however I didn’t do any of the play testing with the card to know if that would be too good or not.
The text here is hard to make out on the right, so here is the Sage Animist text:
+1: Reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a land card, put it onto the battlefield. Otherwise, put it into your hand.
-2: Put a legendary 4/4 green Elemental creature token named Ashaya, the Awoken World onto the battlefield.
-7: Untap up to six target lands. They become 6/6 Elemental creatures. They’re still lands.
Creature Nissa is definitely underwhelming. A strictly worse Civic Wayfinder, Nissa doesn’t have much going for her ability-wise. Hey, at least she’s better than Chandra right!?
Seriously though, she has some pretty nice late game potential that makes up for underwhelming creature version. Casting her later in the game and activating the planeswalker transformation right away will be the most optimal play. Once Nissa becomes a planeswalker, it’s all upside from there. Her abilities are all very good. +1 to draw a card / drop a land, -2 to create a creature to protect herself (which can be activated right away), and then finally having a game ending -7 if the opportunity presents itself is a nice touch.
Keeping everything in mind, I do think Nissa will see Standard play since green midrange decks will be able to pretty consistently transform her since they ramp up to seven lands pretty quickly and her creature form is fine as a 2/2 blocker that gets you your next land drop.
Besides planeswalkers, we’ve gotten some other spoilers that I’d like to go over quickly here.
Avaricious Dragon seems cool and all since we just received a set that gave us “dragons matter” cards. However, I don’t think it is quite as good as it seems at first glance. A 4/4 flyer for 2RR has already been filled by Thunderbreak Regent nicely and I’m not sure if the decks that play Thunderbreak Regent want this card. I’m thinking that if this card sees play at all, it is going to be as the top of the curve in Red Deck Wins. In other words, it could certainly see play in Atarka Red as the finisher of choice once you’ve exhausted your hand of all the cheap one and two mana spells.
The unfortunate thing about the dragon is that it makes you discard your entire hand right away, since it triggers during your end step. So, I guess you have to be playing a super greedy deck as the card’s name implies. Not that burn is greedy or anything, but you could certainly make it greedier by including one or two of these bad boys in your list.
Ravaging Blaze itself isn’t that exciting to me, but the Spell Mastery ability is. See, Wizards has taken the direction of Magic much further towards creature based dominance rather than spell dominance. Now, they have created an effect that rewards you for playing instants and sorceries! I’m sure they’ve nerfed this ability in some way to make sure that it won’t be abused in Standard or other eternal formats, but it’s good to know that Wizards is also keeping mind that they need good instants and sorceries in order to keep the game fresh for players. Creature based dominance is fine, but when spells keep costing more and more mana for the same effect over the years it certainly gets annoying. Hopefully, we’ll get some exciting Spell Mastery cards that might even shake things up in eternal formats.
Dwynen (I keep saying Dy-wen in my head) is actually pretty good. An elf lord with reach, an extra ability, and a huge butt? I think this card will see play somewhere along the lines in a Constructed format, and even if it doesn’t this card will be casual gold for years to come. Lord effects are very popular among casual players, and Dwynen provides that effect on a legendary creature which is also nice for the Commander players among us. I honestly don’t think this card will ever be bulk since the lord effect and life gain ability are two things that casuals love. Plus, reach and an additional point of toughness just because? That’s just icing on the cake.
Really, Chandra’s parents needed a card? I’m not sure what role they play in her story or even the overall story of Magic as a whole, however I’m glad that they printed this card because it’s actually very unique for a red card.
I like the direction Wizards is taking red with creating Human Artificers like this card and Feldon. Though their has been a smattering of red artificers in the past, Daretti and company have reintroduced the red artificer creature subtype in a big way. This card is also breaking some color pie boundaries. A red card that generates 1/1 flying tokens when it enters the battlefield? That’s pretty sweet and definitely seems Standard playable to me.
However, the best part is that you can shock creatures and players with artifacts justs like Siege-Gang Commander does with goblins. So not only are you getting 1/1 flying Thopters with this card, but if it lives then it can start shocking things by sacrificing artifacts. That seems pretty powerful to me.
However, I guess the ultimate question is – is it good enough for Standard? I don’t really see this card being played in eternal formats, and maybe my own love for Siege-Gang Commander is making me think this card is much better than it actually is.
All the cards I’ve discussed today shouldn’t be preordered – I don’t think any of them are powerful enough to sustain their current preorder prices. However, they definitely offer a nice glimpse into what the future of Standard might look like. All of the planeswalkers seem playable, even Chandra if enough good red spell support is provided, so we’ll just have to wait and see what other support they are given (if any) once the rest of the spoilers are revealed.
What do you guys think? Did I miss the mark on some of my evaluations or do you also see some of the same connections and trends that I’ve noticed?