Because of the rise to power of 4-Color Copycat and Mardu Vehicles, many powerful cards have fallen off the radar in Standard. However, Amonkhet is expected to shake up Standard and make different strategies viable again, perhaps allowing some of these cards to shine. Let’s start by acknowledging some of the cards that were great candidates but did not make my top 3 list.
Voldaren Pariah saw some play in the Kaladesh standard season in the B/R Zombies deck, and was an all-star when used alongside Prized Amalgam and Haunted Dead. These three cards all allowed the deck to do some very powerful things that would likely have overshadowed much of the format, had U/W Flash and B/G Delirium not been as popular. Pariah is amazing specifically because of the tempo advantage it gains you in combination with Prized Amalgam and Haunted Dead, as it allows you to gain pure card and battlefield advantage, as you get to wipe out three of your opponent’s creatures while returning the ones you sacrifice immediately or a turn later, all while adding a 6/5 flyer to your board.
Prized Amalgam is also great by itself because of the many ways to bring it back, and with help from Haunted Dead and Scrapheap Scrounger, the latter of which is currently widely played already, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it played even more with the inclusion of Amonkhet.
Niblis of Frost saw play in the sideboard Pierre Dagen’s U/R Tower deck during Pro Tour Kaladesh, but quickly fell out of favor with the increasing dominance of Emrakul, the Promised End and Spell Queller. This card resulted in some impressive victories on Pierre’s part, and worked wonders alongside Dynavolt Tower and spells, tapping down threats and killing planeswalkers, or the opponent! This card has a ton of potential and if we see any great blue spells in Amonkhet, it could make a big comeback.
Thalia’s Lieutenant saw a ton of success when it was first printed, headlining the Mono-W Humans deck that won a SCG Invitational, and instilled fear in the minds of many. It also made an appearance at Pro Tour Shadows Over Innistrad in the hands of Michael Majors, who made a deep run in Day 2 with his U/W Humans deck. The last time it showed up in a big way was at the end of last season, in the hands of Craig Wescoe at Grand Prix Denver, but this time it was a G/W Humans deck alongside Heron’s Grace Champion.
The Lieutenant’s versatility when combined with humans in any color combination, (yes, there was indeed a R/W Humans deck that Tom Ross advocated for at the beginning of this season) gives it a strong possibility of being the marquee card in future decks, especially if we see some strong humans in Amonkhet.
And now let’s jump into my top 3 cards that are ready for a resurgence come Amonkhet.
The Big Three
At first dismissed because of it’s low starting loyalty and it’s unassuming +1 ability, Liliana rose to dominance quickly in the B/G Delirium deck. The Last Hope’s first ability gave it protection from most of the creatures in Standard. It shut down early creatures like Grim Flayer, Spell Queller, and even Reflector Mage, while killing U/W’s best creature protection spell, Selfless Spirit, with ease.
But that isn’t all, as its -2 helped the Delirium deck gain card advantage by retrieving Emrakul, the Promised End and Ishkanah, Grafwidow, while its ultimate frequently wins the game. Looking towards the future, Amonkhet seems to be a graveyard-matters set, and Liliana works wonders with the Embalm ability, and provided we see some better Embalm cards in the near future, this card should take its rightful place in the pantheon of tier 1 soon enough.
The best thing about Queller is that it is hands down the best counter spell in Standard. This may seem very strange, as the card’s type is most definitely creature no matter how hard you squint, but alas, with Wizard’s new philosophy being that creatures must also frequently be spells, cards such as Spell Queller have been born, and Queller is the best of them.
While it did show up in the sideboards of Jeskai Copycat decks, the 3 mana flash creature did not get nearly the amount of play it deserved after its dear brother Reflector Mage left us (R.I.P.). The fact that this card often nullifies an entire turn from the opponent, while giving you a 2/3 flying attacker is obviously incredible on the surface. It makes sense that the card isn’t seeing much play now because it is too hard for 4-Color Copycat to cast and Mardu gains enough momentum to just ignore it often, but the sheer tempo swing that Spell Queller creates is enough to guarantee that it will rise back to the top very soon.
You have been walking for three days, and have just run out of food and water. Your horse perished along the way from a Werewolf attack that you somehow got away from. All seems lost, but suddenly you see the light, and the branches fade away. The journey through the Ulvenwald is long and treacherous, but it’s all ok because now you have a Noxious Gearhulk in hand to take out their blocker and win the game.
Or maybe you were about to die to some little Thopter tokens. Thank goodness you have that Ishkanah, Grafwidow in your deck. Got 11 mana and neither of you nor your opponent are doing anything, but they have some pesky creatures? Boom, 5/5 Walking Ballista. Stuck on mana? No worries, Traverse the Ulvenwald has your back. This card simply does everything. It provides you with mana to get to the later turns when you’re struggling early game, and tutors up a win condition later.
Especially because Amonkhet has a graveyard subtheme, and Delirium has a ton of powerful enablers and payoffs that will still be legal in Standard, Traverse is in for a huge comeback when Amonkhet comes out. The fact that you can pick up a playset for a little over $12 blows my mind. The card is fantastic, and if you don’t have your four yet, be sure to pick them up soon, because this card is going to be a big part of Amonkhet Standard.
Thank you so much for reading, and if you thought of a card that you wanted to see on the list but didn’t (don’t worry, Elder Deep-Fiend will have its moment of glory soon enough, and I refuse to talk about Aetherworks Marvel two weeks in a row), make sure to let me know, I’d love to talk more about possible Standard superstars.
See ya next time,