We are fully in the throngs of spoiler season now, waist-deep in tasty Amonkhet spoilers. Unlike most typical spoiler seasons though, an even more important date than the official release date hangs in the air. As fond as I might be for all things Standard, even I must admit the current format is in a bit of a slump. Mardu Vehicles and 4-Color Copycat dominate the metagame, putting it in an awkward “rock and hard place” position.
You can beat Vehicles and lose to 4-Color, or beat 4-Color and lose to Vehicles. Jeskai Copycat and its controlling nature is the perfect example of being wedged between these two domineering archetypes. The upcoming Banned & Restricted announcement is undoubtedly going to have a larger impact than any one new Amonkhet card.
If Felidar Guardian ends up getting banned, we’ll see a wave of midrange decks bust out and do their best to curb the artifact aggression. Free to tap out safely, Ishkanah, Grafwidow can finally lay her many eggs and deploy her spider brood. This shakeup could only be more pronounced if we also see a piece of Mardu Vehicles get banned, like Heart of Kiran or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
It’s hard to get to brewing and tuning with new cards when such an important announcement lies on the horizon, but new spoilers are simply too hard to resist. Similar to last week, here are some standout cards and interactions I can’t wait to explore.
Angel of Sanctions is the biggest, baddest looking Fiend Hunter we’ve ever damn seen. A flying 3/4 for 5 might seem slightly under value for it’s cost, but the ETB ability to temporally exile anything while it remains in play certainly makes up for it. Exiling an opposing Cast Out to free one of your creatures or maybe even exiling a planeswalker is going to be huge game for the evasive mythic. Do remember to look out for a certain other flying 5 drop mythic however….
While I think all of the previous text is real keen, the main thing I’m hyped up on Angel of Sanctions for is it’s Embalm cost. This is with preface that Felidar Guardian will be banned and we’ll see a reemergence of big midrange decks. Grapple with the Past was establishing itself as one of the best cantrips in the format, fueling delirium while digging for that precious Ishkanah, Grafwidow you need to stabilize. I can only hope we can get back to that style of fair grindy Magic once the 1/4 cat leaves the format. I dream of a world of flipping over Angel of Sanctions as I Grapple, accruing me all the more value from my instant.
It’s also the presence of Embalm that makes me interested in Angel’s exile clause. If Embalm cards are bursting forth from graveyards, I can’t wait to exile some Embalm tokens with my sanctimonious Angel, permanently making them go bye-bye. Riccardo highlighted the similar strength Eldrazi Displacer holds over Embalm tokens in his article here.
Speaking of awesome Embalm cards, do you remember this card?
Well the wurm turned into a snake and sprouted some more heads in this tasty new rare, Honored Hydra. For all the same reasons I like Embalm on Angel of Sanctions, I also love it on Honored Hydra. Cast some copies of Grapple with the Past, activate my Liliana, the Last Hope, and let’s mill over this big fat 6/6 trampler! 4 mana for a trampling 6/6 is a fantastic rate, and I have a hard time imaging a green-based delirium deck not packing a few of these godly pets.
Another card I wouldn’t mind milling over is the new Aftermath card, Mouth / Feed. A 3/3 Hippo token for 2G is a mediocre rate on its own, and Feed can serve as a means to restock your hand in any grindy board stall. I think this card best serves as a parallel to something like Painful Truths out of the sideboard of the G/B/x Midrange decks.
Painful Truths was often brought in against any control or grindy matchup, and while it often got you up on cards, it didn’t do anything to pressure your opponent. Mouth / Feed gives you both the means to get up on cards with its back half, while still pressuring your opponent with a decently sized creature off the front half.
Manglehorn is a supped up Manic Vandal and a great Traverse the Ulvewald target. I don’t expect the card to be format defining, but in a similar way that Natural Obsolescence has made it’s way into mainboards, I expect Manglehorn to be mainboardable as well. The cycling instant, Dissenter’s Deliverance will most likely see similar mainboard play, as the cost of putting it in your deck is so little. Even against an opponent with no artifacts, you can always cycle the card away for the cheap cost of just 1 green mana.
Last week, I talked about the awesome interaction between the Exert mechanic and Always Watching, in particular with the new hasty dragon, Glorybringer. Well, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, they went ahead and spoiled Glory-Bound Initiate. The curve of this new human warrior into Always Watching, means you’ll be bashing with a 5/5 vigilant lifelinking powerhouse as early as turn 3. The fact that this creature has a relevant tribe type means we might see the resurgence of a certain Lieutenant as well.
Thalia’s Lieutenant is a card I’ve got my eye on, and I can only hope for a playable new white human one-drop. Soul-Scar Mage has potential if we can make the mana work in R/W Humans, but I’d rather stick to white one-drops if possible for consistency’s sake.
Doomed Dissenter is reminiscent of a card near and dear to my heart, Pro Tour winning Doomed Traveller. The 2 drop is great sacrifice fodder, but we’re lacking any real payoff for sacrifice as of yet. While technically not sacrifice per say, we do have some sweet new critters that require you to put -1/-1 counters on your own creature. Plague Belcher is a beefy little 3 drop that curves perfectly after the Doomed Dissenter. Drop some counters on the destined-to-die creature and we’ve got a fresh 2/2 zombie token a menacing 5/4 eager to rumble.
There’s a ton of exciting new stuff coming in Amokhet and I can only hope we see a positive banning soon. Felidar Guardian was clearly a mistake that needs to be remedied, and hopefully it’s removal will breathe fresh life into this malignant format. I’ve made my fare share of infinite kitties, and even I have my fingers crossed!
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