Just a reminder of the rules here. I am going to attempt to pick four cards from the new set that will see Standard play. This is framed like the traditional halftime basketball challenge where some wide-eyed fan gets to go on the court and try to win a lot of money (see cover photo).
With applications in almost every format, this is really the card that everyone is talking about. This card seems ridiculous at several different angles. It’s not only an efficient pseudo-creature land that slots into most decks, but it also works well with fetchlands in older formats. This card strictly on power level for for midrange or control decks in Standard has the ability to end the game after a few inconsequential hits.
Additionally, by having an activated ability of generic mana, it is going to be an exciting prospect for any deck that can put lands into its graveyard to tango with. The card’s potential is only increased by its ability to slot into many different decks. In older formats, like Modern and Legacy, the fact is that this card will not only have a major impact in being able to interact with opponents early, but also be able to play a game when both players have efficiently dealt with each other’s hands makes it a very appealing options. Creature lands are great in older formats, and this one tends to line up well with them, making it a good choice in a creature land-heavy metagame. Everybody knows that Hostile Desert is likely the safest card in the set to see a huge amount of play.
Cards like Earthshaker Khenra are always very safe in predictions like these. At least during week one of the new Standard, there is always a red aggressive deck that pops up to capitalize on unrefined decks and inexperienced players.. This card is very close in power level to Abbot of Keral Keep, if not better. With the addition of the Eternalize keyword, this card gives mono-red decks an out to mana-flood after they run out of gas early.
Khenra seems fantastic in that it also isn’t as mana greedy as a card like Ash Zealot, so it can be splashed, opening up doors to multi-colored aggro decks. If people are looking to add a second color into a very aggressive standard archetype where this card can be included, and I hope it will be. Khenra seems like a big upgrade to Bloodrage Brawler which was primarily being played in these slots in the previous Standard red aggro decks that saw little to no play. Earthshaker Khenra can also put in work with cards that don’t have haste on turn two. One Drop, Bloodrage Brawler, Earthshaker Khenra is a swing for seven damage on turn three that includes a falter effect. This card seems very powerful and is going to do exactly what you’d expect. I would expect this free throw to go in.
As many will be quick to point out, this card’s cost, especially on turn two or three, can be detrimental to a green Standard deck’s chance of winning. However, I simply feel that the card is powerful enough to surmount this obstacle. While you may not be able to play a three drop on turn three when casting this card on turn two, the fact is that a 5/4 token is great value and can absolutely hold down the fort.
Additionally, the drawback is less severe than it might appear. You can still cast a one drop on turn three if you cast this on turn 2, meaning that what this really is going to be at worst is a 4 mana 5/4 that you pay over 2 turns, which is much better value than other other way of looking at it, which is a 5/4 for 2 mana that lets your opponent cast a free Time Walk. Past the early game, when this card is still quite good, and it only gets better. The card simply presents options and I am insanely happy about the prospects of this card bringing non-counter based green aggro decks into Standard. I really like cards that attempt to cheat the rules and this is a great example.
I’m officially calling that this card is going to be the sweet sideboard tech for Energy Control decks in Standard to defend against new red-based aggro decks that are likely to be popping up after the release of Hour of Devastation. River Hoopoe is sweet and I’m excited because even though it may seem slow, a control deck will simply be able to leave up mana and active on end step or force red players to hold their burn in their hand. The obvious comparison is Fathom Feeder, but River Hoopoe is a more exciting option, as the life gained will almost always be more relevant than a card milled. Additionally, this card’s color combinations and evasion makes it a much more viable option for Standard.
That’s all folks! Hope I hit that half-court shot and made money!
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