We’re only days away from MTG Arena’s Jumpstart: Historic Horizons, which will infuse tons of new and newly-legal cards in Historic. As part of this massive set, Wizards of the Coast is experimenting with digital-only card designs, which would be impractical or impossible for paper play. You can read more here. But in the meantime, I’ll highlight what appears to be one of the most exciting of such cards – Davriel, Soul Broker.
First, I’ll cover the more straightforward abilities.
Davriel’s +1 is a good, solid resource management ability. Presumably, a Historic deck featuring Davriel will also play cards like Thoughtseize, Fatal Push and other ways to whittle the opponent down. The more you trade off resources, the less they’ll be able to afford discarding a card or sacrificing a creature.
Notably, this ability won’t save you from an unanswered Muxus, Goblin Grandee or Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. Instead, where it will come up big is against Cauldron Familiars, Llanowar Elves, small Shark tokens and the like. An important dynamic of planeswalker battles is that small bodies hanging out on the battlefield can chip away at their loyalty. But Davriel’s +1 is enough that your opponent simply won’t want to attack him with a 1/1 Shark.
All in all, you have a high loyalty planeswalker with a plus ability that protects him when the game is close. And the close games are the ones where we care about these small advantages.
Davriel’s -3 ability gives target creature -3/-3 perpetually. This is a new keyword that effectively means the text on the targeted card will be changed for the duration of the game. You kill the Woe Strider, and when that same Woe Strider escapes a few turns down the road, it will be a 2/1 instead of a 5/4.
So once again, a planeswalker that can come down, kill an opposing creature and stick around on the battlefield.
Finally, we get to the fun part, which is Davriel’s -2 ability. Davriel has eight possible offers, and eight possible conditions. (you can find the full list of them linked above). Upon activating, you’ll be offered three of each, selected at random, and then you’ll choose the ones you like best.
First of all, this is just really fun! It means games won’t always play out in familiar patterns, and you’ll have a ton of agency over the direction things go.
I also particularly like that Davriel makes it hard for the opponent to plan their game. When it comes to the -2 ability, you’ll choose from nine combinations of possible outcomes. However, from the opponent’s perspective, they need to prepare for 64 possible outcomes. It’s difficult to begin even thinking along those lines!
And what about the offers and conditions themselves? Well, the offers are good things and the conditions are bad things.
Magic is a game where the value of different resources is contextual, so you’ll often be able to choose a condition with a minimal impact on the outcome of the game. For example, if your opponent is playing a creatureless control deck, you can choose to lose six life, or give opposing creatures +1/+1, and it won’t immediately impact your position in the game. If it’s turn 25 and you’re in a pure top-deck battle, you can probably sacrifice two lands without giving it a second thought.
Interestingly, three of Davriel’s offers and two of Davriel’s conditions reference your own creatures. As such, there seem to be two possible approaches you can take. The first is to play a creature-heavy deck – say, Mono-Black Aggro – and take advantage of the offers that bolster your creatures or return them from your graveyard. Alternatively, you can play a creatureless deck, and therefore be immune to the conditions that weaken your creatures.
How would you utilize this new planeswalker? Personally, I’ll probably be cutting deals with Davriel, Soul Broker in every black deck I can think of, because there’s a lot to learn about the many possible combinations he has to offer.