I’m sure this title could be somewhat misleading, allowing you to think I was going to talk about the synergies between these two random cards that coincidentally fall within the Mardu color wedge. Alas, no, dear reader, I’ll be simply discussing these two cards individually—and why I weep for the future.
Let’s take a look at the non-planeswalker first.
Cut // Ribbons
Oi, where to start with this bad boy? Well, first, let’s be clear about something. I’m not usually the guy who will write solely about cards that are tier 1 and will undoubtedly find their way into the best decks in the format. I’m usually looking for more obscure cards. I even write a Top 8 list for each set, containing the cards I’m most excited to brew with.
That being said, this card falls into neither category, and quite frankly, it’s a little insulting. Standard is currently a format where your opponent can have 10 power on the board by turn three. So what does Wizards present to us?
A 2-mana Flame Slash… at rare. I want you to think about that. This is Flame Slash. For 1 extra mana. At rare. Why on earth would it ever be rare you ask? Well, because on turn 6, god willing you live that long, you might be able to cause your opponent to lose 4 life. This card raises so many questions…
- Why couldn’t it be an instant?
- Why couldn’t it cost 1 mana?
- Why couldn’t Ribbons deal damage, so as to be able to redirect to planeswalkers?
- Why couldn’t Cut deal damage to a creature or planeswalker?
- Why couldn’t Cut deal damage to a creature or Vehicle?
- Why does Ribbons cost BB, rather than just B?
- Why doesn’t it also gain life for BB like black cards typically do?
There are so many slight changes that could have made this an exciting rare for a variety of decks. While I understand many designs decisions aren’t based on strength, the first question I instinctively ask is “would this be too strong if…?” Would this be too strong if it were an instant? Would this be too strong at 1 mana? etc. I think the answer to each of those questions is no. Maybe not combined, of course, but individually, no, I don’t think any of those changes would put this card over the top. I do think any one of them would have made it significantly more playable.
Flame Slash retaining its casting cost, yet going from a common to a rare because it had an expensive aftermath ability? That’s fine. Adding a mana to Flame Slash because you made it an instant? Also fine! Adding to the cost and making it rare because we tacked on a bad Exsanguinate—a card which never saw a single game of Constructed play? Not so much.
Gideon of the Trials
Remember when everyone was just so tired of Jace? When he was everywhere? On every lunchbox and backpack and on all of your fruit snacks? Well, Gideon is the new Jace it seems. Thankfully, Mark Rosewater addressed this epidemic recently on his Tumbly, Blogatog.
Nevertheless, after a Standard format that’s been utterly dominated by Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, here we have another Gideon. On the bright side, however, this Gideon only costs 3 mana, and we all know 3 mana planeswalkers rarely see play.
…have you stopped laughing yet?
…oh, you were never laughing?
No, me neither. Since this Gideon was spoiled, I’ve seen some naysayers, decrying the card as terrible. But I’m pretty sure, after having read it, that the card is absolutely bonkers.
Let’s break down the abilities.
+1: Until your next turn, prevent all damage target permanent would deal.
Okay, this one is great and what everyone looks for when we get a new planeswalker: a way to protect itself. Well, we’ve got that, and it’s pretty versatile. Keep in mind that this ability can target everything from Vehicles to opposing planeswalkers. Yes, it’s a way to prevent damage from a Heart of Kiran that isn’t even crewed, or a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar that isn’t even a creature. That’s huge.
0: Until end of turn, Gideon of the Trials becomes a 4/4 Human Soldier creature with indestructible that’s still a planeswalker. Prevent all damage that would be dealt to him this turn.
Oh… good. Another indestructible planeswalker that you can’t kill with Unlicensed Disintegration, Fatal Push, Murder, or Immolating Glare. One upside is that you can actually use Grasp of Darkness on this Gideon, and you don’t just lose this Gideon to an opposing copy if you’re on the draw (the second Gideon can prevent damage from the first). Ultimately, the first ability makes the second ability more fair, but in non-Gideon mirror matches, this is still an absurdly powerful ability.
0: You get an emblem with “As long as you control a Gideon planeswalker, you can’t lose the game and your opponents can’t win the game.”
Well this is certainly a thing, isn’t it? At first I thought this ability had a negative cost. Turns out I was mistaken and it costs 0. That’s a significant difference. At first I also thought this ability would stop the Saheeli combo. Turns out they can just direct a certain number of tokens at Gideon, then the rest at you. That’s also a significant difference.
All that aside, this is still a ridiculous ability. Being unable to win the game because you can’t deal with a specific planeswalker is a little strange for Standard. This would be absolutely miserable if not for Cast Out—otherwise, white-based control decks might have a miserable time dealing with Gideon before being able to win the game. But that would also require a white-based control deck to exist, so…
But who knows what the Amonkhet future will bring? Maybe control decks will come back. Maybe this Gideon won’t be as good as he looks. Maybe the other Gideon and some of his closest friends will be banned. Maybe Unlicensed Disintegration suddenly won’t be the best removal spell in the format. Who knows! Anything can happen!
Since I started this article, numerous other “split” cards have been revealed and, to be quite honest, none of them seem all that impressive, which is odd because I’m usually the one that gets hyped about even the durdliest card. The only solace I take in that is that when all the cards are subpar, a sinking ship… drags down… all boats? Something like that.