How do you feel about Mind Stone? If you’re in the “I’ll take two” camp, then this card is for you:
It’d be disingenuous to mention Mind Stone, a Cube-worthy, saliva-inducing piece of colorless ramp, without also mentioning the epically disappointing Dreamstone Hedron. The reason that Dreamstone Hedron never made an impact is because 6 mana is too much of an investment. When evaluating a new ramp spell, the two key questions to ask are usefulness (is this an effect a deck actually wants?) and timing (is this a spot I can afford to tap out?).
Not impacting the board on turn six is a lot worse than on two or four. Meanwhile, jumping the curve from 6 to 9 isn’t that useful because there are only so many mana sinks you can fit in your deck, and it assumes too many things going right.
As a ramp spell, Mind Stone is ideal because it jumps a relevant spot in the curve, and you can easily cast it + other things in the early game. Some decks would even play it without the sacrifice ability.
But 4 isn’t 6 or 2, and Hedron Archive competes with Explosive Vegetation and Frontier Siege, with the upsides of being colorless and exchangeable for cards in the late game. There are only so many decks that want a 4-mana ramp spell, but those decks are excited to pick up Hedron Archive.
Finding a Shell
When we look at current decks to port over, there aren’t a whole lot of options.
- While Hedron Archive is an artifact, 4 mana is too much for UR Thopters, which has a tight curve. Slower Thopter decks might want it, but it doesn’t curve into Thopter Spy Network.
- Esper Dragons, the control list set to benefit the most from the new duals, doesn’t want to skip the 5-drop because the whole deck is built around Dragonlord Ojutai.
- The RG Devotion deck won’t port over because we’re losing Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Even if the deck could be ported, the fact that the Archive doesn’t contribute to devotion would disqualify it.
The only deck that makes any kind of sense as a direct port is Naya Ramp/Naya Dragons. I’ve seen and played against a few different versions of the deck, and they all seemed to utilize some form of 4-mana accelerator like Explosive Vegetation, Frontier Siege, or Xenagos.
Overall this looks decent for a “new format” list. The Leaf Gilder is a little embarrassing, and hopefully a better replacement for Elvish Mystic comes along, but for now it does the job of jumping from 2 mana to 4.
The presence of Nissa means that Explosive Vegetation is better than usual here, but the ability to cash in Archive for a few cards in the late game seems better than being able to flip Nissa a few turns sooner.
Another nice thing about the Hedron Archive is that it has a high chance of being able to fit into the curve at a random point, which means that it doesn’t eat up a full turn. On turn five you could go Archive into morph, for example.
The three decks that should be popular post rotation are Mono-Red, Abzan, and Dragons, so Hidden Dragonslayer seems like a fine card against all of them. Plus, it’s something else to do on turn 2.
In the sideboard, Ulamog seems like a great foil for the control matchup where legitimate threats are few and far between. Ashiok is leaving a hole that so far doesn’t look like it will be filled.
After Naya, I looked to see if there was a solid UB list. Between Clash of Wills, Dragonlord’s Prerogative, Silumgar, and Ugin there are a decent number of mana sinks. Unfortunately, UB loses a lot of quality removal and countermagic with Theros block, and I had to look to other colors that had more early game.
It’s hard to tune for a metagame that doesn’t exist yet, but at least the deck is doing something powerful. I got the idea for a dedicated Mage-Ring Network control deck from watching Adrian Sullivan play something similar at a local 5k. He was also running the Goggles engine, but played white for Crackling Doom, which is a pretty good one to copy.
I don’t think Goggles needs to copy many spells before it becomes worth it, and the real problem is having a 5-mana spell that doesn’t impact the board. This list is built around both living to resolve Goggles and also casting it as soon as possible.
I wanted to go heavier black for several reasons. For starters, having universal removal to answer various planeswalkers, Dragons, and Siege Rhino seems important, and while Ruinous Path doesn’t have any special interaction with Goggles it’s still a late-game mana sink.
Murderous Cut takes advantage of all the red looting while giving the deck a real instant-speed answer to various manlands and hasty threats.
Regarding the manabase, it’s possible that the lifegain lands are no longer an attractive option for two color decks and/or control lists since off color fetches can grab the new duals.