There are two things I like to look for every spoiler season: flashy exciting cards to brew with, and archetypal role-players (like solid removal, cheap aggressive creatures or evasive finishers). While Sultai Charm is not flashy, it is exactly the sort of flexible card that Sultai midrange or control decks are after.
The recent Return to Ravnica block Charms taught us that overpaying slightly for flexibility is often well worth it when the various modes are an effect that your deck is often in need of. Having maindeck outs to non-creature permanents has been necessary for recent control decks, especially with Theros block introducing many must-answer enchantments.
The modes of Sultai Charm give it perhaps greater application outside of Standard. I could imagine the card seeing play in Modern if Sultai is a deck there (where it kills almost every creature and Birthing Pod, Cranial Plating, and other format-defining cards—it at least competes with Putrefy), and of course, in all the singleton formats where it increases the number of cards available in the Putrefy/Maelstrom Pulse space (it is absolutely going straight into my Australian pointed Highlander deck).
Let’s have a look at three modes of Sultai Charm, then consider how it would fit into what a Sultai midrange deck might look like.
Destroy target mono-colored creature.
Our first mode to consider is Ultimate Price, which has seen consistent play in small numbers throughout its entire time in Standard, which is a good start for a card with three modes. Ultimate Price comes from Return to Ravnica, which was also a multi-colored block, and is played because cheap removal is great and typically you need to diversify your answers when building a reactive deck.
Now, Sultai Charm differs from Ultimate Price in two obvious ways, but they are nevertheless incredibly important: converted mana cost, and color cost. In other words, Sultai Charm is substantially harder to cast, which greatly reduces its utility as a removal spell. Three is infinitely more than two when you’re under heavy pressure. Still, Hero’s Downfall mostly functions as three-mana removal and while its application is broader, there are likely enough mono-colored creatures that will see play in the new format (Courser of Kruphix and Polukranos, World Eater).
If the format slows down, which is not unlikely with the removal of the hybrid one-drop cycle from Return to Ravnica, and slower mana without shocklands, then removal tending toward three mana is less problematic than it would be right now, especially if the highest priority targets cost three or more, again like Courser of Kruphix.
One final downside is that morphs are colorless, and so cannot be hit by Sultai Charm. With this many limitations on Sultai Charm’s function as hard removal, it is not really playable just on the strength of its first mode, so finding space for Sultai Charm depends on how much you value the other two modes.
Destroy target artifact or enchantment.
There have been previous Standard formats where Naturalize variants have been maindeckable. There are many playable enchantments in Theros, while M15 and Khans of Tarkir have some interesting artifacts too.
I believe this second mode is the main selling point of Sultai Charm for Standard. Midrange and control decks are often spoiled for ways to kill opposing creatures, but at the same time, you need some number of outs to threatening non-creature permanents. While planeswalkers are a more pressing concern (and thus, I do not think that Sultai Charm should not reduce the number of Hero’s Downfalls you are playing), there are a large number of relevant enchantments already in the format (for example, the God weapon cycle) and we have seen a cycle of faction-enchantments spoiled recently too.
Draw two cards, then discard a card.
I was not playing when Catalog was in Standard, so I cannot comment on how playable it was (though I suspect not very). When stapled on to another card however, much like the cycling on Azorius Charm (albeit, less powerful), the ability to simply trade Sultai Charm away for another card, for me, pushes it over the threshold and into a card worth playing. Remember also that the Sultai mechanic is delve, so there is even a little value to be had from filling your graveyard.
That you can filter away another bad card (for example, excess land, removal against control, or a redundant planeswalker), or dig for specific action when you need it, rounds the card out nicely and greatly reduces the frequency of the card being actually bad. If Khans of Tarkir becomes a grindy midrange war like many are expecting, having more ways to dig into relevant action will advantage the deck when the inevitable top deck battles begin.
Putting it All Together
With all of that in mind, I am interested in testing a small number of Sultai Charms in a midrange shell. I am expecting the new format to be slower than the current one, so the downside of overpaying slightly for removal is lessened and there is a benefit to having broad answers available to the different types of problems an opponent may present you with.
I imagine starting with something like this:
Sultai Midrange by James Fazzolari
We are still very early in the spoiler season, but this seems like a reasonable starting point of my testing moving forward (though it is likely to change as more cards are spoiled). These are just testing numbers, intended more to give me as much opportunity to see how certain cards play together than anything else. I like what Sultai Charm does in this list. It complements the other removal options (giving more outs to cards like Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Courser of Kruphix), gives some answers to problem permanents like Banishing Light or the God weapons, and later on, lets me cycle through extra cards (which goes up in value as I am forgoing many scrylands for now, though testing might demonstrate that this is incorrect).
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