Thassa is missing a Bident, and Kiora has returned to Zendikar more powerfully.
She’s like a cross between Garruk Wildspeaker and Jace, Architect of Thought—two cards that were staples in Standard and that have seen fringe Modern play—although she has a harder time protecting herself and doesn’t provide much help when you’re behind on board. Nevertheless, her abilities are powerful, so let’s go over them one by one.
+1: Untap up to one target creature and up to one target land.
This ability provides mana while untapping a utility creature, a blocker, or an awakened land. Free mana is always good, and untapping a decent blocker like Savage Knuckleblade or Deathmist Raptor (perhaps after they attacked a planeswalker on the other side of the board) can help protect Kiora. Your deck should be built to take advantage of this, however. I would want at least 12 good creatures of 3 mana or less in my Kiora deck.
Here’s a list of decent Standard-legal utility creatures that benefit from being untapped:
-2: Reveal the top four cards of your library. You may put a creature card and/or a land card from among them into your hand. Put the rest into your graveyard.
Four mana for two instances of this effect would already be a good deal, but how reliable is it? Naturally, I did the math on it—it is available as a spreadsheet here. As it turns out, in a typical deck with 24 lands, 24 creatures, and 12 other spells, Kiora’s -2 yields the following probability distribution for an expected total of 1.77 cards drawn.
- Land and creature: 77.1%
- Land but no creature: 11.4%
- Creature but no land: 11.4%
- No land or creature: 0.1%
All in all, I’d say her -2 is about as good as drawing 2 cards. You get fewer than 2 cards in expectation, but that’s compensated by the card selection and the fact that cards go to the graveyard. This graveyard aspect means that Kiora can fill a similar role as Satyr Wayfinder.
Check out the list of decent Standard-legal cards that care about the graveyard:
As well as Deathless Behemoth from Battle for Zendikar.
-8: You get an emblem with “Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may have it fight target creature.” Then put three 8/8 blue Octopus creature tokens onto the battlefield.
The emblem is merely the part in quotation marks. Then the Octopuses, which aren’t part of the emblem text, go on the battlefield and fight.
This ultimate is a clear game-winner, but you’ll rarely use it. You need to tick up for four turns unopposed before you get to 8 loyalty, which is an unlikely play pattern.
Kiora’s real power lies in her +1 and -2 abilities, so I’ll provide two Standard decks to showcase their respective power.
A Temur deck that mainly exploits the +1 ability:
With Kiora’s +1 ability, this deck can go turn-2 Rattleclaw Mystic, turn-3 Kiora, turn-4 Dragonlord Atarka. Or turn-3 Shaman of Forgotten Ways, turn-4 Kiora, turn-5 Ulamog!
With Kiora’s -2 ability, this deck will get 1.85 cards in expectation. The distribution is as follows:
- Land and creature: 85.2%
- Land but no creature: 3.3%
- Creature but no land: 11.5%
- No land or creature: 0.0%
A Sultai deck that mainly exploits the -2 ability:
With Kiora’s -2 ability, the dream is to get could get Den Protector and Lumbering Falls in hand along with Deathmist Raptor and delve fuel in your graveyard. An activation will net 1.69 cards in expectation. The distribution is as follows:
- Land and creature: 69.1%
- Land but no creature: 22.0%
- Creature but no land: 8.7%
- No land or creature: 0.3%
If your deck is built around her, then Kiora can be very powerful, and I expect she’ll see make waves in Standard.