Opt to the Races!

Hello my fellow cantrip lovers. Boy, do I have a nice treat to discuss today. That would be the Ixalan reprint of Opt from Invasion. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this spell, here it is in all its 17-year-old glory.

The internet is abuzz about this card, and not just for Standard, but Modern as well. This is Opt’s only reprint since the year 2000, and its inclusion in Ixalan promotes it to Modern legality.

Where Has Opt Seen Play?

Honestly, Opt doesn’t really see play in any format right now. While everyone is aware of how powerful cantrips are in Magic, what’s stopping this card from seeing play? For formats like Legacy, Vintage, multiplayer Commander, and Cube, the answer is competition.

Recognize any of these? I thought you would. These cards are staples in older formats, and for good reason. They are exceedingly effective at filtering your draws and some would argue that they are even too good. I am firmly in that camp, and while I do love stuffing my decks full of Brainstorms, these cards are likely too strong. Portent is the only one of the above four I can see being acceptable because of the delayed gratification.

Opt does see some play in 1v1 Commander, but not because of its overwhelming power. It sees play primarily because Preordain, Brainstorm, and Ponder are banned in the format. While it is true that 99-card singleton decks do need to play more varied cantrips, Opt has always been toward the lower end of powerful ones.

Before moving on, let’s stipulate the best cantrips by power level, as I see it.

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Naturally, certain cards on this list will go up in value or down depending on the deck. A deck like Lantern Control or Tron in Modern will easily have Ancient Stirrings at tier 1, and a card like Thought Scour at tier 3. For delirium or Sensei’s Divining Top, Mishra’s Bauble or Predict also rise in playability.

As you can see, I place Opt in the third tier of power level when it comes to cantrips. Almost strictly worse than Preordain isn’t a bad place to be especially when you are about as good as the already playable Peek. Peek has started to see play in various combo decks as a replacement to Gitaxian Probe, but the increase in mana is certainly a tough pill to swallow.

I think this is a handy guide to glance at when comparing cantrips for the next section.

Where Will Opt See Play Going Forward?

I suspect Opt will have a noticeably large presence in Standard. I can say that regardless of knowing which decks or archetypes will be prevalent in the format. Combo, control, or tempo—it matters not—these decks all take advantage of powerful cantrips. Standard had access to Anticipate, but it doesn’t see universal play because a 2-mana cost is a significant drawback.

But where will this card find a home in Modern? Is it better than Serum Visions? What about Thought Scour? These are all valid questions and only time will tell. Magic players will certainly come up with the OPTimal deck choices for competitive formats.

Opt is worse than Serum Visions. Serum Visions is close in power level to Preordain. In fact, Serum Visions can occasionally be better than Preordain in instances where you prioritize setting up your draws over digging. A format like Vintage takes advantage of Preordain more because the difference in card quality between your best and worst cards is vast. Digging deeper to find your best spells is better than making sure you hit land drops. Serum Visions I have found to be much better in formats like 1v1 Commander and Duel Commander where you want to see what you draw first, then sculpt things going forward. Do I need lands or spells at this time? That is a question Serum Visions answers even better than Preordain since you gain the information first.

But it is only because Preordain is banned in Modern that Serum Visions is played there. And consequently, because Serum Visions is legal, I don’t believe Opt will replace it.

According to the stats, the next most played cantrip in Modern is Sleight of Hand. This is the cantrip I see as the most similar to Opt. I see Opt and Sleight of Hand going head-to-head (or hand to hand) against each other for deck inclusions.

Sleight of Hand has one advantage over Opt: Sleight looks at 2 cards at once, letting you choose the better one. Opt only looks at one before you make your choice.

Opt has one advantage over Sleight of Hand: Opt is an instant-speed cantrip, so it allows you to survey the board and cast it at the end of an opponent’s turn, giving you more information about the game before you make your choice. Sleight of Hand forces you to make a decision in your main phase, and things can change drastically before your next turn starts. Additionally, the card you wish to draw into will not be susceptible that turn to discard spells if you wait to cast Opt at end of turn.

Both spells give you access to the top 2 cards of your library, but they do so in different ways. Because Sleight of Hand gives you more information during the actual decision process, I suspect decks that want to look deeper for a powerful spell will prefer it over Opt. Decks that are more reactive to pressure from opponents will prefer Opt because of its ability to be cast at the last possible moment, even if the second card down (after you scry to the bottom) is only a gamble.

Thought Scour is an interesting cantrip for Modern. Thought Scour gives you almost zero decision-making during the resolution of the spell. Who to target with it is often obvious. Where Thought Scour shines is in decks that can capitalize on its milling aspect with graveyard synergy. Whether its delve, flashback, dredge, or delirium, Thought Scour excels at this job. For this reason, I do not expect Opt to replace Thought Scour in decks that play it over other cantrips.

Quick Note About Playing Opt

In general, you want to weigh the card you are looking at with Opt. You want to scry that card to the bottom if you feel it doesn’t do enough or is worse than the average card in your deck. Just because you blindly draw a worse card than the one you bottomed doesn’t mean you made a poor decision with your scry. You will want to make your scry decision of Opt with little regard to the potential draw from Opt if you bottom.

On Cantrips

Over the last few weeks, I have seen several articles about Turbo Xerox strategies. ChannelFireball’s own Brian DeMars recently wrote an article about this strategy. He covered the basics, so just note if you haven’t already that cantrips are immensely powerful and not to be underrated.

Despite the bans of Preordain and Ponder, Modern has no shortage of playable and powerful cantrips. Dozens of decks take advantage of this and use these spells, from top-tier, winning decks, all the way down to casual brews. Cantrips excel at:

  • Letting you choose whether you want spells or lands at the moment
  • Digging for powerful combo pieces or answers
  • Taking a large portion of variance out of the game
  • Allowing you to skimp on lands in deck construction
  • Manipulating your hand favorably for the duration of the game

The easiest way to lose a game of Magic is by drawing a land when you need a spell or by drawing a spell when you need a land. You are familiar with this by now, regardless of how much Magic you’ve played. Basically, cantrips help mitigate this, the reason you will most often lose the game. So in other words, cantrips win you the game more than any other type of spell! Let that sink in for a moment.

Earlier I mentioned that Opt will see play in Standard regardless of what decks see play. Not all Standard decks would appreciate the above benefits that cantrips provide. History shows that Preordain was the most played spell in a Standard format that contained Lightning Bolt, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Stoneforge Mystic! Aside from the most mana-hungry aggressive decks, 1 mana cantrips will always have a home in Standard. The specific types of tempo and combo decks that can be constructed are a direct result of the format’s access to useful cantrips. Opt fits the bill and has my vote.

In Conclusion

• In Standard, Opt is a great spell that doesn’t cross the line on power level but is certainly respectable enough to warrant wide inclusion.

• In Modern, Opt is most similar to Sleight of Hand. Control and tempo decks will most likely choose Opt, where combo and engine decks will rather play Sleight of Hand.

• I don’t expect Opt to replace Serum Visions because Serum Visions is vastly more powerful.

• I don’t expect Opt to replace Thought Scour in decks that utilize the graveyard.

• For other formats, stick to the more powerful cantrips that do cross the line of power level.

• Games of Magic often come down to exactly how each player draws. Never underestimate the power of cantrips.

Thanks so much for opting to read this article. I am excited to see where this spell ends up seeing play, and I guarantee it will pop up. Time to bust out your old copies and foils so you can show off how to cantrip in style. What do you expect to come of this powerful reprint? Let me know in the comments and until next time, may you always see the best card off your Opts.


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