PV’s Playhouse – Starting Spoilers


I decided to play Esper in GP Phoenix. I thought it was the best deck or close to it, and certainly the deck I had the most experience with. My version was really similar to the one I played in Buenos Aires, with -1 Negate, -1 Doom Blade, -1 Last Breath, +1 Devour Flesh, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Azorius Charm. This was mainly a concession to Mono-Black and Lifebane Zombie becoming more popular, which led me to wanting to diversify my removal.

I ended up losing my last round to end up 6-3 after the byes, which wasn’t good enough for Day 2. Since I played almost the same deck and didn’t get to play many rounds, I’m not going to talk about the tournament; instead I’m going to talk a little about the cards that have been spoiled so far.

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

Ajani is not very easy to evaluate because its three abilities are somewhat at odd—or at least his first two abilities and his ultimate are. Three +1/+1 counters is certainly powerful and adds up quite quickly—I think that’s his most underrated ability. In that sense, he works a bit like a Xenagos by turning all your small creatures into threats, and the ability to mix and match is also important because it lets you adapt to whatever board your opponent has.

If you have creatures, you can pump them; if you don’t have creatures, he helps you find them. The second ability seems like the best—it’s like a super Domri that always hits and can also find planeswalkers, which makes it good for grindy matchups, but it does cost two more mana. If you compare it to Garruk, which is only one mana more, it’s actually embarrassing. I think that you cannot play Ajani for his second ability exclusively, in a Bant Control sort of deck for example where you have some dudes and many planeswalkers—you need the first ability as well for the card to justify its place.

As far as his ultimate goes, I have a story for you…

This is a local tournament in Brazil. One guy is playing an infinite life combo, the other is playing Goblins. The infinite life combo guy gets his combo going, and says “I gain infinite.” His opponent replies with, “you can’t gain infinite, you have to choose a number.” The other guy replies with “hm, ok… I’ll gain 80.” Two turns later he died to a horde of Goblins.

Moral of the story? 100 is not infinite. It’s a lot, and in some matchups it might as well be infinite, but you do not become immortal. I will still kill you with an Aetherling, an Elspeth ultimate, Master of Waves, or multiple Desecration Demons, even if it takes a while. In any sort of racing situation, you threaten to win the game, but if you are playing against people trying to race you, then why is Ajani on eight counters? If you are drawing an extra good card every turn, unopposed, then do you really need to gain 100?

If you are playing against a control deck of any sort, then the ultimate might as well be a blank. Domri is a powerful card, especially against control, but control decks are fully capable of beating +3 cards, for example. The pressure from Domri’s ultimate is very important because it forces them to react, and Ajani does not have that pressure. When I’m playing control, I always feel like I have more power but not always the time to cast my things, and having my opponent play a 5-drop that doesn’t impact the board much might actually be a breath of fresh air. I don’t care if he draws an extra card next turn, I’m still going to win that particular fight.

I think Ajani is a decent card, and I have no doubt it could see play, but right now I don’t think I’d play him anywhere and I don’t think he is good enough to justify building a deck around. If his ultimate threatened control in any way, it would be a different story.

Hypnotic Siren

This is probably my favorite card from the new set so far. It’s not super powerful, but it’s very interesting. 1/1 flier for U is playable status, and the alternate cost is exactly what you need in a card that costs U—a way to use it in the late game (and a very powerful one at that). In a Mono-Blue deck with Nykthos, this could replace Judge’s Familiar as the 1-drop of choice (or complement it), and then if you get to the late game it becomes one of the most powerful cards in your deck in many matchups. I would not be surprised if this card becomes solely responsible for a second Nykthos in the Mono-Blue deck, as much as it is annoying in some draws. If they kill the creature, you even get a 1/1 flier back!

Silence the Believers

This card is extremely powerful. It gets rid of anything, instant speed, no questions asked, including the Gods. Thassa is the best card in the Mono-Blue deck against Mono-Black, and now they have an answer to that as well, which might impact the match results heavily between these two decks. It also helps Mono-Black against Dredge, one of its worst matchups, by getting rid of all the bestow guys. It even lets you kill multiple creatures, though it would be good without that clause anyway. Overall certainly a hit and I would also not be surprised if Mono-Black started adopting a Nykthos again because of it.

Gnarled Scarhide

Gnarled Scarhide is superb. In a black deck, it’s so much better than Rakdos Cackler and that card is already good. 2/1 and +2/+1 bestow are both very solid, but the thing that most interests me is the fact that you can stop anything from blocking—in certain scenarios, this is basically a removal spell. Gnarled Scarhide does not have two modes—it has three—and it’s actually quite powerful in all of them. Probably the most underrated card from the new set right now. I don’t love the Mono-Black Aggro deck, but this card is deceptively good and I have no doubt it will see play.

Eidolon of the Great Revel

Pyrostatic Pillar was never a maindeck card, but it was never a 2/2 for two. Rather than trying to combat specific combo decks (at which this is just worse since it’s fragile), Eidolon of the Great Revel is a very solid two-drop for any kind of aggressive deck. If you’re playing aggro, most of your cards will cost three or less, so this will hit you for a lot, but if we assume that your life total is not very important then this card becomes very good, likely doing much more damage than Ash Zealot. It is kind of annoying, however, that the decks that don’t care about your life total are the ones that run the fewest 3 casting cost spells. Esper, for example, sometimes doesn’t even play a spell before turn four. Whether this card will complement Zealot, replace it, or sit on the sidelines will depend on the metagame. If there are many aggressive decks, then this card won’t be played, but if the format is geared toward decks that use cheap spells but try to control the game then it’ll be good.

Kruphix, God of Horizons

Kruphix is, unfortunately, not good. He costs five and does absolutely nothing for you, and then next turn he still doesn’t do anything. Waiting one turn for your God to do something is tricky, but doable if the payout is good enough. This is two turns for basically nothing, and the best way to use this is to cast it on turn five, float mana on turn six, and cast something glorious on turn seven, but you’ll probably be dead by then.

The one saving grace for this card is that it costs five. I don’t see a reason for it to not cost four, so I assume they started with that and then decided that was too good and moved it to five. Kruphix costs five for a reason, and I want to wait to see what it is. So far, though, I’d call this extremely unplayable.

Keranos, God of Storms

Keranos is powerful, but I think it’s worse than people are giving him credit for. At 5 mana it also takes a turn to impact the board in any way, and it’s unclear whether 3 damage is better than just drawing an extra card. Sometimes you’re better off with a Honden of Seeing Winds. The biggest issue is that it’s very hard to animate Keranos because there aren’t many good UR cards—it might as well be an enchantment. You need to be heavy Red or heavy Blue and then you get a higher payout out of the mono-colored Gods.

A friend asked me about Keranos in Miracles, for grindy matchups, but I don’t think it’s that good. It is an indestructible source of card advantage, that is true, but five mana is so much. You can cast Future Sight for 5 mana, and the cards aren’t even remotely close in power level, so I’ll take my chances with something like Maelstrom Pulse, because if the other 5cc card survives I just win the game.

Iroas, God of Victory

Iroas is an interesting card. His effect is not fantastic, but it’s not horrendous—it’s a Gruul War Chant of sorts, and that card was almost playable. The best part of him is that he is relatively easy to animate because red and white have a lot of powerful devotion cards (especially red), and then if you do animate him, he is insanely powerful—he’s basically a double Abyss, and you don’t care that he has low toughness because it’s still more than Bile Blight.

Mana Confluence

This card is powerful and will certainly see play in multiple formats, but I think right now it’s being a bit overrated. I played Magic when City of Brass was a card, and it didn’t go in every deck. In fact, it went in very few decks, because 1 life every time you tap a land is a very real cost—upwards of 5 per game.

In Standard right now, what decks would play it? The big three (Esper, Mono-Black, and Mono-Blue in my mind) certainly wouldn’t, and I don’t think Monsters would either. RW maybe would play one or two, Mono-Blue Devotion would maybe be able to splash white without making its mana unplayable. I don’t think any deck would play four, however.

This card is so different than what we have, does something so unique, that it’s possible it spawns completely new archetypes—archetypes that couldn’t exist because the mana didn’t work or because it was too slow. Dual lands work for any deck, but Temples are not what you want to be doing in an aggro deck, and this card is. This is where it’s good, not in a five-color deck but in an aggro deck that doesn’t want its lands to come into play tapped. For decks such as BW Humans or BR Aggro, where the card quality is high but the mana is not, this card would catapult them into tier 1.

That’s what I have for today. Right now it looks like aggro decks are getting the good cards—the new City of Brass, the new 2/1 for B, the RR Pyrostatic Pillar guy, even Ajani, those are all cards for aggressive decks, whereas control doesn’t get much. Thankfully, there are still over a hundred cards to be spoiled, and it looks like they decided to bump the power level with this set, so I’m excited about what’s coming for control decks as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed it,


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