Honorable Mention: Angrath’s Rampage
There’s been a lot of talk about Liliana’s Triumph, and I haven’t seen much about Angrath’s Rampage. It may be a reach to add this one to my list, but I wanted a place for it. I think it has a chance to be a format staple. Angrath’s Rampage isn’t an instant, but its versatility makes it feel like it’s a better card than Liliana’s Triumph to me. The ability to deal with something like a Carnage Tyrant with its Diabolic Edict mode is important, but also gives us cheap interaction for a planeswalker or artifact. Cards like the Immortal Sun, Sorcerous Spyglass, and Treasure Map see play, and having your 2-mana removal cover that base reminds me of Abrade. While this card may not be better than Bedevil, it’s in the same conversation and requires less black mana, so a light splash can afford to play this card when it can’t play Bedevil. This card won’t be too slow against aggro decks like Bedevil, as sometimes killing anything on turn 2 can turn a loss into a win.
10) Feather, the Redeemed/Dreadhorde Arcanist
Okay, I’m cheating here with two cards but I see these cards going kind of side-by-side. Both of these play well together with cheap pump spells. We also see Tenth District Legionnaire, which is essentially a Battlewise Hoplite with haste. All of these cards form what could be a new Standard Heroic deck. We also get a bunch of split cards like Collision // Colossus, Integrity // Intervention, Thrash // Threat, and Reckless Rage that could play in this style of deck. All of these cards work well together and could be the core of a nice Boros Heroic deck in Standard. I typically don’t like these kinds of decks, but this specific version of it seems like it may have some staying power. With Sheltering Light as a Gods Willing to protect these threats, this deck may actually have some legs.
9) Ral’s Outburst
I remember the days of playing with Prophetic Bolt, and they were glorious. Ral’s Outburst is toned down, but it’s still an impressive card. Ral’s Outburst will allow us to play instant-speed Magic, find out if we want to counter something, and if not, kill a Jadelight Ranger, accrue some value, and give us two cards in the graveyard to help flip a Search for Azcanta. This plays well alongside Ionize as the incidental damage can really pile on, making a burn plan possible with a U/R Control style deck while not wasting valuable resources. I don’t think you’ll be seeing too much of this card in a deck with Arclight Phoenix as Crackling Drake is occupying more of your 4-mana slots, but it is interesting to play on turn 3 after a Goblin Electromancer on 2 as well.
Ral’s Outburst has me excited to take a look at Jeskai Control again, or even straight U/R Control.
8) Fblthp, the Lost
What I believe originally started as a WotC meme has come to life in a pretty sweet card. Referred to as the blue Elvish Visionary, I’m mostly interested in specifically that quality. The added benefit of putting it into play from your deck is pretty scarce and irrelevant in my opinion. A 2-mana legend that replaces itself is the perfect type of card to have around for a card like Mox Amber or the “legends-matter” cards like Karn’s Temporal Sundering. Cards like that need a huge critical mass on all spots on the curve and Fblthp, the Lost will provide just that.
Fblthp, the Lost can also help a card like Prime Speaker Vannifair finally see some Constructed play. With Neoform kicking around, there’s enough redundancy to build around. Neoforming away your Fblthp to get Vannifar, or just sacrificing a Llanowar Elves to get a 2/2 that draws two cards isn’t a horrible use in a pinch.
Fblthp, the Lost is potentially a very important role player in some decks that needed a little help and I hope it does enough to push those decks over the top.
7) Augur of Bolas
I played a lot of games in best-of-one Standard where I needed Augur of Bolas in my Esper Control deck as a way to stabilize the board against a couple of 2/1s or to buy me enough time against a flipped Legion’s Landing that I’m loving the idea of including a couple of Augur of Bolas in Esper Control. Or Azorius Control, with its new sweeper Time Wipe that would benefit from having a value creature to return. While it is true that if Augur of Bolas is your only creature in play it’ll often just eat up a removal spell, it still takes time for your opponent to use their otherwise dead removal, and progressing the game longer in a control deck is generally to your benefit. I think Augur of Bolas will play a pretty important role in Standard moving forward.
6) Dreadhorde Invasion
Fretwork Colony is a one-shot deal. It dies, that’s it, it’s gone. Dreadhorde Invasion gives you a threat when there isn’t one, and piles on to the one that’s there when there is. Against control decks that can’t remove enchantments, maybe Grixis colors, this will be a tough nut to crack, constantly producing a threat to manage. While Bitterblossom goes wide, Dreadhorde Invasion essentially gives every trigger beyond the first haste. Your creature that’s already in play will grow and be able to attack.
Bitterblossom is certainly better, but one thing I’ve noticed about this Standard format is a lack of quality 2-drops. This isn’t Scrapheap Scrounger, but 2-drops that require more expensive answers are a good way to snowball an advantage. I’m excited to try out Dreadhorde Invasion in various aggressive decks, but also potentially as a sideboard card out of midrange decks.
5) Mobilized District
In a world dominated by planeswalkers, it’s really nice to have creaturelands around to threaten planeswalkers. Playing Teferi on 5 minus’ing on a threat, and untapping to assume full control is much less likely if there’s a creatureland waiting to punish that line. I feel as if something similar to Mobilized District should almost be evergreen in Standard for this specific reason. Mobilized District does this at a deck building cost of including a colorless land in your deck rather than a dual land like the old creaturelands. The upside of costing less to activate is just gravy, but I think we’ll see decks that can afford colorless land playing a couple copies of Mobilized District, especially if control decks with planeswalkers are a big thing.
Creaturelands as always work great in control decks as ways to close the game. Maybe we’ll see some straight U/W Control using a couple of Mobilized Districts as win conditions instead of having rounds upon rounds go to time because of Teferi tucking itself.
4) Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Reading Saheeli we notice that it doesn’t only trigger for instants and sorceries—it also triggers for any noncreature spell. Casting this on turn 3, following it up with a Mox Amber into a cantrip, or a cheap artifact, you’ll get 2 tokens immediately. Saheeli has a fairly high starting loyalty at 5, but her biggest downside is her inability to add to her loyalty. If you curve Saheeli into Karn, you’ll get a Servo for your trouble.
I could see this card having a home in Standard Arclight Phoenix decks to abuse with cantrips, or even in Modern as a sideboard alternate win condition that avoids graveyard hate. This feels a bit flimsy as the Servo tokens don’t have flying, but it’s more resilient than a Young Pyromancer.
Alternatively I’d love to see Saheeli built with Mox Amber in Standard alongside Karn, Scion of Urza in an artifact-based value deck that uses cheap artifacts to make huge Constructs while also creating Servos. This deck could also take advantage of copying an artifact, but there’s not too many great artifacts in Standard right now, so copying a Karn Construct to get in for lethal currently feels like the best application of that ability. I don’t think there are too many great creatures to copy either. That said, in a deck like Izzet Drakes, we could copy a Crackling Drake and immediately swing with our Servo left in play for lethal, which is an exciting upside of the card.
Goblin Chainwhirler will likely be a huge thorn in the side of Saheeli, but with a few less of those running around than usual I’m excited to build some decks with Saheeli.
3) Massacre Girl
This card is just incredible as a 5-mana creature that, in a lot of situations, comes into play and blows up every other creature on the battlefield. This card slaughters aggro decks, as she comes down and blows up the board while also producing a blocker or threat to turn the corner with, at just 5 mana. It wasn’t too long ago that we had 5-mana sorcery sweepers with not much upside. Now we’re attaching them to 4/4 creatures.
One thing that’s sweet about Massacre Girl is that you may actually want to include creatures in your deck with her to pump up the numbers for the Massacre. Something like a Dusk Legion Zealot that can replace itself but then also give Massacre Girl more fodder. Llanowar Elves also plays a similar role, so I can certainly see including a copy or two of Massacre Girl in Golgari. You generally don’t have that many creatures in play, this is a full mana cheaper than Finality, while also giving you a target to bring back with Find, and you can find it off of Vivien Reid. Massacre Girl is going to be absurd when it’s good, but also very weak against control, making it a very well balanced card. I could see sideboarding a couple copies and main decking a single copy in Golgari, swapping them in for the more expensive spells like Vivien Reid or Carnage Tyrant against aggro.
2) Teferi, Time Raveler
It’s unclear to me if Teferi, Time Raveler will be a card we can main deck, but this card is scary for a control player. The ability to slam this on turn 3 in a control mirror and leave an Esper Control opponent without the ability to use countermagic, or be reactive on the opponent’s turn is terrifying. In addition to that, Teferi, Time Raveler will also give a Temur Reclamation player fits. Wilderness Reclamation won’t be too effective if the extra mana it’s producing goes to waste every turn. With a high starting loyalty at 3 mana, it’ll be tough for red spells to interact with this.
Teferi, Time Raveler does look weak to aggressive strategies, acting as a Crashing Tide at times, bouncing an opponent’s creature to draw a card and get picked off by whatever else is in play. This certainly makes it look pretty bad as a main deck card, but I do think Teferi will be a trump for control decks. Teferi also seems like it could see play in Eternal formats as a 3-mana planeswalker that’s fairly high impact against blue strategies. I won’t be surprised to see this in Legacy.
1) Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Liliana, Dreadhorde General looks to be the real deal. Liliana has the ability to run away with the game, plus’ing into some creatures and then a back-breaking ultimate. That’s just on a clear board. We’re used to planeswalkers that come into play to take out a single threat immediately. We’re not used to planeswalkers that can take out two threats on the turn it’s cast. This is a big deal. Liliana is an expensive win condition that also plays like a sweeper in a lot of scenarios. If your opponent only has a single threat in play you can simply play Liliana, plus it, chump block, and draw a card. If you leave two threats in play, Liliana takes them out on her own, and still leaves a planeswalker behind. Leaving three threats in play to avoid this pattern will leave you vulnerable to a traditional sweeper like Kaya’s Wrath or Finality. I see Liliana as a likely top-end finisher in Standard Esper Control and a likely replacement in Golgari and Sultai for Carnage Tyrant or Vraska since it can deal with CarnyT on its own, and will allow you to cash in some of those extraneous early creatures like Merfolk Branchwalker and Llanowar Elves, and turn them into raw cards.
Liliana’s ceiling isn’t super high, but her floor is very high and I expect to have to solve the puzzle of how to best play around Liliana in War of the Spark Standard.
I’m really impressed with War of the Spark so far. The set has an incredibly flavorful feel to it and has been difficult to evaluate on a card by card basis because the cards are all unique in their own way. There are cards on this list I’m excited about playing and building around, but may ultimately fall flat. For the first time in a while my brewing juices have gotten flowing and I’m really excited to see the full set to get to work.
What’s your favorite card from War of the Spark?