The Rock and Assassin’s Trophy

I awoke the other morning to find several dozen notifications on my phone. In my grogginess, I distinctly remember feeling alarmed that something bad had happened, since that is a lot of notifications for me. Fortunately, World War 3 didn’t break out while I dozed and Game of Thrones is still scheduled to come out soon. It’s 9 a.m. and all is well.

I suppose that “something bad happened” is a matter of perspective:

If your name is “Jace, The Mind Sculptor” or “Teferi, Hero of Dominaria,” something bad has happened to you. Specifically, those planeswalkers are staring down an autumn of being repeatedly stabbed in the face by this on-point, flexible beyond belief, 2-drop Golgari removal spell.

Based on the number of notifications I received, it’s pretty clear that the card is going to be a competitive mainstay. It should be fairly obvious to most experienced players why the card is so good and will see a ton of play, but let’s walk through the Xs and Os.

1. Unique Effect

There are not many “destroy any permanent” cards in Modern1, and rightly so. “Destroy target permanent” is not typically an effect I’d expect to see with such a low CMC.

The drawback that balances the cheap mana cost is that the opponent gets to search for a basic land (like Path to Exile or Ghost Quarter) on resolution, and so the opponent will be up a basic at the end of the exchange.

Even with a drawback of “giving an opponent a basic,” a 2-mana Vindicate in Modern is a stunning printing for fans of the Golgari. I also think that it’s funny that the flavor text mentions the Azorius, since the the rise of U/W Control on the shoulders of Jace and Teferi is a major factor behind B/G/x’s dwindling winner’s metagame percentage.

In terms of thinking about the card, it’s a lot like Abrupt Decay:

Assassin’s Trophy is so similar to Abrupt Decay that it makes sense to think about them side by side, and I think that while the cards are different and there are moments where Abrupt Decay is better (basically, when you use it to destroy things it is allowed to destroy and they don’t get a land), the outliers where Decay doesn’t play are where the magic will happen: JTMS, Teferi, KCI, creaturelands, Dragons, etc.

Will Assassin’s Trophy as an easy, flexible, and main deckable answer to those powerful planeswalkers be enough to push The Rock back into the top deck discussion? Well, that is yet to be seen, but it certainly doesn’t hurt its chances! I believe it will be back with a vengeance.

2. Disgustingly Flexible

Having four copies of a card in your deck that can straight-up murder any type of permanent gives you an answer to everything.

It is also worth noting that Assassin’s Trophy can destroy lands, which is pretty savage and a little counterintuitive. You can’t go “mana screwing” an opponent (since they can always maintain parity by fetching a basic), but you can mess with Tron, Celestial Colonnade, Amulet Bloom, and Inkmoth Nexus. The first time I looked at the card I kind of assumed that lands would be “off limits,” like Abrupt Decay, but that is not the case. The card is beyond expectation in basically every way—it is pushed to the max.

In What Kind of Deck Are You Going to Play This?

How about a B/G deck? How about any deck that can make Golgari colored mana with consistency?

Assassin’s Trophy isn’t the kind of card that slots into a specific deck—it is the kind of card that goes into any and every deck that can support the mana.

You know how Path to Exile tends to find itself in the 75 of basically every type of deck that can make white mana? Assassin’s Trophy is the same deal.

The most obvious “exciting thing” about the card is that it destroys planeswalkers, since there are few cards that actually do this feat outright. Honestly, I’m just as excited about blowing up artifacts and enchantments. I feel that a chunk of my sideboards are often slanted toward having answers to annoying “hate cards” and narrow decks: Blood Moon, Ensnaring Bridge, KCI, etc.

Now, I already have redundancy of flexible removal that covers every type before I ever use a single sideboard slot. It’s very exciting, and it really makes me want to be playing a B/G or B/G/x deck after release weekend:

B/G The Rock

Brian DeMars

I’ve always been a fan of these B/G The Rock decks that pack a playset of Field of Ruin.

Planeswalkers have been a big problem for this deck and Assassin’s Trophy goes a long way to cover that base. The U/W decks punish these midrange decks by establishing a planeswalker, drawing an extra card every turn, and protecting it. The fact that B/G now has more cards that immediately destroy the Jace and Teferi (with the untap trigger on the stack) minimize games where U/W is able to run away and hide early.

I’m a huge fan of Tracker:

On the right track.

There are so many good options for B/G that it’s mind boggling:

There are more insane 2- and 3-drop threats than I could field in a Highlander deck!

The fact that we have so many options means that somewhere in the mix is a savage deck. It’s actually possible that there is more than one great way to build straight B/G Rock.

And that is before we splash into B/G/x!

Want more options?

There are good reasons to move into a third color. It is also safe to say that whether you are 2-color, 3-color, or “adventurous,” you’ll likely be playing three or four copies of Assassin’s Trophy in the main deck.

It’s kind of crazy that an established archetype like B/G/x can suddenly get a new card that is so downright great that it redefines the archetype! Assassin’s Trophy is that card and I believe it will bring B/G right back to the forefront of the format. I also think that Assassin’s Trophy is a major card for Legacy as well. I’m very interested in Stone Rain mode against a lot of decks that don’t play basics, and obviously kill-anything-removal for 2 mana is amazing.

It’s not everyday that we see a card so obviously impactful and pushed revealed in a spoiler. It’s always fun to get an exciting new piece to add to an old favorite deck like The Rock. Assassin’s Trophy is likely a card we’ll all be casting for years to come.

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