Oh, my goodness me. Have you seen some of the absolutely bonkers cards coming our way in Throne of Eldraine? I mean, there’s power creep, sure, but this isn’t so much power creep as power-out-of-the-starting-blocks-and-sprint-to-the-finish-line. Some of the cards previewed so far have been completely ridiculous!
Three of the most pushed cards we’ve seen happened to have landed in green. There’s no doubt that green mages will get off to a flier post-rotation thanks to the likes of some of these stone-cold club bangers. Wildborn Preserver, Questing Beast, and the utterly absurd Once Upon a Time all stand to have a major impact in Standard, and there might be important consequences for Modern!
One of the key concepts taught to anyone who starts playing Magic is the idea of using your mana efficiently. If you have four mana available, it’s often better to play a pair of two-drops rather than a single three-drop (although, of course, not always). Generally speaking, whoever uses the most mana in a game will often be the victor.
Wildborn Preserver, therefore, represents a reliable and perpetual way to ensure you use your mana efficiently, every single turn. By making some minor deckbuilding concessions, Wildborn Preserver helps ensure that you put extra mana to good use at every point.
Think of the opportunities this card presents. It means that even a two-drop off the top on turn eight still has a higher-than-average impact on the game. It means that flooding out isn’t as punishing, as you’ve got access to another lategame mana sink. And all of this comes staples to a Grizzly Bears with meaningful upside!
Ordinarily, we’d now have a sobering chat about the grim realities of this card, but there really isn’t much of a downside. A 2/2 for two isn’t anything to write home about, but reach helps it hold off big ol’ Dragons and the like, while flash offers excellent utility against counterspell-heavy decks. A lot of the best creatures in green aren’t Humans, so Wildborn Preservers requirements aren’t particularly stringent.
This card is excellent and will see top-level play in aggressive Standard green decks for a long time to come.
I don’t know if this card is designed to stress-test the printers to see just how many words they can fit into a text box, but there is so much going on with Questing Beast. It has 48 words in its rules text! It’s only nine words behind the Tolstoy-esque Chains of Mephistopheles!
Its three keywords work exceptionally well together, particularly vigilance and deathtouch. They combine to create the ultimate brawler, equally effective on offense or defense. Usually, attacking with a creature is a cost, as it will mean it can’t later block or will expose it to danger. Questing Beast, however, will always trade efficiently, whether it’s against opposing creatures or opposing removal. And that’s the baseline!
Haste means Questing Beast has an immediate–and potentially devastating–impact on the board. Pressuring planeswalkers, in particular, is something extremely relevant in today’s War of the Spark-fueled Standard, and tapping out on turn four for a creature that demands an answer immediately makes Questing Beast the kind of threat around which formats become warped.
If the keyword soup didn’t make Questing Beast hard enough to block already, it turns out you simply don’t have the option to just chump-block with tokens and the like to buy time. The sheer amount of pressure this card can unload is just insane–all without giving up anything in the way of defensive positioning, either.
Preventing combat damage is pretty marginal, to be honest, although there is both Pause for Reflection and Root Snare in the format, and don’t forget Dovin, Hand of Control. Even if we’re not very interested in this line of text, the next one is a real game-changer. Usually you’re presented with a choice between pressuring their life total or their planeswalkers, but Questing Beast does it all. With Standard currently influenced by a higher number of planeswalkers than usual, Questing Beast is poised to put some real work in.
Once Upon a Time
I don’t get it. I really don’t. Currently the design of Magic cards is, I think it’s fair to argue, the best it’s ever been, but every now and again an absolute howler like this slips through the cracks. We’ve had a consistently excellent Standard format for two years, Modern has gone from strength to strength (let’s all just pretend Hogaak never happened)–near-unmitigated brilliance from Wizards R&D has given us dynamic and engaging Constructed formats for months on end.
And now this! There’s delve, Phyrexian mana, Blazing Shoal, Frantic Search–things that don’t cost mana have a long and extremely broken history. Once Upon a Time is set to follow in their footsteps, offering glass-cannon combo decks in Modern an even greater level of consistency.
This card will be slammed into Neobrand as a four-of the nanosecond it enters the Modern format, and will have very meaningful consequences when it comes to the deck’s winrate. Rather than muck around with cantrips, Neobrand players now have Once Upon a Time to find the critical Allosaurus Rider–not to mention it allows them to keep a no-lander!
I’m not as optimistic for this card’s career in Tron, however. While Tron can be explosive, of course, it’s not the same kind of explosivity as Neobrand, and Once Upon a Time doesn’t really enable Tron’s gameplan as efficiently as a card like Ancient Stirrings. Once Upon a Time doesn’t hit Karn, Ugin, O-Stone, or any of the Maps, Spheres, and Stars. I’m ready to be wrong about this–Once Upon a Time really is that good–but I don’t think it will see too much play in Tron.
Nonetheless, this card is very much the real deal, and there’s a good chance it crops up in creature-based combo decks everywhere. Vizier/Druid decks, for example, would be grateful for an effect like this, and would also be happy enough to pay full retail for this effect if a game goes longer. Overall, you can expect big things from Once Upon a Time. Free spells tend to be too good, and I don’t think this is an exception.
Like it or not, Throne of Eldraine looks to have a very high power level, in keeping with what we’ve seen from War of the Spark. These are just some of the cards that will define Constructed Magic in the weeks and months to come!