Any time a new card is printed that interacts with planeswalkers, you have to consider it for Standard play. Shadows of Innistrad Standard looks to be dominated by planeswalkers—both old and new.
To the Slaughter gives decks an instant-speed way to deal with a planeswalker—something Ruinous Path was really lacking. Having only sorcery-speed answers creates a play pattern where you can never get ahead. They would get an activation, and you would spend your turn dealing with the planeswalker rather than developing your own board. Hopefully, To the Slaughter provides some relief in that regard.
If you don’t have delirium enabled, it’s very important to take advantage of the instant aspect of the card, because planeswalkers like Gideon, Nissa, and Arlinn Kord create a token that provides immediate protection from the edict effect.
With Crackling Doom rotating, I think that you’ll find that the sacrifice effect is very valuable against creature decks as well, especially for dealing with things like Thunderbreak Regent, Dragonlord Ojutai, and Lumbering Falls.
At the very worst, I see To the Slaughter as a powerful sideboard against decks like UWx Dragons, or planeswalker-heavy control decks that feature Ob Nixilis, Chandra, Jace, and Sorin in some combination. In the right metagame, this effect could easily be something you’d prefer having in your main deck and siding it out when it’s bad, rather than the other way around.
That said, the real threshold for To the Slaughter is going to be how easy it is to enable delirium. Without the Khans of Tarkir fetchlands, I expect Evolving Wilds to be featured heavily in these decks, even despite the negative interaction with the new Shadow of Innistrad dual lands. For the most part, any black, spell-based deck is going to have an easy time getting sorceries and instants in the graveyard with cards like Duress, Read the Bones, and Grasp of Darkness running around.
Hangarback Walker is another card that you can play in basically any midrange deck and it provides 2 card types for delirum. Of course, Hangarback Walker is usually a card your opponent tries to avoid killing, but sometimes it isn’t that easy.
Luckily for us, Shadows of Innistrad also includes Dead Weight, a great removal spell against creature decks and Jace that also gets an enchantment into the graveyard. Another way to approach delirium is to use 4 copies of Oath of Nissa or Oath of Chandra, where drawing the second copy lets you get an enchantment into the graveyard via the legend rule.
Playing To the Slaughter in a deck alongside Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy also works out well. Either they kill Jace and you have a creature in the graveyard, or they let Jace live and you can loot yourself into delirum.
Let’s take a look at a couple builds:
This deck resembles the Mardu decks from the most recent Standard format. If Standard is dominated by creatures, it will be good, and I’ve always liked the Duress/Read the Bones/Kolaghan’s Command angle against control decks. I like that this deck is resilient to creature removal. It’s possible that Kalitas doesn’t belong since it is the only real target for removal.
If you can get 3-color mana to work, I can see Grixis or Esper versions of these decks being even better and more synergistic. Playing something like Sorin or Chandra in the UB version of the deck would really give it some late-game punch. I’m not sure how hard you have to go to enable delirium before Mindwrack Demon becomes a good card, but it does provide a good rate and threatens opposing planeswalkers nicely.
To the Slaughter is fascinating to me because it highlights three of the early pillars of new Standard—planeswalkers, tokens, and big creatures. The tools are clearly there to deal with any of them individually, but can you beat all three?
Thanks for reading!