Gloom, Chill, Circle of Protection: Red, Flashfires, Boil, Choke, Tsunami, Acid Rain, Conversion, Karma. Those are some of the most brutal color hosers in Magic’s history. Frankly, cards like that really are not very fun, and they take the game to a point of misery. Ever been playing a red weenie deck and had an opponent cast a Chill on turn two? The game nearly ends on the spot. Same goes for white weenie against Gloom. Over time, the color hosers have gone from practically ending the game to providing good utility as sideboard cards, which seems more reasonable and fun for everyone, really. Dragons of Tarkir provides us with a new cycle of color hosers, and while not on the level of the broken hosers of the past, they still offer a lot of power in the right setting.
Surge of Righteousness
This card is a control player’s dream. One problem with control decks is that they are prone to getting overrun. Surge of Righteousness helps solve that problem in two different ways: Stopping a cheap creature at instant speed for only two mana is great, but gaining 2 life is also very important. It effectively not only destroys a creature but prevents an attack from another, buying the time we may need to cast our big haymakers on turns five or six.
In an aggressive deck, Surge of Righteousness has some merit, but I think will prove to be a little worse. Typically, the aggressive decks are not as worried about small creatures on the opposing side, but more worried about finding ways to attack through a bigger creature. Surge of Righteousness still does that but they get to block, and in aggressive deck, the 2 life we gain isn’t as valuable to us. I think the aggressive decks, for these reasons, will likely still lean on cards like Reprisal or Valorous Stance.
Encase in Ice
The blue color hoser is shockingly not the one that I’m most excited about. One of the problems for blue/white decks tend to be big creatures, haste creatures, and creatures with protection from white. The most notable card that falls into all three of these categories is Stormbreath Dragon. Invulnerable to Banishing Light, Devouring Light, Reprisal, or any of the other white removal effects, it was always very hard to win games when your opponent followed up your wrath with a Stormbreath Dragon. Encase in Ice deals with it at instant speed, and permanently. There is a drawback, of course—the monstrous ability will still be looming on the battlefield.
Back when blue devotion was one of the biggest decks in Standard, it often played multiple copies of Rapid Hybridization, largely to deal with Polukranos. Not only was it hard to attack through, but it also had the monstrous ability. It often cost lots of tempo, and made it annoying to attack with the 3/3 creature that was left behind. With blue devotion potentially positioned to make a comeback thanks to Shorecrasher Elemental, Encase in Ice might be first in line to solve this problem.
My initial impression is that Self-Inflicted Wound is probably the worst card in this cycle. Green and white decks have a lot of random creatures running around, whether it’s Raise the Alarm tokens, or Elvish Mystics, or just random weenie creatures. It’s not super common that we’re going to be able to use this to kill an opposing Polukranos, or even Brimaz. The more removal in our deck the better this will be, as we’ll be able to do a better job of forcing our opponents to sacrifice what we want them to sacrifice.
It is worth noting that Self-Inflicted Wound is the first reliable way to kill Sylvan Caryatid for two mana in Standard since Devour Flesh rotated out. If something like Ascendancy Combo became very popular, this could prove relevant as a sideboard option. The loss of 2 life does make this a little more appealing for an aggressive black deck, but even those decks are likely to be better off with a card like Hero’s Downfall.
While Rending Volley doesn’t appear to be the most ready to change the landscape of Standard, it does have some potential in Standard, and an obvious home in Modern.
In Standard, it seems like the best target for Rending Volley would be Brimaz, King of Oreskos. But Dragonlord Ojutai is coming in a few weeks, and could be played in a lot of decks. Almost certainly the strategy in those decks will be to tap out for Ojutai and then untap and protect it with countermagic. Rending Volley is an ideal answer there, and at only 1 mana. Of course, if cards like Gods Willing or Feat of Resistance prove popular in those decks, Rending Volley won’t be nearly as useful.
The most obvious and important home for Rending Volley will be in Modern. Combust is already a reasonably popular card because it deals with Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite, and Restoration Angel. Rending Volley is basically the same thing, except that it only costs one mana, making it easier to cast, and especially easier to cast in combination with Snapcaster Mage. I would expect that Rending Volley will render Combust obsolete.
Display of Dominance
This appears to me to be the most powerful of the color hosers. Two unique abilities already make it the most versatile. Destroying any blue or black noncreature permanent at instant speed for only 2 mana is completely bonkers. One major problem green can have is that it can’t readily attack planeswalkers. Display of Dominance changes that, partly. In Standard alone, Kiora, Narset Transcendent, Sarkhan Unbroken, Ashiok, and Liliana Vess all see or will likely see some play. There has already been a new Liliana previewed from Magic Origins, and that set will undoubtedly have some other blue planeswalker as well.
In addition to fighting permanents, Display of Dominance can protect the green mage’s biggest threats, creatures, planeswalkers, or otherwise, from black removal spells. Hero’s Downfall my Xenagos? Nope. Bile Blight my Goblin Rabblemaster? Nope. I mention Goblin Rabblemaster specifically because when I first read the card, I was somewhat surprised that it even protected non-green permanents from blue and black spells, but it does. This makes the card even more versatile and powerful.
Which of the color hosers are you most excited about? Which do you most dread having to face?