Prowess was my favorite clan mechanic from Khans of Tarkir, so I’m happy to see that it has plenty of spiritual successors in Dragons of Tarkir. Cards like the one I’m previewing today essentially do have prowess, and that means that they play very well in the decks that are built to take advantage of that. I like such decks because they are tricky and play a lot of spells, which lets them do my favorite thing in Magic: pass the turn with all your mana untapped.
Ojutai Exemplars fits perfectly into that strategy, and does a lot more to boot:
They slice, they dice, they remove blockers, stop attackers, get lifelink, and even dodge removal spells. What don’t the Ojutai Exemplars do?
Last time I got to preview all Sieges, all the time, and I guess this time I’m on all creatures with infinite abilities, which I certainly don’t mind. As a 4/4 for four, you aren’t paying a ton for all of these abilities, which is a nice start, and all the synergy between the abilities is a nice finish.
As one of the few creatures in a spell-heavy deck, what can we expect the Exemplars to provide us (besides exemplary service, by definition)?
Defense: Between the tap ability and the lifelink ability, Ojutai Exemplars does a good job keeping you alive. It can even block and flicker if need be, which is the same as tapping down an attacker.
Offense: Tapping down blockers and getting first strike lets the Exemplars attack effectively, and thanks to lifelink and first strike coming as a pair, you don’t lose out on defensive capability while you deal damage.
Resilience: The exile ability lets the Exemplars shrug off most removal (though note that sweepers like End Hostilities will still kill it, as it comes back instantly). This level of protection helps make this an effective threat even in a creature-light deck, as it can step past all the removal your opponent may have stockpiled.
That’s a lot of action from one card, but that kind of potential comes with a price. In this case, the price you pay is that you need a steady stream of spells to keep the Exemplars happy and motivated. One of the obvious places to look is red, as cards like Wild Slash, Lightning Strike, and Stoke the Flames are excellent spells that you can cast for value at just about any time. White does have a few hits, notably Valorous Stance, but if you are using something like Gods Willing, you aren’t really getting ahead, as that could have saved any creature, not just the Exemplars.
Whichever spells you end up using, Exemplar is a powerful option, and I expect them to fight the good fight once they become part of Standard. Maybe with Monastery Mentor, maybe not, but either way this card does too many awesome things to be left behind.