Abrade is not the flashiest card around, but it’s one of the most effective from Hour of Devastation. It doesn’t hit players, so you shouldn’t treat it as a normal burn spell—instead, it’s just a very good removal spell. In Standard, I would say it’s similar to Fatal Push, and an upgrade to Harnessed Lightning in most non-dedicated energy decks.
In some formats, the “destroy an artifact” clause would be irrelevant. This is not one of those formats. There are several artifacts worth killing in Standard, many of which were strong headaches for red decks. I remember, for example, that whenever I played a red deck against Mardu that I would get extremely frustrated that they could just Fatal Push my Heart of Kiran and I had no spell that dealt with theirs in the same way. Now there is one!
Even more importantly than that, the “destroy an artifact” clause means that Abrade is actually useful in matchups where 3 damage wouldn’t be. You don’t want a spell that says 3 damage to a creature against U/R Control, but if it’s killing Torrential Gearhulks, then suddenly it becomes a threat. You wouldn’t want it against a ramp deck, but what if it can kill Hedron Archive? The ability to kill Winding Constrictors or Gearhulks is very powerful.
The fact that the destroy an artifact clause is randomly good against a lot of the decks the 3 damage clause is bad against means this card is basically good against everyone. I want to play a 2-mana 3-damage burn spell against a lot of matchups, but I cannot justify it based on how bad it is in other matchups—suddenly, with Abrade, I can.
Here’s a non-comprehensive list of artifacts you’ll be glad to kill with Abrade:
- Aetherworks Marvel
- Heart of Kiran
- Aethersphere Harvester
- Torrential Gearhulk
- Verdurous Gearhulk
- Hedron Archive
- Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
- Metalwork Colossus
- Oketra’s Monument
The closest comparison, of course, is Harnessed Lightning, which can kill potentially bigger threats or be used to generate energy. Is Abrade better? I think so. If you actually plan on using Harnessed Lightning to generate energy, then you probably want to stick with that one, but if your energy use is only incidental and Harnessed Lightning is your big payoff, then Abrade is better.
I think almost every red deck in Standard will play Abrade in at least some numbers, but what I’m most excited about is the ability to move away from heavy black in Mardu Vehicles. Right now, Mardu Vehicles wants black for Disintegration and Push, but I think Abrade can easily replace Push, since it serves as early removal that also kills some bigger threats and Heart of Kiran. If you limit black to a splash for Disintegration and Scrounger, then you can more easily play cards like Veteran Motorist. This is what I would try:
Archangel Avacyn is a little worse against Hour of Devastation than it is against other sweepers since it ignores indestructibility, but I think it’s still good because it lets you pass with mana open and effectively adds to the board without committing, in case they do have the sweeper. It won’t save your other creatures, but it’ll let you untap with a 4/4 flyer, which is still pretty good.