Assassin’s Trophy will have a huge impact on every format, and in this article I’m going to take a close look at the decks that can exploit this card, and which deck benefits from it the most.
This isn’t the best way to kill a turn-1 or -2 threat, as the downside of giving them an untapped land is huge in the early game.
Assassin’s Trophy is a great way to deal with expensive threats, a planeswalker, or annoying flip lands (such as Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin) but I don’t quite think you need four copies, and I think Vraska’s Contempt will keep on being the best removal spell, even for the late game.
When they unbanned Bloodbraid Elf a few months ago, Jund picked up in popularity. After a few months, people started to realize that it was not the right time to play midrange decks in Modern—the threats are too strong and control is the best way to fight unfair decks.
Despite the strategy being outdated for Modern as we know it, Assassin’s Trophy might change this, and I foresee B/G/x Rock coming back as a major force in the format.
Being able to answer threats from Teferi, Hero of Dominaria to Celestial Colonnade, from Cranial Plating to Inkmoth Nexus, and from Karn Liberated to Urza’s Tower makes this removal spell the most versatile and cheap I’ve ever seen, and contrary to Standard, the downside of giving your opponent an extra land won’t be huge here.
In fact, Path to Exile is already a premium removal spell and has the same downside.
Not only is the ability to hit cards with higher mana costs relevant, but the fact that Assassin’s Trophy can destroy lands is huge in a format that isn’t dominated by Wasteland like Legacy.
Modern is also slower and lets you play more expensive permanents, and you’ll often find yourself losing to a Krark-Clan Ironworks or a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It’s hard to have an answer for all these in one slot.
Against creature decks like Humans or Spirits, this removal spell will be a worse Path to Exile, but the versatility it grants is worth the cost, especially in a diverse format like Modern.
What will this card do to the format?
I can see a revamp of B/G/x midrange decks, now better equipped to fight Tron and Control.
I can also see the rise of Sultai, as getting to play this card along with Snapcaster Mage seems great to me.
The more Assassin’s Trophies you draw, the smaller the downside.
This card will be a great sideboard card for combo decks. A deck like Dredge or Storm is often forced into sideboarding in the dark answers to threats they aren’t sure they’ll face. KCI might sideboard in Lightning Bolt and lose to Stony Silence, or Nature’s Claim and lose to Kataki, War’s Wage.
Or, in the case where the Dredgevine player doesn’t expect a Leyline of the Void from a certain deck, they won’t be left without an answer to it.
Assassin’s Trophy will have a huge impact on Modern and will likely be one of the best cards in the whole format.
To evaluate this card in Legacy, we need more background information. The comparison with Abrupt Decay is much closer than in Modern.
Legacy has lots of effective counter magic, and where an uncounterable removal spell for Insectile Aberration is the difference between a win and a loss.
As a Sultai midrange player, I often stem the bleeding of early aggression thanks to my basic lands and Abrupt Decay. If it was an Assassin’s Trophy, my opponent would have been able to Daze it and deal me way more damage.
The uncounterable clause is what I believe has the biggest impact in Legacy.
Getting to kill Dark Depths and Jace, the Mind Sculptor is huge, though, and an effect the B/G colors were lacking (Maelstrom Pulse was just too expensive at sorcery speed), which probably means Assassin’s Trophy will make an appearance in Legacy as well.
The downside of giving your opponent an extra land isn’t super relevant if you plan on using this versatile spell in the late game, though you won’t be thrilled to play your Assassin’s Trophy on a Mother of Runes on turn 2, as your opponent will ramp up important mana and will likely use it to tax yours (or to deploy their hand faster). Or to attempt to kill a Delver of Secrets, letting your opponent grab a basic land and then proceed with their game plan by having more mana to attack yours.
What will this card do to the format?
It will give midrange decks that don’t have access to red a way to get rid of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which used to shut the door in those matchups (versus Sultai or Aggro Loam).
Gurmag Angler also used to be hard to deal with, and this new toy can dispatch it no problem.
Delver decks will likely play at least one basic land. Path to Exile and Ghost Quarter don’t pop up enough to make people adopt this change, but I think Assassin’s Trophy will have a much bigger impact on the format, which will make U/B Shadow and Grixis Delver play a basic Island.
Here, too, Assassin’s Trophy will be heavily played in the sideboard of combo decks. Getting to kill Containment Priest, Leyline of the Void, or Grafdigger’s Cage is huge, and will push B/R Reanimator, Dredge, and Storm to splash green for Assassin’s Trophy in the sideboard, or to replace Abrupt Decay.
Sultai Leovold is a deck that will rejoice over the printing of Assassin’s Trophy.
While the uncounterable clause on Abrupt Decay is huge in Vintage as well as in Legacy, there’s a clause that pushes Assassin’s Trophy over the top and makes this card one of the best recent cards for this format: it’s a great answer to Mishra’s Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad with no downside! While Sinkhole isn’t exciting, the fact that you can also kill Trinisphere, Oath of Druids, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor cinches it.
Assassin’s Trophy is great, and we’ll see a lot of it in every format for a long time.