Carrie On – The 5 Best Cards Not Being Played

I remember when Thundermaw Hellkite was released in M13, everyone was super excited about it. However, it failed to find a home in that Standard format and continued not to even after the format rotated with the release of RTR. Just before Gatecrash was released, I was looking over “current Standard rares” with a friend. He remarked that with Boros being in Gatecrash this clearly powerful yet unused card might come to fruition. I bought 4 at $10 and sold them 4 weeks later at $40 each.

I don’t write finance articles. I find the whole process of guessing at card prices chancy at best. Even if a card is good it might never be a 4-of in a very played deck. I don’t like the risks. I do, however, write strategy articles. Ever since my success with identifying Thundermaw Hellkite as a potential future card that was currently ignored I always look through all the Standard-legal rares just before a new set starts to be spoiled to see if something has been forgotten but is still clearly strong.

This time I thought I would share with you the cards that most grabbed my attention. Most have been accompanied with hype and then failed to actually do anything. The point of the exercise is not to make a profit, but rather to keep them in your mind as spoiler season progresses; the addition of new cards might just create a new deck for these cards to belong in. Individually they are all strong and simply need another piece or a meta shift to become relevant.

To get the ideas flowing for each card I will give you deck lists (either recent or old) that have tried to use the cards.

Without further ado here are my 5 cards to watch:

1.) Aurelia, the Warleader

I was so excited about this card when it was first spoiled. In fact, I even did my spoiler spotlight on it in Gatecrash.

I imagine this card as a sweet two-of in a midrange deck as a finisher. Because it has haste, you can basically assume this card does 6 damage at minimum. You want to time this so that it immediately wins the game, much to the surprise of your opponent. Clearly if you don’t win but it remains unanswered then odds are you will win the following turn, but I wouldn’t want to count on it.

One potential weakness of this card is Stormbreath Dragon, which trivially blocks her. However, as Stormbreath Dragon normally enters the battlefield tapped and attacking (i.e. it has haste) and you intend to time Aurelia for the win, odds are it can’t manage to block. I also note that they are in the same colors and might perhaps work well together for a combined damage total of 14 in a single turn.

Here is a Naya Midrange deck from shortly after Gatecrash was released:

Naya Midrange by bepalm, 1st place – MTGO Standard Premier

I have actually been toying with the idea of Naya Midrange recently, hence why Aurelia immediately popped to my head when thinking of cards yet to shine. I have been really loving the synergy between Courser of Kruphix and Archangel of Thune but have been dissatisfied with my Bant shell of late. Shifting to red might give the strategy the oomph it needs.

The problem for midrange at the moment is the prevalence of control decks: UW, Esper, and Mono-Black. Midrange does not like lots of point removal and sweepers. Cards like Thragtusk and Huntmaster used to help against that but sadly (…well, sadly for this strategy, at least) they are no longer with us. Voice of Resurgence tries to fill the same roles and is still legal. Surprisingly, Voice is not seeing much play at the moment, probably due to the annoying number of Last Breaths being maindecked at the moment. However, if Journey into Nyx brings something to help power up this strategy or the meta shifts against control for other reasons, then I will be looking very hard at Naya Midrange with or without Aurelia.

2. Firemane Avenger

It’s another Boros card from Gatecrash! While I was excited about Aurelia, I think the rest of the world was much more interested in this somewhat cheaper Angel… that saw even less play than Aurelia. Of course, everyone was even more excited about Aurelia’s Fury and that flopped even harder.

Anyway, back on track. I had somewhat forgotten about this card. Its major weakness is its lack of impact on the turn it’s played and the fact it needs friends. A Lightning Helix when you attack is sweet but it requires too many things go right for the card to be worth running.

However, it occurred to me that this might well with an underplayed rare from Theros: Hammer of Purphoros.

This removes the “not having haste” issue and can provide friends. Unlike Aurelia, which I see as a midrange card, Firemane Avenger and Hammer definitely want to go into aggressive decks. Ironically when I went to search for Standard decks that have used Firemane Avenger I found just that in a recent Standard Daily.

RW Devotion by camejo – MTGO Standard Daily (4-0)

 3. Reaper of the Wilds

Have you played against this in Limited? It’s good, especially if it gets powered out on turn three thanks to a Voyaging Satyr. When looking at Block decks it’s a good idea to start with cards that dominate in Limited and work from there, and I can definitely see Reaper being a Block player. However, can the card see Standard play? If it does it’ll almost certainly be in my least favourite deck: Jund. This card provides a nice road block against aggressive decks and a nice beater against control. It is difficult to kill (I hate hexproof but at least this time it costs mana) and provides card selection.

This is not a new idea and people are definitely trying it out. It has seen some success in a variant of GRb Monsters (deck list below). But personally I’d like to see it in a more attrition-based deck, like traditional Jund running more removal (to take advantage of the scry ability), general good value creatures, and Rakdos’s Return. Rakdos’s Return saw a lot of play before Theros and rotation, and it will make a comeback if Jund rises again, and this time I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reaper alongside it.

Jund Midrange by Philippe Monlevade, 1st place – GP Buenos Aires

4. Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

Let’s break this card down for a moment. It’s a 4/4 with haste and first strike for 4 mana in an aggressive color pairing. That screams “play me.” I think people focus too much on the other ability: giving other creatures with +1/+1 counters haste. As a result this card has mostly been used in a cheesy strategy revolving around getting a hasted Kalonian Hydra. While this is certainly powerful, it never really worked, as it required you to play 3-color aggro and it was hideous.

I think this card belongs in an aggressive deck and unfortunately those aren’t doing so well in the current meta. However, if that shifts, then maybe Exava can come out to play.

Rakdos Midrange by Jedi_Knight – MTGO Standard Daily (4-0)

5. Obzedat, Ghost Council

Generally I have been talking about cards that have yet to see any major competitive play. My last card is different. Obezdat, Ghost Council used to be heavily played to great success before rotation. Now he rots away in trade folders. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, as a deck with a copy of this card actually came 11th at the SCG Open this weekend and is seeing play in the so-called BW Midrange decks (they’re just mono-black decks with white). But the truth is this used to be a $30 mythic and now you can pick him up for just $7.

What changed?

There is more instant speed removal seeing play at the moment. One of his big strengths 9 months back was a reliance on sorcery-speed removal. Mono-Black is probably the strongest deck in Standard at the moment and can easily take him out of the game. That is why Blood Baron has become the B/W mythic 5-drop creature of choice.

So why am I watching Obzedat?

Because he provides 4 devotion for Athreos. That’s 4 of the 5 needed to animate our God. For added shenanigans, Obezdat blinks away for your opponent’s turn, turning your God back into a non-creature.

It’s possible that before this goes to print Athreos has already been spoiled and I will be one sad panda, but I have all my fingers crossed for a card to bring Obzedat back into the lime light. Plus I love Orzhov style decks so I just want Athreos to be awesome even if he doesn’t want Obzedat as a friend.

B/W Midrange by Gregory Neumann, 11th place – SCG Open Milwaukee

Are there cards you think deserve to be seeing more play? What are you hoping might get its chance with the release of Journey into Nyx? Or do you not care as long as the meta changes (oh please let the meta change)? Feel free to tweet your thoughts @onionpixie and I’ll see you next week.

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