I tend to look at most preview cards through the lens of Standard, both because older formats are harder for new cards to break into and because Standard is the starting place for just about everything. Every now and then, though, a card flies into my inbox that has Eternal implications, and today’s preview card is one of them.
I’m even going to take the time to add a new term to Magic’s vernacular, a term that Pat Cox invented while talking about Aven Mindcensor: hate birds. “Hate bears” already exists, referring to the legion of 2/2s (or 2/1s) for 2 that restrict the opponent’s ability to do something:
If those are hate bears, why would a 2/1 flying hate bear not be called a hate bird? If the term works for Aven Mindcensor, it surely works for Hushwing Gryff:
In the grand tradition of all (one) previous hate birds, Hushwing Gryff has flash, flying, and is a 2/1 for 2W. Most importantly, it also really hoses many of the interactions present in popular decks, including the top two decks in the format.
The Torpor Orb text makes most of Melira Pod’s creatures stop functioning, turning off Murderous Redcap, Kitchen Finks, Shriekmaw, Ranger of Eos, and Orzhov Pontiff, which conveniently turns off the infinite combo as well. It’s nice that unlike Aven Mindcensor, this protects itself from most of the effects that would kill it. Mindcensor may stop Birthing Pod and Chord, but does nothing against a hardcast Redcap, whereas Hushwing Gryff is nigh-unkillable by the current suite of Melira bullets. In fact, this card is so strong against current Pod decks that I’d be surprised if Pod didn’t look at finding a way to deal with it. At least Torpor Orb is kind of a dead card while in play, but Gryff flies over for damage every turn, which is extremely relevant.
The other deck that gets hit by this is Splinter Twin, where the Gryff shushes any attempts to go off with Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite. It is a little more vulnerable here, as Twin is adept at killing small creatures that threaten its combo, and always packs the full set of Lightning Bolts plus some additional removal. It’s still a card that has to be dealt with, and if it’s justified to maindeck, can’t help but make the Twin matchup somewhat better.
Flash is particularly relevant on this card, and might be a requirement for something to truly be called a hate bird moving forward. This gets to jump out and stop their combo, and against Twin, being able to keep mana up and play at the end of their turn helps put pressure on the numerous counterspells they all run.
Of course, it’s not like this is restricted to Modern play, even if it does seem like it will make a splash there. Depending on what the commonly-played creatures are in Standard, this could have an impact there as well. It’s bound to be less severe, but throw good enters-the-battlefield effects on three or four tier 1 creatures, particularly creatures that a specific deck relies on, and you have the makings of a sideboard card.
I like when Eternal formats get new cards, and given the average power level of Modern cards, they tend to be targeted at specific interactions like this one. That is not a downside, as adding depth and counterplay is a good thing, and I think the format has just quietly changed for the better (even if this does fight against the deck I’ve been playing).