Eldritch Moon can’t come soon enough. I stopped writing for a month because I couldn’t think of anything to say on the GW-dominated Standard format that hadn’t already been expressed. It turns out that a metagame breakdown isn’t useful when every deck plays the same colors. At least now some of the other colors are getting some sweet stuff.
Is this the best 3-drop in the format by default? Well, no. Reflector Mage owns that distinction and Thalia, Cathar Heretic is too easy to add to existing white decks, as Frank Karsten ably demonstrated. Bant Humans was already one of the best decks in the format and Thalia is yet another playable 3-drop that disrupts both on-curve plays and Collected Company. The power level of the Garrison is nearly on par though, which is rare for red creatures.
If red is going to be playable before rotation, cards like Hanweir Garrison are what the color needed. It’s a mix between Hero of Bladehold and Goblin Rabblemaster—a creature that you can justify clearing the way for. A clean attack nets you 4 damage and sets you up to attack with 5 creatures the following turn. This card doesn’t need other creatures to quickly alter a game and it’s amazing at taking down Nissa/Gideon quickly if you have burn. Pair those tokens with mass pump from Atarka’s Command and this can end the game in a flash.
One drawback compared to Rabblemaster is that you don’t net an immediate advantage. You may also find yourself against a board where you would still end up throwing away your team if you did attack. You need to focus on being able to maintain board control for a turn or two to effectively utilize the Garrison.
This is where the partner card comes into play. Hanweir Battlements allows you to trigger Garrison immediately on turn 4 (or later) by giving it haste. It sets up lines like turn-3 removal into turn-4 attack and instantly establishes a board.
The low removal count in green/white also means that it’s likely that Hanweir Garrison will have a few turns to chill on the battlefield. Of course, if it can’t attack, what good is it? Once again, Battlements provides you with another sweet synergy by threatening to meld with the Garrison and become a dominating permanent. Getting stalemated is not nearly the catastrophe it would normally be with a red deck when you can suddenly produce a monster and an instant board presence.
This is just a sample of what’s possible, emulating GW tokens as a simple preview. You have cheaper removal and your own set of planeswalkers with Arlinn Kord over Gideon, albeit less sturdy creatures. You gain a huge swing card in Atarka’s Command and cheap efficient removal from Outnumber, requiring less setup than Dromoka’s Command in exchange for lack of utility.
This deck obviously isn’t as strong as GW Tokens, but what is?
Another take is possible along the same lines—Tom Ross and his Humans decks succeed by having the lowest curve and consistent mana with a few solid threats. If you get a handful of cards in Eldritch Moon to emulate this philosophy, you could see the return of mono-red aggro. In fact, if the burn is any good, you could have an easier time navigating some of the common board states that pop up.
Hanweir Garrison is a big step in the right direction, but only one step. I’m not going to pretend this is going to make up for all the love for white—I’d be happy if it’s competitively viable.