Previous Hour of Devastation Set Reviews
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
If this just drew the card, we’d really be talking, but as-is I suspect it’ll fall short. A 2/2 prowess flyer is a solid threat, though Stormchaser Mage largely does this at a cheaper cost.
The Locust God
Normally, I’d be down on 6-drops that don’t do anything the turn you play them, but The Locust God has a few things going for it. First of all, it is resilient to many types of removal. That alone makes it interesting, and combined with the value it gives you if you can trigger a couple draws, you’ve got a potential finisher. If you untap with this, you are very far ahead, and that makes it worth considering.
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
I’m a big fan of Nicol Bolas. When you come with a name like “God-Pharaoh”, you better deliver, and he does. For 7 mana, you get a big starting loyalty and the ability to go up to 8/9 immediately, with multiple ways to affect the board or get card advantage. He can even finish off the opponent by dealing 7, and gets to ultimate fairly quickly (though the ultimate is not as powerful as the previous Bolas ultimate). I’ve already seen this as a mainstay in Grixis Control, and a sideboard plan out of Mardu Vehicles, and that’s just scratching the surface. Bolas will make a big impact, and I expect to see him finish a lot of games.
While the ability here is powerful, this is just a little too small to see widespread play. It might be a role-player in a -1/-1 counter deck, but that’s about it.
After savagely underrating Azure Mage (then playing it in my sideboard at Nationals a week later), how can I not give River Hoopoe a little credit? This is slow, but in a control matchup where you aren’t facing much removal, it’s a powerful mana sink.
Samut, the Tested
I’m underwhelmed by Samut. Casting Forked Bolt and giving a creature double strike really isn’t that impressive, and paying 4 mana is a big investment. If there are enough 1-toughness creatures running around, maybe Samut gets there, but for the most part I’m gonna pass.
The Scarab God
This is my pick for the best of the Gods, as the stats are great and the ability is exceedingly powerful. Filling your deck full of creatures with good enters the battlefield abilities is the way to go, and this is a huge threat that has to be dealt with. It’s resilient to removal, and will often be able to protect itself thanks to cards like Spell Queller if you untap with it.
The Scorpion God
The Scorpion God can easily draw you multiple cards a turn if you untap with it, and has the best stats of all 3 Gods. It does lose a lot of its luster when not facing down 1-toughness creatures, which is the biggest drawback when compared to The Scarab God, though there could easily be a place for it in Standard.
Consign // Oblivion
I suspect the combination of costs here is slightly too high to see play, though I like where this is going. It’s no Recoil, but it still might see some niche usage.
Claim // Fame
I really like the idea of this in Death’s Shadow in Modern, though it’s not out of the question for this to end up in Standard as well. Claim is efficient and Fame adds a nice little bonus, the combination of which could give red-black aggro a boost.
Struggle // Survive
Red has had access to this effect before, and that was never good enough. Adding a graveyard reshuffle to the mix could push it over the edge, and it’s possible that red control decks will be strapped enough for removal that they want a 3 mana way to kill anything. I suspect the Struggle isn’t real, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
Leave // Chance
I want to take Chance and leave the front half here, especially in some sort of graveyard-based strategy. I can imagine Dredge flipping this and using the aftermath, as it’s a powerful (if expensive) way to churn through your deck.
Reason // Believe
Is scry 3 worth a card in Constructed? My first instinct is no, but given a 5 mana way to draw a card (and potentially cheat a lot on mana), maybe this gets there. You’d need a U/G deck that has big creatures, and the time to cast some nonsense, but the reward is there if you can make it work. Scry 3 is close enough that tacking on a real card makes it worth investigating.
Refuse // Cooperate
I would have liked this a lot more if Ulamog was still regularly being cast. As is, it’s a sideboard option against decks with expensive spells, and a clunky one at that. Being able to cast a Twincast from the graveyard is cute, though it’s hard to imagine the deck that wants both halves of this. It’s possible it gets played just as a pure burn spell, maybe with the minor upside of Cooperate.
Driven // Despair
This feels like a win-more card to me, as you need 2-3 creatures in play before it works. It will be devastating if you can set it up, so maybe it’s something you’d want for matchups where the board stalls.
Cute idea, but casting cycling cards is a fool’s game. They tend to be too expensive to really be plausible, and no amount of Desert Cerodons are going to make this any less abandoned.
Crook of Condemnation
I like that this exists, even if it’s not needed at the moment. It’s a nice safety valve against graveyard decks in Standard, though behind Relic and Nihil Spellbomb in older formats (costing 2 is rough).
I’m more inclined to go to The Scarab God for this effect, but I don’t want to look a gift Gift in the mouth. This is colorless and hard to kill, making it a potential engine (or sideboard option) for a control deck.
I don’t know exactly where this fits yet, but it may be the most dangerous card in the set. I didn’t say “best”, but if there is a card that’s going to break, this is my pick. Cost reduction is always a threat to go wrong (see: Aetherworks Marvel), and dumping multiples of this into play early is pretty busted. It’s even cute in Modern with Street Wraith, though I bet it’s way more likely to be good in Standard.
Besides counting as Deserts, these are just worse than the cycling duals from Amonkhet. Still, counting as Deserts could be real, and mono-color or enemy color decks could easily play these. Cycling is powerful.
Dunes of the Dead
Free stuff is always great, and a free Zombie if you can figure out a profitable way to sacrifice lands is solid.
This is a very powerful effect to tack onto a land, and it adds even more options to the colorless lands slot in Standard. It being a Desert is added value, and combining this with ETB effects could be powerful. It also punishes control decks by making removal worse, and could give aggro some extra punch in the late game.
If this sees play, it’ll mostly be because a deck wants a Desert and this comes in untapped. The ability is marginal, and not worth playing all on its own.
Planeswalkers are no longer safe, as Hostile Desert is ready to munch on them. Combined with Evolving Wilds, cycling lands, and Deserts, this could be a very real threat, and it’s a huge incentive to build your mana base such that you end up with extra lands in the graveyard. Finding ways to profitably use Hostile Desert is a good way to get an edge in upcoming Standard.
It’s hard to resist playing a couple of these in mono-black, and it might even be correct to play 4. The drawback is marginal and the upside is high, making this a good excuse to up land counts and have your deck be even more consistent.
This is by far the best sacrifice Desert, and will often deal 4-6 bonus damage for red aggro decks. Sunscorched Desert retroactively is upgraded to a 2.5, and I suspect many control players will think they are in good shape, only to be ruined by this plus a couple of fodder Deserts.
I’m not leaping at the chance to play this, but it’s a sideboard option to keep in mind.
Top 10 Constructed Cards
This set doesn’t have as many heavy-hitters as the last couple sets, but some of these cards will make a big impact. Abrade is a huge addition to the format, and I’m excited by where Nicol Bolas and The Scarab God lead. Red Aggro got a huge boost from Ramunap Ruins, and the 3 different sweepers could give control some decent options. The next couple of weeks will be interesting, and I do like how many lands with neat abilities got printed, so I’m excited to see how that impacts things.