After a full slate of Grand Prix over the past couple of weekends, I finally got the chance to catch up on some of the preview cards from Hour of Devastation.
My initial reaction to the cards leaves me scratching my head. The cards I’ve seen so far seem underpowered for Standard. There are a few diamonds in the rough though, and I think my initial reactions to some of these cards may be off as it’s really hard to evaluate a lot of cards without actually getting them into your hands.
Let’s start out with the mythic rares, and I’ll work my way to some of the more interesting cards later in the week!
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh looks like a case of Wizards doing it right. We’ve seen cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Emrakul, the Promised End be the hallmark cards of sets in the past, and they were pushed just a little too far.
Nicol Bolas, however, is an expensive planeswalker with a lot of fantastic abilities on battlefields that aren’t too gummed up. Play Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh onto a battlefield with 3 or 4 threats and it will likely get overwhelmed, but against a single threat Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh will likely take over the game. Nicol Bolas even has the ability to deal 7 to the opponent with his minus 4 ability, which might seem like something a controlling player wouldn’t want, but remember that damage can be redirected to a planeswalker, giving Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh the ability to interact on almost any board state that isn’t wildly unfavorable.
Having the ability to attack an opponent’s hand, cast a spell for free, and deal with any single threat immediately leads me to believe Nicol Bolas will see play in some Standard control shells.
The only major disappointment with Nicol Bolas, God-Pharoah is that I don’t particularly like how little Dark Intimations does with it. I would have liked to see an ability that could only be activated immediately if I had a copy of Dark Intimations in the graveyard, but I don’t think Dark Intimations is a particularly playable card anyway.
The Locust God
While this card seems interesting, the fact that The Locust God costs 6 and has a difficult time affecting the battlefield immediately makes it seem like The Locust God will be more of a sweet Limited card than a Standard player. Untapping with The Locust God in play may be a game-breaker, however. If I’m looking for a 6-mana blue card, I’m still going to be looking at Torrential Gearhulk at the moment, so I’m not getting my hopes up about The Locust God.
The Scorpion God
The Scorpion God seems like a dulled down version of Olivia Voldaren. More to cast and more to activate, but you do get the new God function of returning to your hand at the end of turn when it dies. I don’t think The Scorpion God is nearly as dominant on the battlefield as Olivia Voldaren because it can’t gain control of creatures, but I think we could see The Scorpion God in small numbers in the sideboard of some decks as a top-end finisher against other ground-based creature decks that have difficulty exiling it. The Scorpion God is a really grindy card that can slowly take over long, drawn out creature matchups, so maybe you’ll see it on the battlefield in Standard. One thing’s for sure—The Scorpion God will be a flat-out bomb in Limited.
The Scarab God
This is one of the toughest cards to evaluate in the set so far. We saw Gerry Thompson win Pro Tour Amonkhet with a Zombie deck, and The Scarab God seems like it could be a powerful top end in such a deck that could easily adopt another color. It could be a good fit as a way for Zombie decks to counteract sweepers such as Fumigate and Sweltering Suns, coming down and presenting a difficult-to-deal-with followup, exiling the creatures in the graveyard and creating some huge tokens that also interact favorably with its upkeep trigger .
I suspect The Scarab God won’t be quite good enough to add to the Zombie deck, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it as a sideboard option against control, swapping in for Liliana’s Mastery, which plays into a sweeper while The Scarab God plays around one
Samut, the Tested
While some have pointed to the combo with Doubling Season, I suspect this card won’t see any Standard play at all. Arlinn Kord saw very little play at the same mana cost, and I think Arlinn Kord is actually a much better card.
Samut will likely remain untested.
This is a one sided Humility with the ability to shut off activated abilities from the opposing player except for potentially the most important ones—abilities of planeswalkers. While this card screams high power, 8 mana is a lot to pay for a card that isn’t going to also neutralize planeswalkers, and don’t forget that Winding Constrictor decks will still have +1/+1 counters widely distributed by the time Overwhelming Splendor hits on the battlefield.
While I was initially impressed by this card, it’s again likely a quality Limited card, but I doubt it’ll be a big player in Standard.
Neheb, the Eternal
Neheb, the Eternal is sporting a new ability of afflict 3, making it difficult to block effectively. Neheb can also come into play for “free” at times, casting it precombat on a turn where you’re primed to deal a bunch of damage. If Neheb had haste I think the card would be great—without it, I don’t see fast red decks wanting a slow 5-mana card that basically trades down in mana for almost all removal in the format. Competing with Glorybringer at the same mana slot makes Neheb nothing more than a Limited all-star.
Razaketh, the Foulblooded
Razaketh may be no Griselbrand, but it’s certainly a powerful mythic rare Demon. At first this may seem like a card that will only be used in formats like Commander, but I think it may find a home elsewhere.
Part of my testing team played a deck designed around Cryptolith Rite at Pro Tour Amonkhet, that ultimately I thought was too weak in the face of Aetherworks Marvel. With no Aetherworks Marvel, Razaketh, the Foulblooded seems like it could take advantage of a similar strategy—using a large number of creatures with Cryptolith Rite to cast Razaketh, and then taking advantage of those Blisterpods to find some gas to close the game out.
While it just looks like a splashy mediocre 8-mana mythic rare, don’t write off Razaketh, the Foulblooded.
Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign
A take on Fact or Fiction attached to a legendary Sphinx creature—this card again isn’t going to see much play outside of some more casual formats. Reducing the costs of the Sphinx creature type is going to be fairly irrelevant, and if you want to draw 2 cards off of a 6-drop, I suspect that Torrential Gearhulk is where you want to look.
Uncage the Menagerie
I initially assumed Uncage the Menagerie wasn’t even a mythic. This is not quite a Chord of Calling or a Collected Company, and I could only see it being used in an Elves-style deck with a bunch of 1-drop creatures with different names.
I don’t think this card will see much Standard play, and likely not in Modern either. Though Uncage the Menagerie does get both halves of the Vizier of Remedies and Devoted Druid combo, it costs way too much mana to do it.
That’s it for the mythic rares revealed so far. Check back later in the week, where I dive into a few of the cards I found interesting enough to see some Standard or Modern play.