If Gideon, as many people claim, is one of the best cards in Standard, then Glorybringer has got to be one of the most important cards in Amonkhet.
Imagine a typical Standard game. You and your opponent have exchanged resources in the first couple of turns, making for an empty board by turn 4, and then they cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. After making a 2/2 token and passing the turn, your opponent is far ahead.
Before Amonkhet, there was no clean answer to this situation. The best ones were Impetuous Devils and Goldnight Castigator, but both have substantial downsides and are poor in various other situations.
Amonkhet finally brings a solution. You can now untap, cast a 5-mana card to peck off both the Knight Ally token and Gideon, and clean up the board. Yup. I, too, am glad that they reprinted Silumgar’s Command.
Honestly, the fact that Glorybringer leaves a huge Dragon behind (while your opponent can’t return the favor because Glorybringer cannot target fellow Dragons) turns this exchange into a massive swing, and I’m looking forward to attacking with Dragons in the near future.
Historically, big hasty Dragons for 3RR have seen a lot of play in Standard, and I have no reason to expect anything different for Glorybringer. In terms of immediate impact the turn it comes down, Glorybringer actually looks superior to the previous incarnations—it’s akin to a Flametongue Kavu with haste and flying.
Of course, it comes at a cost, but exert doesn’t feel like a big cost to me. In most close games of Magic, creatures often trade the first time they attack, or they are destroyed by, say, Chandra on the next turn. In those cases, you don’t care that Glorybringer wouldn’t untap.
Glorybringer has several weaknesses too. First of all, it is easily answered by spot removal—Unlicensed Disintegration, Grasp of Darkness, Harnessed Lightning, and so on. Although it’s a 1-for-1 trade, you lose tempo if your opponent uses their 2-mana or 3-mana card to deal with your 5-mana one before it has a chance to attack.
Another trump is Archangel Avacyn. She can save the creature that would take 4 damage and then ambush Glorybringer with indestructibility. Then again, if your opponent keeps mana up for a removal spell or an Avacyn, you can simply play another card and keep Glorybringer in hand for later. Copycat players often employ a similar strategy to great success, and Glorybringer might enable similar play patterns. It’s even better this time—either your opponent wastes 5 mana by holding Avacyn in hand, or they cast Avacyn only for Glorybringer to slay her on the next turn.
Heart of Kiran might also come to mind as a vulnerability, but since Glorybringer can ping another creature before it gets blocked, you still get ahead on cards with a 2-for-1 trade, so I don’t see this as a big issue.
So where would the card fit?
Technically, Glorybringer could fit in any red deck. A more top-heavy version of Mardu Vehicles comes to mind. But depending on the metagame and on the mana base of the deck, it’s possible that Archangel Avacyn will be better.
A more natural home for Glorybringer may be in decks that can circumvent the downside of exert. Let’s start by exploring vigilance and untap effects.
Always Watching has got to be the best of the bunch. Now, just like how you don’t need Winding Constrictor to exploit Walking Ballista, you don’t need any of these cards to abuse Glorybringer, but a little bit of synergy never hurts.
We haven’t seen all the exert cards yet, so it’s likely that between now and the time when this article is published new toys will be previewed—good 1-drops and 2-drops in particular would be much appreciated—but here is a rough early draft of a red-white exert deck.
Ahn-Crop Crasher and Combat Celebrant demand an aggressive deck, while Glory-Bound Initiate excels in damage races and Glorybringer is too expensive for a hyper-aggressive deck. So I created a deck leans toward the aggressive side of midrange, and I made a 26-land mana base with 8 cycling lands. This allows you to reliably play Glorybringer on turn 5 while mitigating the risk of mana flood.
The green splash via the cycling lands turns on Prepare // Fight. The front side is a combat trick that can untap an exert creature, and you can live the dream of giving Glorybringer lifelink and exerting Combat Celebrant to casually gain 20 life on the turn. The back side is free value and particularly sweet when targeting Glory-Bound Initiate or It that Rides as One.
I admit that Lone Rider, despite its synergy with these new lifelink cards, is ambitious, and Battlefield Scavenger seems medium. But these cards can easily be cut—you can view them as placeholders until better 1-drop or 2-drop exert creatures get revealed.
The other natural home for Glorybringer, in my view, is 4-Color Saheeli. If nothing gets banned, then this deck will likely remain one of the best decks in post-Amonkhet Standard, and there are several reasons why Glorybringer could be a good addition.
First, the deck already has Servant of the Conduit, which allows you to cast Glorybringer as early as turn 4. That is particularly relevant when you are on the draw and your opponent has a turn-4 Gideon.
Third, some 4-color Saheeli decks were already playing Skysovereign, Consul Flagship or Verdurous Gearhulk in the main deck, indicating that impactful 5-drops fit the “fair” side of the deck. Although it depends a little on the answers that see play—see the “vulnerabilities” section above—I think that Glorybringer, due to its immediate impact, may prove to be the superior 5-drop.
I’m not sure yet what the ideal number of cycling lands is for this deck, but here is an example list that includes 4 cycling lands and 22 lands total.
4-Color Saheeli with Glorybringer
What do you think about Glorybringer? Let me know in the comment section below!