Ravnica Allegiance is going to completely change Standard, not only because it introduces the other color combinations to the mana base but also because a lot of cards in it just look good. Of all the guilds, Gruul seems to be the early winner to me, and of all the appealing Gruul cards, Rhythm of the Wild is the one that catches my eye the most. Firstly because it’s impossible to spell—seriously, what a random assortment of letters—and secondly because it just strikes me as so incredibly powerful.
The first part of the ability is kind of unassuming, but I believe it’s better than it looks. We’re used to cards like Carnage Tyrant that can’t be countered, but having all your creatures be uncounterable is very different. If I can’t counter your Carnage Tyrant, I’ll just counter something else with my Absorbs or Syncopates or Steel Sabotages—I have to deal with the Carnage Tyrant some other way, but my cards are still useful. If all your creatures are uncounterable, however, then my counterspells do nothing! The first effect on this can actually provide card advantage, and a lot of card advantage at that, to the point where I think we might see a complete shift in deckbuilding if this card becomes popular (and I believe it will).
“But PV, can’t they just counter your noncreature spells?” Yes, of course. But there are two reasons why that isn’t an effective strategy. First, I’m probably going to have a lot of creatures in my Rhythm of the Wild deck, so maybe I don’t even need to play noncreatures. Any noncreature I have is likely to be a removal spell, so if you tap out for your threat, then I can just cast it. Second, now that you know that you cannot counter my creatures, are you really going to keep open mana?
When you can counter spells, you play the game differently. I might take 3 damage from a creature and cast Seal Away at the end of the turn to make sure I can counter something. I might pass the turn without playing a land so that I can keep mana up rather than try for a Chemister’s Insight. I might wait until I have 6 mana for Deafening Clarion. If you have Rhythm of the Wild in play, I’m very unlikely to do that, as chances are you’ll be able to play something that I cannot counter anyway. Therefore, I’m going to play most of the game as if I can counter nothing, which will give you windows to resolve whatever noncreature spell you want.
The second part of the ability, of course, is the star of the show. We’ve had Fervor variants before (Fires of Yavimaya being the most iconic example), but Rhythm of the Wild is likely to be the best one ever because riot is a superior ability to haste for three reasons:
- You might want the bigger creature. Most of the time you’re going to give your creature haste, but if you weren’t going to attack anyway, it’s good to have a bigger one. It’s also better for very small creatures, as 2/2 and 3/3 are usually preferred over 1/1 haste and 2/2 haste, respectively.
- It stacks! This is the biggest thing. Fires of Yavimaya got rid of this problem by having a sacrifice clause, but Rhythm of the Wild is so much better. If you have two of them, suddenly now you get either +2/+2 or +1/+1 and haste. You know what’s good to do to creatures you’re giving +1/+1 to? Give them haste! This turns Rhythm of the Wild something you’re actively happy to draw multiple copies of.
- It can trigger some Simic cards, since they require counters to be placed on them and riot can place a counter on anything. The best card to do this with is Growth-Chamber Guardian, as it immediately becomes a 3/3 and you can search for another copy of it. Riot doesn’t use the stack, so there isn’t much your opponent can do to stop this chain—they can’t even counter it! If it’s late in the game and you topdeck Growth-Chamber Guard, you’re basically guaranteed to have access to four 3/3s over the course of two turns. If you have a second copy of Rhythm of the Wild, then you can get 3/3s with haste. I believe this interaction is extremely powerful and will be present in many Standard decks in the future.
Other than Growth-Chamber Guardian, some other possibilities are Incubation Druid (each Druid becomes a Lotus Petal if you have two Rhythms), Benthic Biomancer, and Zegana, Utopian Speaker (though that does require another creature since Zegana won’t trigger off itself).
The one downside of Rhythm of the Wild compared to previous versions is that it doesn’t work with tokens—notably, Thrash // Threat—but also cards like Regisaur Alpha or Siege-Gang Commander. Compared to the upsides, though, this is merely a nuisance, and you can build your deck to mostly ignore it.
So, where would I play Rhythm of the Wild? The first option that comes to mind is just good old Gruul. Mono-green was already a powerful archetype, and now that it has 8 duals there’s no reason it can’t splash red for some even more powerful options. I’ve heard rumors of Dinosaur decks, but personally I’d rather stick to aggression if I can—I don’t actually think the Dinosaurs are good enough. Here’s a possible build:
With 11 red sources, you’re 85% likely to be able to cast a turn-3 Rhythm of the Wild or Gruul Spellbreaker on the play, and 89% on the draw. You have three sources that don’t cast Steel Leaf Champion, which I think is acceptable, but you could maybe go down to two. I’m also not convinced 23 lands is correct, but you can tweak the numbers on those as you go. Growth-Chamber Guardian is a great mana sink, but we also have four Elves and don’t want to flood. We might also want red sideboard cards (Experimental Frenzy?), which could change the mana base slightly.
The deck right now has three removal spells, but seven if you’re trying to kill flyers. Kraul Harpooner was already playable before (since people play Drakes and Healer’s Hawks) but it gets much better with Rhythm of the Wild, as giving it haste allows you to make full use of its undergrowth ability to attack for a billion late in the game. Personally, I like the hexproof angle of Vine Mare and Nullhide Ferox (it makes them almost impossible to interact with if Rhythm of the Wild is in play since they can’t be countered or targeted, and sometimes they can’t even be blocked in the case of Vine Mare, and they attack for huge chunks of damage), but you could move to a more evenly-split Gruul build and play, for example, Rekindling Phoenix, which is also a great to give haste to.
Regardless of how you choose to build your Gruul deck, I think the combination of four Rhythm of the Wild and four Growth-Chamber Guardian is very likely to be there, and if we can find the right build, this will be a tier 1 Standard deck throughout its time in the format.