There is something about a new set that makes me excited about Magic. I love the experience. I enjoy waiting for new cards to appear on the spoiler list and discussing them with my friends. It doesn’t matter if you’re new or a seasoned grinder because spoilers bring out that sense of wonder in everyone.
We are at a moment where for the first time we get to glimpse what the next 3 months of Standard will look like.
For all the fun and excitement, this magic moment is a little awkward because only a portion of the cards have been spoiled. Not enough to really start brewing with purpose but enough to start dreaming about which interesting new combinations you are likely to see.
The strangest part of Standard spoilers for me has been that the Selesnya cards (specifically the white cards) continue to look better than the rest of the cards so far. Green and white decks have been absolutely dominating in Standard and so I was surprised to see that GW cards continue to appear so strong.
In particular, 3 cards stand out to me.
Thalia, Cathar Heretic
On last week’s @painfultruthRIW podcast, Raja was adamant that Thalia was the best card in the set by a significant margin. I didn’t need much convincing to be sold on his point.
Who is going to play Thalia?
Bant Company, Bant Humans Company, and White Weenie.
An important aspect of Thalia is she can easily go into 2 of the best 3 decks in Standard and immediately make them better.
Also, Thalia is Human because why not?
Why is Thalia Great?
3/2 first strike is good in a format without Siege Rhino that is dominated by small creatures and planeswalkers. She can rumble against Gideon tokens. But it is her ability to make opponent’s creatures and nonbasic land enter the battlefield tapped that makes the card a 10+.
Bant and WW are both tempo sensitive decks and want to put the opponent on the back foot. I can’t imagine a more fitting card than Thalia.
Opposing blockers enter tapped. The lands your opponent was hoping to use to cast spells will also be starting tapped. It wasn’t bad enough their creature was delayed a turn from blocking, but it was also delayed a turn from even getting cast? Yikes.
Thinking Outside the Box with Thalia
If your opponent is holding up Collected Company mana during your combat step you can declare your attackers, wait for them to play CoCo in combat, and respond with your own Company. If you hit Thalia, all of their subsequent CoCo hits will enter the battlefield afterward tapped!
I also think Thalia is easily Legacy and Modern playable. It is pretty sweet that Thalia can be Vialed down in response to an opponent casting a creature spell because the creature will resolve and enter tapped.
One last thing to keep in mind with Thalia is that the battleland cycle incentivizes playing basics first in order to allow them to start untapped, and Thalia is very punishing against this cycle of lands.
It is possible that by existing, Thalia makes the shadowslands better since they let you hold your basics for turns 3 and 4.
Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light
In Standard I would love to be able to board something like Gisela in against a White Weenie deck to block their creatures with Gryff’s Boon and generally win the combat step.
Who is Going to Play with Gisela, the Broken Blade?
The card is good enough that many decks that can support her cost will find room for her. But the deck that will best be able to take advantage of her services is GW Tokens.
Gisela, the Broken Blade is a discouraging blocker to attack into, which makes her perfect to keep watch over your planeswalkers! In that same vein, Bruna is also great at attacking over tokens to pick off opposing planeswalkers.
Why is Gisela, the Broken Blade Good?
The stats don’t lie. If you put enough power, toughness, and/or abilities onto a card at any cost, it will eventually begin to approach the territory where you will play with it. I haven’t even gotten to the Voltron part yet…
Thinking Outside the Box with Brisela
Forget “Bennifer” and “Brangelina” because Brisela is way more frightening.
One of the cool things about playing with Bruna is that you can also play with the miser’s value copy of Bruna as well to form the super meld Angel.
In a value-driven control or midrange mirror match, I could see boarding in Bruna to be a big piece of technology. Obviously, it is pretty insane that Bruna can return Gisela to the battlefield and then immediately transform.
It is also cool that Bruna’s “return an Angel to play” ability is a cast trigger and not an enter-the-battlefield trigger, so even if your opponent can counter the 7-drop, you’ll still get to put Gisela into play! It is also pretty significant that nearly all the removal in the format people play is shut off by Brisela’s “opponent’s can’t play spells with costs 3 or less.” So once you make the Angel in a control or midrange mirror match, she is bound to be tough to deal with.
Tamiyo, Field Researcher
To be completely fair, if there is a card in the set that is more busted than Thalia, it may very well be Tamiyo.
It also doesn’t hurt that Tamiyo is a very strong combination of colors: BANT!
Who is Going to Play Tamiyo?
The color cost is prohibitive but obviously the Bant Company decks are going to utilize this powerful planeswalker!
In fact, Tamiyo feels so powerful that I think 1 or 2 copies seem very likely to start in the main deck.
Why is Tamiyo so Good?
Tamiyo is good because she has the ability to quasi-protect herself via her minus ability and can be extremely proactive when you are winning.
There are few things more demoralizing than when an opponent who already has creatures in play slams a planeswalker, ticks it up, and draws a bunch of cards. I expected Tamiyo to be good (because the last Tamiyo was also insane) but the power level on this card seems high.
Thinking Outside the Box with Tamiyo
Her “plus” ability isn’t limited to “creatures you control” so you can technically play Tamiyo onto a board and target an opponent’s creatures. If they want to attack you or Tamiyo, then you’ll get to draw cards.
It is also cool that Tamiyo grants the ability whenever target creature deals combat damage you draw a card until your next turn since if you can deal combat damage on both turns, you’ll get to draw 2 cards.
If you plus Tamiyo on Avacyn or Advocate and attack, you draw a card. But the ability will linger on those creatures during your opponent’s turn as well. If you are able to block with your untapped vigilance creatures you’ll get to draw again!
Well, so far the cards that I’m most excited to play with are all cards that appear to port directly into the best 3 decks in the format. I’m hoping that the set has some goodies for colors that are not green or white as well. With that being said, it feels like it is going to be hard for the other colors to make up this much ground with Bant, GW, and Humans.