On September 10th, I unveiled on my stream an exclusive Throne of Eldraine preview card: Charming Prince. (Thanks Wizards of the Coast!). I believe that Charming Prince will become a four-of staple card in virtually every format that it’s legal. Today I’d like to break down the various abilities and explain what has me so optimistic about the new two-drop.
The name is a throwback to all the Charms that have existed over the years in Magic. Charms offer you the flexibility of three separate options, allowing you to build a lot of useful abilities into your maindeck, and choose the best one for any particular situation. Let’s break down its abilities.
Breaking Down Charming Prince
Scrying is probably the least flashy of Charming Prince’s abilities, but it’s also my favorite. Most Magic players tend to have a pie-in-the-sky mentality when they build decks and envision how games are going to play out. What’s my best possible opening? But when you really sink your teeth into things, you realize that a very large portion of games are determined by something going wrong for one player or the other. Too many lands; too few lands; missing a color; failing to find a key component or removal spell. Having Scry 2 on your easy-to-cast two-drop creature dramatically increases your chances of coming out smoothly, and dramatically reduces the chances that you’ll be the player with something going wrong.
At its very worst, Charming Prince reminds me of Veteran Motorist, which is a creature that I played to a Pro Tour top 16. Granted, Veteran Motorist had another ability, but Charming Prince is one color, and doesn’t get punished by one-damage effects.
If all Charming Prince did was Scry 2, it would probably be a tiny bit below the bar of Standard playability. However, having this as one of three options is amazing. When things are going according to plan, simply use one of the other two modes! And when things aren’t going according to plan, that scry might just be the thing that keeps you in a game where you otherwise wouldn’t get to play.
Gain 3 Life
Yet another unassuming ability, and one that probably won’t excite you on turn 2 against an unknown opponent. However, this effect can make Charming Prince a hate card against Mono-Red and other aggressive decks. If somebody’s plan is to kill you with Skewer the Critics and Scorching Dragonfire, then gaining life turns Charming Prince into card advantage. Combined with the other options, you now have a powerful sideboard card that you can play in your maindeck.
Something I always look for in constructed Magic is the ability to incidentally build lifegain into my deck. Every beginner quickly learns that Angel’s Mercy is not worth putting in your deck. However, longtime players also know that many games come down to digging yourself out of a hole once you’ve stabilized. A few points of lifegain can mean the difference between winning the game or losing to a burn spell on the final turn.
In part because of the lifegain ability, I can envision Charming Prince being played in anything from super-aggressive White Weenie all the way to U/W Control.
I call the last ability “flicker” after a similar card, Flickerwisp. (I say flicker when the target comes back on the end step, as opposed to blink when it comes back right away).
Note that Flickerwisp is an extremely good card that still sees extensive play in a top Legacy archetype called Death and Taxes. In that deck, it’s used to reset enters-the-battlefield effects and save creatures from removal spells. It’s particularly potent with Aether Vial, which can allow you to deploy it at instant speed. Some more everyday uses include freeing a creature from an unfriendly aura like Pacifism or taking back your creature after an effect like Entrancing Melody.
Flickerwisp has a better effect than Charming Prince, since it can target noncreature permanents and opposing permanents, in addition to being a 3/1 flying creature. But Cancel has a better effect than Mana Leak, and we all know how much difference one mana can make in Constructed Magic. I believe that Charming Prince can replace (although more likely compliment) Flickerwisp in Modern and Legacy.
Two Power & Human Creature Type
If all of that wasn’t enough, Charming Prince also happens to fit what is probably the most flexible and useful mold for a creature in MTG today. It has two power, which makes it a perfect pairing with Militia Bugler. And it’s a Human for the purposes of Champion of the Parish, Thalia’s Lieutenant, Cavern of Souls, and a hundred other useful cards. Charming Prince can slot directly into Humans to flicker your Lieutenants and Buglers, as well as shoring up that close Burn matchup.
Here are two more brews where Charming Prince has a natural home.
Death and Taxes in Modern
12 Snow-Covered Plains 3 Horizon Canopy 4 Ghost Quarter 2 Field of Ruin 4 Giver of Runes 4 Thraben Inspector 4 Stoneforge Mystic 4 Charming Prince 4 Leonin Arbiter 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 2 Militia Bugler 2 Ranger-Captain of Eos 1 Flickerwisp 4 AEther Vial 1 Sword of Fire and Ice 1 Sword of Truth and Justice 1 Batterskull 4 Path to Exile Sideboard 2 Disenchant 3 Rest in Peace 1 Mirran Crusader 1 Burrenton Forge-Tender 1 Kor Firewalker 1 Kataki, War’s Wage 3 Auriok Champion 3 On Thin Ice
There’s never been a better moment for this long-time fringe archetype to shine in Modern. Modern Horizons brought Giver of Runes, Ranger-Captain of Eos, and On Thin Ice; Stoneforge Mystic is recently unbanned; and Charming Prince is a beautiful new printing that really rounds things out.
Death and Taxes is meant to be a disruptive and resilient creature deck that won’t fold to a board sweeper or a couple of spot removal spells, and gets access to the ultra-powerful white sideboard cards in Modern. A highlight is the pairing of Leonin Arbiter with Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin, and Path to Exile. This build-your-own-Wasteland package is as good as gold in a format where Urzatron is one of the best decks. And with Aether Vial, you can feel totally free to play out your hand, and then sacrifice your Ghost Quarters and Horizon Canopies for value in the midgame.
Giver of Runes allows you to protect whichever disruptive creatures are best suited for your current matchup. Now your Leonin Arbiters are more likely to survive against Urzatron, your Thalias are more likely to survive against Storm Combo, and your Stoneforge Mystics are more likely to survive against Burn. Giver does all of this while also making you feel safe and secure going for a big Sword turn, or setting up techy flicker plays with Charming Prince.
Soul Sisters in Throne of Eldraine Standard
4 Godless Shrine 4 Temple of Silence 4 Scoured Barrens 6 Plains (331) 5 Swamp (339) 2 Law-Rune Enforcer 1 Giant Killer 4 Healer’s Hawk 4 Ajani’s Pridemate 4 Charming Prince 4 Bloodthirsty Aerialist 4 Impassioned Orator 1 Dawn of Hope 1 Ajani’s Welcome 2 Gideon Blackblade 3 Ajani, Strength of the Pride 2 Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord 1 Conclave Tribunal 4 Nightmare’s Thirst
Throne of Eldraine still hasn’t been fully spoiled, so I’m still holding my breath for some nice creatures that I can flicker with Charming Prince. Nevertheless, we have to start somewhere, and Soul Sisters is a deck that I’ve long wanted to try in Standard but has been overshadowed by the very powerful W/B Vampires archetype. (The name Soul Sisters comes from Soul Warden and Soul’s Attendant, which are staples of the Modern version of the deck).
This is a weenie/midrange deck that’s chock full of ways to trigger Ajani’s Pridemate and Bloodthirsty Aerialist. For example, if you have an Impassioned Orator and a Pridemate and you cast a Charming Prince, you can gain a total of four life and generate two triggers for two counters on the Pridemate. Another cool trick is that two Charming Princes can repeatedly flicker one another, generating a trigger of Ajani’s Welcome or Impassioned Orator every single endstep, indefinitely.
What Soul Sisters lacks in speed, it makes up for in staying power. It’s impossible for the opponent to try and race you, and if they’re ever caught without an answer to Pridemate or Aerialist, those creatures will very quickly outsize everything else on the battlefield. The curve is topped by Ajani, Strength of the Pride, Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord, and Dawn of Hope, which are all perfect fits with the deck’s gameplan.
Ajani, in particular, provides extra copies of your best card (Ajani’s Pridemate), while also having two other highly relevant abilities for the deck. I particularly like the 0 ability, since having so much lifegain makes it unappealing for the opponent to attack you directly, but Ajani can punish opponents who let your life total grow too large. Nightmare’s Thirst is an underappreciated card that can be a one-mana Murder in this deck, while also providing an extra trigger on all your lifegain cards.
While two-color beatdown decks suffer from the loss of the checklands like Isolated Chapel, it’s nice to have a deck that’s actually happy to play with Scoured Barrens! I think that Soul Sisters is a fun and interesting place to start with Eldraine Standard, and it’s a perfect way to use one of my favorite preview cards so far–Charming Prince.