As soon as Alexander Hayne spoiled Vivien’s Arkbow from War of the Spark, my mind started turning. When evaluating cards, one of the best tricks is to compare it to similar cards. The problem is, there’s no card quite like Vivien’s Arkbow. It has elements of Collected Company and Aether Vial, but isn’t really comparable to either.
The place to start with Vivien’s Arkbow is the numbers. When should you start activating it? How many creatures do you need below the cost for it to be good? x=1 and 2 are pretty clearly going to be low percentage plays. x=3 is where things start getting interesting. Collected Company decks used to play around 24 creatures with cost 3 or less, so let’s start there. With 24 creatures in your deck, you’re around 80% to hit on an Arkbow activation. That seems like a good percentage, but when you’re discarding a card as a cost, that’s a bit low.
So I’m going for x=4 as my first breakpoint. Even if I stick with 24 hits I’m around 85% at x=4 because of the extra card I’m looking at. Much better! The first place my brain goes when thinking about a creature-heavy deck built around 4-drops is Vannifar. Not only are silver bullets perfect for Vannifar, but the wide variety of creatures will be nice when you’re digging through your deck rapidly with the Arkbow. Arkbow also offers a way to put Vannifar into play at instant speed, which gives you a much better chance of it surviving. Normally I’m reluctant to play four copies of a legendary card, but with the Arkbow, you can just discard extra copies!
Prime Speaker Arkbow
1 Island 1 Plains 5 Forest 2 Sunpetal Grove 4 Temple Garden 2 Hinterland Harbor 4 Breeding Pool 2 Hallowed Fountain 4 Glacial Fortress 1 Biogenic Ooze 1 Conclave Cavalier 1 Deputy of Detention 1 Wildgrowth Walker 4 Incubation Druid 4 Jadelight Ranger 1 Knight of Autumn 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Merfolk Branchwalker 4 Militia Bugler 1 Mirror Image 3 Prime Speaker Vannifar 1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty 1 Trostani Discordant 4 Vivien's Arkbow
With the 30 creatures at cost 4 or less in this list, you’re up to a 95% hit rate!
One other application for the Arkbow is in the sideboard of midrange decks. Despite being colored, it is an artifact, which is a much harder card type to kill than enchantments in current Standard. Esper Control in particular is very soft to artifacts, and the games will go long enough that you’ll have plenty of time to activate for greater values of x, which is extra important since these decks won’t be as built around the Arkow.
The last place I can see Arkbow finding a home is in a Wilderness Reclamation deck. The prospect of activating Arkbow for x=10 on turn 5 is appealing, but building a Reclamation deck with Arkbow is tricky, as creatures aren’t always the best option to combine with Reclamation. Adapt is one way to piece it all together:
9 Forest 7 Island 4 Breeding Pool 4 Hinterland Harbor 4 Incubation Druid 4 Growth-Chamber Guardian 4 Biogenic Ooze 3 Frilled Mystic 2 Waker of the Wilds 3 Dream Eater 4 Llanowar Elves 2 Mystic Archaeologist 2 Zegana, Utopian Speaker 4 Wilderness Reclamation 4 Vivien's Arkbow
Vivien’s Arkbow is a really exciting card both as a build-around tool and a way to attack slower decks out of the sideboard. I’m excited to see how it ends up playing out in War of the Spark Standard.