Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Farewell to the Clans, Part One

With the full spoiler now available for Shadows Over Innistrad, we are mere weeks away from saying farewell to both Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged. Khans of Tarkir in particular proved to be quite strong for Standard Pauper, and so seeing these two sets rotate out of Standard is going to be a big shift for the metagame. Given that, I thought I would take some time this week to look at what I believe are the six cards whose loss will have the biggest impact in the format.

I will be looking at these cards in alphabetical order; no overall ranking is implied by the order.

 1. Counterspells that cost only two mana have been proven very strong in most formats, and today it is rare to see them printed at any rarity, much less Common. So while Disdainful Stroke certainly wasn't as good even as Mana Leak, it was excellent in Control matchups to prevent your opponent from casting his or her big cards. While this saw more play in the Sideboard than main-deck, it remained a very good option against certain decks, particularly given how strong the Delve mechanic proved to be, since it only cares about the converted mana cost, not how much was actually spent.

2. When I first reviewed Gurmag Angler, I wasn't particularly impressed, since it is just a big dumb, expensive beater. However, two factors made it much better than it appeared. First, the ability to use Delve to cheat it in early made it very difficult to deal with. Second, the fact that you had access to it in Black, which traditionally does not get large creatures, also was a factor in its success. As it turned out, it is ridiculously easy to fill up your graveyard with cards, and with unconditional removal at an all-time low, this card does a good job of dodging most forms of removal.

3. Hooting Mandrills also proved to be quite strong. It's only one mana less than the Angler, and even better has Trample, which makes it much more difficult for your opponent to simply chump-block and ignore it. In a color that already has access to lots of big creatures, this card often was the best of the lot, simply because it was so easy to power it out quickly. It also proved to be a great enabler for Savage Punch and its cousin Epic Confrontation. Finally, 4 Toughness is still enough to sidestep many burn spells and other conditional forms of removal.

Noticing a theme yet? As it turns out, almost all of the Delve cards made a major impact on the format. But all the rest paled in comparison to what proved to be the best Delve card in the set. Which we'll take a look at...next time.

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