Welcome to the final part of the series! Let’s finish up with the relevant spells in the Standard format. As a guideline similar to the last piece, I will try to keep this limited to the cards that I feel will make a shift in effectiveness. If it’s not listed here, then chances are I don’t think it will see much change in its role in the format.
Note: The Avacyn Restored spoilers have no influence on the opinions of these cards.
Lets get started, shall we?
Angelic Destiny: Progressively getting worse. Will continue. It’s (now questionable) effectiveness against Wolf Run decks is not enough to keep this Aura afloat in the rough waters of the format, unfortunately. The combination of Thalia being very hard to deal with, Grand Abolisher being edged out of the preferred two drops, and how easily it can be answered, means that Angelic Destiny will be relegated to the sideboard…if it’s lucky.
Day of Judgment: Slightly below average, but should improve. With Slagstorm, Whipflare, and Black Sun’s Zenith being much more effective and efficient removal spells, Day of Judgment had to take a backseat. I think that this will get better as the format gets more reliant on the early, high-impact creatures (as if it wasn’t already like that).
Birthing Pod: Has improved greatly, and will continue. It’s pretty funny how Birthing Pod decks have gotten so much better, but the number of actual Birthing Pods in the deck has gone down. That’s probably the best thing that could have happened to the archetype as a whole, since it was notorious for not having a stable plan if the Pod plan didn’t work. I can only see this card and archetype getting better as we get more awesome creatures.
Garruk Relentless: Criminally underrated. Future unknown. It’s pretty simple; this card does not see enough play. It does just about everything you want a planeswalker to do, and then some. With that said, the rise of cards like Invisible Stalker and Geist of Saint Traft (again), Garruk is going to need some help if he’s going to remain viable in the future. Fortunately, that help isn’t too difficult to find (the entire R/G aggro deck, for one).
Hellrider: Slowly becoming a major threat, but is reaching its ceiling. Hellrider was one of those cards that wasn’t given much thought when Dark Ascension was released. Now, this card has been one of the highlights of the R/G aggro decks, alongside Huntmaster of the Fells and Thrun, the Last Troll. Even though it has (almost) become one of the super powerful four drops in the format, I don’t think it can get much better. Vapor Snag is still a pretty big issue, and it’s simply not as good as Huntmaster or Thrun when you’re behind. Even so, I wouldn’t hesitate to put at least two of these in my R/G aggro decks for the duration of the current Standard.
Hero of Bladehold: Declining fast. Will continue. Hero of Bladehold quickly fell out of favor when U/B control came into prominence. U/B control quickly fell out of favor when the Zombies and R/G aggro decks rose in popularity. Both of those decks have a strong game against Hero of Bladehold (Zombies much more than R/G, however). On top of that, If Hellrider didn’t like Vapor Snag; Hero of Bladehold hates it with a burning passion. All of these factors have put the Hero on the backburner for the time being, and I only see that continuing.
Huntmaster of the Fells: Is only going to get better. As if this card wasn’t great already. The sky is the limit for what is probably the best four drop in Standard right now. The game can quickly get out of hand when he transforms, and he makes your otherwise dead cards much better. I fully expect this to be a pillar of the format for as long as it’s legal.
Phyrexian Obliterator: Grossly effective right now. Will stay that way. Unprepared opponents will get absolutely Obliterated by this card. Aggro decks already have a very tough time dealing with this brick wall. A card like Dismember, while effective, is only really advancing the game plan of the Zombies deck (which is to kill you, no questions asked). I’m a huge fan of the Obliterator right now, and I don’t see it going anywhere, anytime soon.
Phyrexian Metamorph: Very powerful, and will slowly get better. The fact that you can play this in any deck is what really pushes Metamorph over the top. Clones in general are widely popular right now because of how versatile they are. I wouldn’t be surprised if decks like R/G aggro started playing the full playset of these in their seventy-five, and other decks, that weren’t playing them at all, start playing some.
Acidic Slime: Effective right now. May get slightly worse. Cards like Acidic Slime are always good to have in the decks that you want it in. I think that Viridian Corrupter gets the ever-so-slight nod over the Slime for the time being. Curse of Death’s Hold, while still an issue, doesn’t appear with nearly as much frequency as Swords, Pikes, and Metamorphs. The other, more compelling reason is that it takes a lot of stress off of your Green Sun’s Zeniths. Casting Zenith for three is much, much easier than casting it for five.
Batterskull: Spiking in popularity and effectiveness. May continue. With Mirran Crusaders (and the Humans deck in general) taking a backseat, Batterskull was bound to see more play. What really put it over the top was how effective it is against the various aggro decks in the format. I can definitely see a higher frequency of this in the near future, despite all of the artifact removal running around lately.
Unburial Rites: Still very powerful, may get much better. Even with graveyard hate, decks that look to abuse Unburial Rites are still very strong. The vast amount of reanimation targets (Inferno Titan, Elesh Norn, and Grave Titan to name a few), are all so high impact. This card must be respected for as long as we have such awesome creatures to return.
Consecrated Sphinx: Somewhat improving, future unknown. Getting two cards off of Consecrated Sphinx usually puts you very, very far ahead when you’re ready to end the game. My only issue is Vapor Snag. If Delver is the best deck, then Vapor Snag will be all over the place, which will lower its stock considerably. If other decks start rising in popularity (R/G aggro, Humans, etc.), then this card, along with its generally preferred archetype in U/B control, will gain some momentum.
Grave Titan: The best six drop. May remain that way. The fact that Grave Titan doesn’t show up alone is really what makes him, in my view, the best six drop right now. The format is all about value, and Grave Titan is one of the best at giving you just that. The fact that many decks have to drastically change in order to play it is the only real thing I can see going against it. We’ve definitely seen worse though.
Inferno Titan: Above average. Will get worse. Between Hexproof creatures, Undying, and the dreaded Phyrexian Obliterator Inferno Titan, while still powerful, can get incredibly awkward more often than not. I feel that this trend is only going to continue as more decks figure out the Delver menace.
Primeval Titan: Much worse than before. Will probably stay that way. As much as it pains me to say it, Primeval Titan is nowhere near as good as it used to be. The Wolf Run decks aren’t winning because of Primeval Titan anymore. Huntmaster of the Fells, Slagstorm, and Inferno/Grave Titan are the real reasons. This isn’t to say that it still can’t win games on its own. Getting Inkmoth Nexus and Kessig Wolf Run is still very powerful. I just think that players are much better equipped to deal with the Primeval Titan than before.
Wurmcoil Engine: Slowly improving. Many opted to play Batterskull over Wurmcoil Engine before and for good reason. It’s much easier to cast, and isn’t completely cold to cards like Vapor Snag. I think that the Engine is very, very well positioned against anything that isn’t Delver, and is deserving of at least a couple of spots in the sideboard. A lot of decks simply can’t deal with a resolved Wurmcoil Engine, and its massive life swing.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite: The best non-Delver creature in Standard. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the second best creature in the format. The ability to (essentially) wrath the board, double anthem your own army, and keep it that way, is the most devastating thing you can do. Cards like Unburial Rites, Birthing Pod, and even ramp spells, can all take advantage of getting her out as quickly and/or efficiently as possible. She will retain her position in Standard for as long as she’s in it.
Karn Liberated: Slowly losing popularity. Future unknown. Karn, while being one of the best planeswalkers right now, is in a pretty rough spot. The bigger decks that Karn is generally good against are losing a bit of steam. The slower decks, where he’s usually at home, tend to get edged out by the tempo/super aggressive decks. The super aggressive decks have trouble against the bigger decks, but generally put the Karn decks so far behind, that he isn’t going to do much if resolved anyway. I’ve no idea where he’ll wind up in the future, but I do think that he’ll be around in some way simply due to his raw power.
That wraps it up for this series! Feel free to leave questions and comments in the comments section. I’m always open to thoughts and suggestions!
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