War of the Spark Review – Part 1

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By Byron King
@DoneTheMath
 
 

Get hyped for War of the Spark!  This set is nuts!

I’ve got enough to talk about with this set that I needed to break it into two parts.  Let’s get started on part one!

 

Quick Take – Low chance as a role player in Super Friends

Ajani, the Greathearted plays a very similarly to Ajani Goldmane, so there is precedent for playing it in white aggressive decks.  The problem is that those decks already have too many good splash options and Unbreakable Formation already covers the anthem slot.  I certainly don’t think Ajani is good enough to supplant Heroic Reinforcements or Deputy of Detention if you wanted a splash in the first place.

The plus ability only strikes me as a player if you already have green and white in your Bolas’s Citadel deck.  You certainly aren’t playing a card like this just for a marginal life boost, so you need value out of the minus ability.  I feel confident that we can rule out white aggressive decks for Ajani due to better options, so you need to gain value boosting the loyalty of other planeswalkers.  That sounds like a hot mess to me, but keep an eye on Gift of Paradise.  Follow Ali Aintrazi for more ideas down that vein.

 

Load up your Inkmoth Nexus in Modern!  Get it?  It’s 10 infect.

I’m pretty sure this card is bad, but I suppose there is a chance with Proliferate in the set.  I don’t think I’ll be the one testing it out.

 

Big hydra is big.  If you have a planeswalker deck that needs a giant, French vanilla creature, I suppose Bioessence Hydra does the job.  Realistically, don’t play this card in constructed formats.  You can do better.

 

Quick Take – Great in Standard, great in Modern, probably great even further back.

If nothing else, I can’t imagine playing Wilderness Reclamation without at least a copy or two of Blast Zone in my deck.  Reclamation will give you the mana to nuke whatever needs killing, and Blast Zone will do the dirty work.  In Modern, I’d look at every deck with Life from the Loam, Tolaria West, Expedition Map, and/or Crucible of Worlds, then I’d need to think of a good reason not to include Blast Zone.

As for new decks, control decks change for every set release.  A new slew of threats requires control decks to realign their suite of answers.  If control moves away from Esper and Kaya’s Wrath, Blast Zone is one of the first lands I’d look at for a utility slot.  I might consider it there anyway, since it is a land that can act as an emergency removal spell if you start to flood out.

 

Quick Take – Probably fair or bad, only because R&D had to have tested the crap out of it.

I’ve seen Golgari decks with the full explore package that have gone down this road, and that seems super fun.  That deck needs significant tuning to become a Bolas’s Citadel deck, since a six mana card already fights for room with Hydroid Krasis, Find//Finality, Carnage Tyrant, and Vraska, Relic Seeker.  Vraska has already been kicked to the curb for lack of synergy with Find/Finality, so you really need to be prepared to exploit Bolas’s Citadel before you touch it.  The explore package and Wildgrowth Walker is a good start, but you’ll need more.

If you want to go a different way, Archway Angel gains enough life to consider.  I’m sure a manabase that includes the gates and a triple black spell will look awful, but maybe that is a way to go.  It’s rough that both cards cost six mana.

 

That’s a sweet text box, but I’m pretty sure I’d need to hit every single card on that list before I put a six mana removal spell in my deck.

 

Quick Take – Not quite good enough

Chandra, Fire Artisan is the latest in a long line of cards like Outpost Siege, most of which have seen some play.  Chandra is a little weaker than most, since it is weak to creature damage on top of removal.  That alone wouldn’t be enough to discount it, since hitting the opponent for 5 or more damage makes up for the vulnerability.  The big issue is that Chandra, Fire Artisan competes with Experimental Frenzy.  I can’t imagine a world where I’d play this over Experimental Frenzy.

If you want to brew with this card, you need a reason to play with a Planeswalker instead of an Enchantment.  If you are executing some combo with Command the Dreadhorde, or if you need to be able to play cards from your hand, maybe Chandra, Fire Artisan has a place in your deck.  The last possibility is that your deck has enough expensive cards that Experimental Frenzy is too awkward on how you cast cards.  That isn’t super likely, but maybe Grixis control needs a form of card advantage out of the sideboard that gets around Narset or something.

 

The cute combo with Command the Dreadhorde is to cast it with a copy of The Wanderer already in play.  That allows you to put any number of creatures and planeswalkers from both graveyards into play.  I suspect this combo will be difficult enough to assemble and protect that it won’t be a consistently good deck.  It’s a great deck for stories though.

 

Commence the Endgame is strong enough to be played.  The raw power is present.  The real issue is whether or not a deck wants to play it.  The current version of Esper control uses Teferi as a win condition, and it is unlikely that deck wants to switch to a creature to win the game.  When Teferi isn’t an option anymore, Commence the Endgame looks more appealing.  That discounts the possibility that control needs to shift to a creature win condition now, but I don’t particularly expect that.

Simic Nexus is a different story, and I expect this to be a common card in the sideboard of that deck.  The main deck doesn’t need this effect, but Commence the Endgame gives the deck a different angel of attack when the opponent wants to board in Unmoored Ego.

 

Gifts Ungiven for your graveyard sounds a lot more appealing than it is going to play out.  Despite casting only three mana, you’ll probably need 5-6 turns to reliably get four cards in your graveyard.  Then, you’re only getting the third and fourth best cards unless you have a Nicol Bolas already in play.  That sounds like the definition of a win-more card to me.

Also, A+ art

 

Domri, Anarch of Bolas is going to fight Rhythm of the Wild for deck space for the duration of their time in Standard.  Unless you really need to tech your deck for the mirror (where the fight ability will matter), you will get more mileage out of Rhythm.

 

Dreadhorde Arcanist looks to be finding a home in multiple decks already.  Izzet Wizards is happy to have another strong card, and Dreadhorde Arcanist triggers Adeliz’s anthem ability.  Those two cards together should close out a game very quickly.

The next home is some sort of Boros Feather, the Redeemed Heroic deck.  Dreadhorde Arcanist and Feather work well together, since the cards that Dreadhorde Arcanist triggers will actually end up back in your hand if they target Feather.

There are also some lethal combos with Dreadhorde Arcanist, Collision/Colossus, and Thud.  That definitely isn’t consistent, but none of those cards are completely embarrassing.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far has not been through the gauntlet and proven, but Dreadhorde Arcanist has the strength to find a home somewhere.  None of that includes Modern or Legacy, where the suite of spells increases dramatically.

 

The power level of Dreadhorde Butcher is high enough to see play, but it might not have the support necessary.  Rakdos Aggro is the most obvious home, but it is unclear that that deck offers anything that mono red doesn’t already do better.  Rakdos is also going to struggle with mana, since a BR two drop isn’t guaranteed to come down on turn two.  After Blood Crypt and Dragonskull Summit, you’ve only got basic lands and guildgates to work with.

The other possible home for Dreadhorde Butcher is a Rakdos or Mardu Aristocrats deck.  It might be difficult to pump the Butcher up much, but that deck would be more interested in triggering the death ability anyway.

 

Bitterblossom this is not.  That said, Dreadhorde Invasion is probably good enough to show up in various decks.  It provides an insane amount of fodder for Aristocrats decks, but it still functions as a moderately resilient threat for only two mana.  The opponent has the opportunity to kill it any time they need to, which resets the clock.  Still, it comes down early enough to slip under counterspells.  This might be an option for control decks that want threats post board.  Thief of Sanity is a better option, but this comes down faster and is harder to deal with.

The printing of Mortify doesn’t do Dreadhorde Invasion any favors.

 

Quick Take – This card is great

Enter the God-Eternals is probably the card necessary to justify Dimir and Grixis decks.  The life gain/removal/threat suite does an absurd amount of work to stabilize the board.  Comparing Enter the God-Eternals to Flametongue Kavu, Thragtusk, or Glorybringer all seem reasonable to me, and those were all format staples.  I expect this card to follow suit.  If your deck has blue and black mana, I’d expect at least two copies of this card, leaning towards the full playset.

 

As a main deck option, Fblthp needs some sort of synergy with the deck’s overall plan.  The most obvious home for Fblthp, the Lost is a Prime Speaker Vannifar deck, likely with some number of Neoform.  Mox Amber isn’t a completely unrealistic option, and Militia Bugler comes to mind as well.

Another alternative is Fblthp as a sideboard card against aggressive decks.  It certainly isn’t as good as something like Moment of Craving, but that card won’t be around forever.  If the format has a lot of X/1 creatures, an Elvish Visionary might just be what a blue deck wants to help delay the game.

 

If you want to relive some glory days from Theros Constructed, Feather, the Redeemed is probably a good place to start.  Feather is in a fairly good place, with a lot of power packed into the base stats.  The ability is good, and it certainly inspires a specific kind of deck.  Tenth District Legionnaire, Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin seem like natural fits for a deck built around Feather.

It’s unclear if a deck built around Feather is strong enough.  The creatures are somewhat weak to cards like Ravenous Chupacabra and Enter the God-Eternals, and drawing lands/pump spells with no creatures is an easy route to a losing record.

There is a chance this deck is good, but it likely won’t be the top contender for multiple weeks in a row.  It’s just too easy to beat if you really want to.

 

I’m not sure there is a creature in Standard that I want enough to pay an additional two mana to find.  Prime Speaker Vannifar is probably the closest card, but six mana is just so high.  I suppose it gives you several virtual copies of God-Eternal Rhonas as a game ending card without actually needing to play more than a copy or two.

Older formats are a different story, but there is still no clear home.  At worst, Finale of Devastation can function as a Rampant Growth with Dryad Arbor.  At best, it enables some combo similar to what Green Sun’s Zenith might be able to if it was legal.

 

I’ve been very impressed with Finale of Eternity so far in Standard.  Most black decks play Cry of the Carnarium to handle mono white decks, and Finale of Eternity does a very similar job at three mana.  Finale just happens to scale if you have more mana to dump into it.

 

This would be very interesting as an Instant.  As a sorcery, it’s only hope is a heavy ramp deck.  That’s not completely unimaginable, but I’m not sure this is good enough to justify the work.

 

Finale of Promise has the same main issues that Deliver Unto Evil has: profitably filling up the graveyard fast enough.  That said, Finale of Promise already has a reasonable home in the Izzet Phoenix decks.  Crackling Drake is fine with spells getting exiled, and Arclight Phoenix is happy for a bunch of spells to be cast off of one card.  I don’t feel like there is much of a home for Finale of Promise outside Drakes in Standard, but one home is a lot more than some cards get.

In Modern, Finale of Promise is yet another card that can cast the free Time Spiral cards.  I don’t think this is a good enough enabler to consider those, but it’s worth keeping every enabler they print in mind.

 

There is a lot of instant speed card draw in the format, so it’s hard to imagine Finale of Revelation finding a home.  Wilderness Reclamation decks seem like the most likely home, since they remove the problem of drawing a boatload of cards then passing the turn unprotected.  This will compete with Commence the Endgame, but Finale of Revelation has a chance for decks that just need to draw all the cards.

 

Mono white is probably interested in Gideon as a sideboard card.  It has plenty of power, but the current white decks are already overstocked at three mana between History of Benalia, Benalish Marshal, and Unbreakable Formation.  Gideon Blackblade seems like a better sideboard option, where you want individual cards that are stronger and more resilient, instead of relying on the swarm strategy.

That isn’t the only home for Gideon Blackblade.  There have been several decks springing up that aim to go Llanowar Elf into Gideon Blackblade.  That mana is rather difficult, but it is an incredibly strong start.  I could imagine a real home for Gideon there too.

 

Like all of the gods, God-Eternal Bontu is incredibly pushed.  Bontu has a specific home in a sacrifice deck, like the Aristocrat deck I’ve mentioned a few times already.  Turning fodder creatures and excess lands into cards is a huge reload, which makes God-Eternal Bontu the top end of a deck like Aristocrats.  Look for options to make lots of tokens, like Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin, to really abuse God-Eternal Bontu.

 

I was originally very down on God-Eternal Kefnet, but I’ve come around somewhat.  I’m still confident that it doesn’t belong in a pure control deck like Esper.  I do think it has a home in a more midrange deck.  Enter the God-Eternals is the biggest reason I believe a deck like this can exist, since that card should just decimate an aggressive deck.  God-Eternal Kefnet is a strong body, and it makes sense in a deck interested in winning in the red zone.

If you are building a deck and are considering God-Eternal Kefnet, don’t put much into the reveal trigger.  You won’t have an easy time abusing that, so just take the small amount of value if it comes up.

I don’t think this is super relevant, but there is an infinite turn combo with God-Eternal Kefnet, Riverwise Augur, and Karn’s Temporal Sundering.  Use at your own risk.

 

God-Eternal Oketra makes a ridiculous army if you manage to cast a even a couple creatures with it in play.  That said, it is a five drop that doesn’t do anything immediately until you have a chance to spend more mana.  Ugin’s Conjurant comes to mind as a free way to make a 4/4, but there aren’t a lot of options like that in Standard.

 

If you are looking for a Craterhoof Behemoth effect that is cheaper than End-Raze Forerunners, God-Eternal Rhonas has your back.  There is already a base green deck that uses Steel Leaf Champion and other giant creatures, and God-Eternal Rhonas makes for a great closer in that deck.  I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in the protection ability, since three turns is a long time to wait to get it back.

 

If you have assembled some sort of planeswalker toolbox deck, Ignite the Beacon might be a good addition.  Realistically, I think you are better off sticking with Commence the Endgame for a draw spell.

 

The final god in the “cycle”, Illharg, the Raze-Boar also appears to have a home in an existing Standard deck.  G/R monsters can play this card with Rhythm of the Wild, creating some truly insane damage spikes.  Ghalta, Primal Hunter is the dream, dealing 18 damage with just the two cards.  The best part is those are cards the deck is already happy playing.  It’s not like the Dreadhorde Arcanist combo I mentioned earlier that uses Thud.

This is my personal favorite god in the cycle, but I can honestly see all of them seeing play at one point or another.

 

This version of Jace continues a long line of Jace Planeswalkers that seems strong enough for Standard play.  It doesn’t protect itself, which is an issue.  To compensate for that, Jace offers a method of winning the game that does not require reaching the ultimate.  If your deck can handle the mana cost, which is not an easy feat, Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is a good source of card advantage.  It is also a good source of self mill, if you can gain value with that.  There are plenty of ways to manage that, between Arclight Phoenix, Chemister’s Insight, Mission Briefing, Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales.

There was a sweet deck during the Streamer Showcase on Twitch that used Jace and Drowned Secrets to win games.  I’m not sure that deck is strong enough against the aggressive decks in the format, but it certainly looked good against anything that wasn’t trying to end the game by turn four.

 

Proliferate is a sweet ability, but I don’t have high hopes for this card in the current standard format.  Competing with Field of Ruin and Blast Zone is a difficult prospect, and the upside of Karn’s Bastion is minimal enough that I don’t expect it to see much Standard play.

 

The new version of Karn requires a much more specific home than Karn, Scion of Urza.  Karn, the Great Creator is more of a tutor along the lines of Mastermind’s Acquisition and a win condition in an artifact heavy deck.  I’m honestly not sure if there is any good synergies with Karn, the Great Creator in Standard.

The Modern combo with Karn involves tutoring for a single copy of Mycosinth Lattice out of the sideboard.  Karn’s static ability shuts down the opponent’s land once you have the six mana artifact in play, mostly nullifying their ability to continue playing Magic.

 

As is true with most three mana rare Goblin creatures, Krenko will completely take over a game if left unchecked.  Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin does an absolute ton of damage if it and the tokens survive a turn or two.  There are plenty of ways to use the tokens between Heroic Reinforcements, God-Eternal Bontu, and simple mono red beats.  There is even a Goblin lord in Standard, though Goblin Trashmaster hasn’t seen any play yet.  We are starting to get close to a critical mass of Goblin synergies in Standard.

 

 

That’s all for now.  Check back in a few days for the second half of my review!

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