This weekend marks the release of the M15 Core Set for Magic: The Gathering. While plenty of players took their first stabs at the set in last week’s pre-releases, the cards will now become legal for constructed play. A few of the cards will make it to older formats. For instance, for Modern [mtg_card=Hushwing Gryff] is [mtg_card=Torpor Orb] on an evasive body and in Legacy [mtg_card=Reclamation Sage] being an elf is actually a pretty big deal, foils of this are worth more than most of the rares. There are plenty of goodies for EDH/Commander as well, like more slivers including [mtg_card=Sliver Hivelord], a new colorless board wipe [mtg_card=Perilous Vault] and a bunch of the rares are legendaries as potential new commanders. M15 is also bringing our first four ability planeswalker since [mtg_card=Jace, The Mind Sculptor]. [mtg_card=Garruk, Apex Predator] is undeniably strong, but will his cost keep him out of heavy play? Ultimately though, Standard is still going to see the most impact out of a new set, and here are the new, or at least fresh reprints, cards I think are worth keeping in mind when you sleeve up this weekend.
[mtg_card=Liliana Vess] & [mtg_card=Nissa, Worldwaker]
Of the “new” planeswalkers, [mtg_card=Liliana Vess] is a reprint, I see these two as having the most potential for play initially. [mtg_card=Liliana Vess] can slot in nicely into the sideboard of most heavy black decks. She either starts to eat up your opponents hand or lets you fill you deck with silver bullets for the match-up that you can start tutoring out. In addition to a new four ability planeswalker, M15 also gives us another strong formatting in the double +1 variety. Like [mtg_card=Elspeth, Knight-Errant] before her, [mtg_card=Nissa, Worldwaker] gets to advance towards her ultimate along whatever path is most relevant at the time. Her most obvious home is in some kind of mono-green devotion list. A lot of folks have been cooking up grand plans for superfriends, a deck composed of a lot of planeswalkers, featuring [mtg_card=Ajani Steadfast], who is certainly costed for it at only a single white, but I just don’t see it. With the exception of his -2 and part of the ult, his abilities are primarily tailored to creature decks not the more controlling lists that superfriends typically form a shell around.
Soul of ____ Cycle
These have been compared a lot to titans from M12, while they lack the immediate board impact to make them quite as good that doesn’t mean they won’t see play. [mtg_card=Soul of Innistrad] strikes me as having the most potential. Standard is a very grindy environment of one for one exchanges right now. Buying back three of your creatures that your opponent used spells like [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall] or [mtg_card=Thoughtseize] on is pretty exciting. [mtg_card=Soul of Theros] might have had a shot, but it stacks unfavorably against [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion] at the same casting cost both in your deck and across the board. There’s only so many six drops you can afford to run, and [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion] is better in a wider variety of boardstates.
[mtg_card=Dauntless River Marshal] & [mtg_card=Sunblade Elf][mtg_card=Nightfire Giant] and [mtg_card=Kird Chieftain] from this cycle are pretty bomby in limited formats, but [mtg_card=Dauntless River Marshal] and [mtg_card=Sunblade Elf] are costed more favorably for constructed play. [mtg_card=Sunblade Elf] is another classic two power for one mana for any Green and White decks. Likewise, [mtg_card=Dauntless River Marshal] is three power for two. Between the two, [mtg_card=Dauntless River Marshal] is better when your lands are not cooperating, though there is a less immediate home for an aggressive creature in White and Blue. Regardless, good sized cheap creatures with relevant abilities are always something aggro is on the lookout for.
This card is surprisingly on the edge of playable. Getting to turn all your burn or kills spells that remove blockers into essentially [mtg_card=Searing Blood] is potentially pretty powerful. Don’t forget that even if something goes down that [mtg_card=Altac Bloodseeker] gains its ability after first strike damage has happened, it still gets to deal damage normally in that case.
[mtg_card=Back to Nature]
Are there still a lot of enchantments coming out of Theros block? Yup. Still further enchantments like [mtg_card=Detention Sphere] and [mtg_card=Underworld Connections] that you’d like to blow up? Indeed. Is hexproof still a fringe playable deck? So yeah, [mtg_card=Back to Nature] is going to put some serious sideboard work in. That your sideboard hate can be a complete blowout makes it that much better.
While the 1/1 body is a little lackluster, the repeatable locking down of a blocker is quite strong. Combine this with efficient pumps and cards like [mtg_card=Madcap Skills] and combat will become a nightmare for your opponent. Those key blockers they were depending on to stabilize won’t cut it, and they certainly won’t be able to race your team of small aggressive red creatures. The more midrange creature decks there are the better this card is. Expect at least of pair of these to show up in most mono-red aggro or Sligh decks.
[mtg_card=Stoke the Flames]
Red White burn is already a popular deck. While this is a little slower to cast than many of the other burn spells, unless you work [mtg_card=Young Pyromancer] to the list, the big upside is taking your 4 damage spell count from 8 to 12. Now you only need to draw a combination of 5 [mtg_card=Warleader’s Helix], [mtg_card=Boros Charm] or [mtg_card=Stoke the Flames] to get a kill, and having that ratio compared to the 7 cards for 3 damage is quite nice. When all you’re trying to do is count to 20, the extra point of damage really starts to add up. Drawing even 3 of your 4 damage spells is like casting a free [mtg_card=Lightning Strike].
While I’m not quite sure exactly what deck wants this effect, this card is powerful enough that something will want to find some space for it. Now by powerful it’s not a big flashy card that’s going to usually win the game on its own, but letting all your creatures essentially kicker for a 1/1 flyer gives you a ton of grinding potential and the on board trick of being able to protect your more valuable creatures will make it quite awkward for your opponent.
Sure it’s got a pretty hefty drawback, but one mana removal is something that should never be overlooked. In Modern plenty of decks are already willing to pay 4 life for a similar result with [mtg_card=Dismember], though that has the advantage of being colorless. The jump from [mtg_card=Ulcerate] to say [mtg_card=Bile Blight] might not seem like much, it’s just one more mana and how often do you need removal on Turn 1, but that one mana is much easier to work into a turn down the line. Plenty of games of magic are lost because one player gets locked into making one play a turn. Expect to see this out of the mono-black aggro decks, where the life loss is much less important, and mono-black devotion maybe want some number of them.
[mtg_card=Sign in Blood]
More potential cards for mono-Black, yay. This is another example of how much the difference between one mana can make. [mtg_card=Read the Bones] hasn’t made much of a splash in Standard despite it being a very powerful [mtg_card=Divination]. The reason for this is that [mtg_card=Read the Bones] basically requires you to take a turn off from effecting the board or at least doing it so late in the game to matter less. [mtg_card=Sign in Blood] is much easier to work into the earlier turns of the game with a follow-up, and as an added bonus occasionally it will burn someone out as a [mtg_card=Shock] to the face.
I talked about this card in my last Hexproof article on the Designer Cards. The mono-green devotion decks on their nuts [mtg_card=Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx] draws are definitely in the market for [mtg_card=Genesis Hyrda]. They get to put a big creature into play and essentially tutor out another big threat from their deck. Casting this can flipping into one of your planeswalkers like [mtg_card=Nissa, Worldwaker] or [mtg_card=Garruk, Caller of Beasts] is a huge swing in your favor giving you a big creature, a planeswalker and whatever value you get from activating said planeswalker. That’s quite the upset if your opponent is looking at a [mtg_card=Hero’s Downfall] in hand. I also really like that this card plays well with [mtg_card=Courser of Kruphix], letting you get some information on what you might want to cast [mtg_card=Genesis Hyrda] for.
Pain Land Cycle
The Pain lands offer the best gains for two different strategies. Aggressive decks can splash for more fully move into multiple colors without suffering tempo loss to tapped lands. The temples have proven to still be valuable even for aggro decks, but playing to curve is still ultimately plan A. The other decks that will be eyeing pain lands are those that want to push into heavy 3 color requirements and further. There’s a lot of power to be found in going multiple colors, you just play the biggest and best spells in the format.
[mtg_card=Chord of Calling][mtg_card=Chord of Calling] is really at its best when it’s doing one of two things. Either you’re searching out combo pieces and the tempo loss of tacking on 3 more mana to the casting cost is made up by just winning the game, or you’re using it to go find silver bullets for the match-up. While there are always a few janky combos in Standard, I haven’t seen any good ones yet that would make [mtg_card=Chord of Calling] really viable, so its life in Standard is going to weigh more on the later method. However, I do see it having some success there. [mtg_card=Chord of Calling] gets to serve as the pseudo-fifth to eighth copy of your important cards and also lets you stack the deck with a few important one-offs, leaving you more space in the sideboard. It’s still going to be best in a deck that can generate a lot of mana, but this card can get pretty sick when [mtg_card=Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx] and [mtg_card=Burning-Tree Emissary] enter the picture.
[mtg_card=Scuttling Doom Engine]
A lot of time this card is basically [mtg_card=Ruric Thar, The Unbowed] and domes your opponent for getting it off the board, but it’s a [mtg_card=Ruric Thar, The Unbowed] that can go in any color deck and has some potential interaction for being an artifact. For instance, [mtg_card=Shrapnel Blast] + [mtg_card=Scuttling Doom Engine] is a pretty stupid amount of reach. I’m not convinced there is enough gas to make Standard artifacts a thing quite yet, even Modern Affinity has bad draws and that deck gets to plays with some really powerful cards, but it’s not unreasonable. However, this card lines up very well against [mtg_card=Elspeth, Sun’s Champion].
[mtg_card=Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth]
And finally. Does your deck play [mtg_card=Swamp]s while also playing other lands that don’t make Black mana? Like maybe the ever popular [mtg_card=Mutavault]? If yes, then replace one of those [mtg_card=Swamp]s with a [mtg_card=Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth] and enjoy a slightly better mana base. Done and done. Also, it is worth noting how [mtg_card=Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth] interacts with [mtg_card=Mana Confluence]. Because [mtg_card=Mana Confluence] is now a [mtg_card=Swamp] it can tap for Black mana without losing life.
So those are the cards I think will have the biggest impact this weekend. Are there any that you think I missed? Or what decks do you feel get the biggest boost from M15? I’m hopefully going be at SCG Baltimore Open this weekend and will get to see firsthand what cards have having the biggest effect. Personally, I’m leaning towards sleeving up RW Burn for the weekend. [mtg_card=Stoke the Flames] is a solid upgrade for the list and folks will be wanting to play with unrefined new decks and stretching their mana further with pain lands. All of which plays right into the hands of just burning your opponent from 20 to 0 quickly.