Between the fall set and spring set there’s a bit of a lull in Magic, particularly towards the back half of the gap. Standard is new, but the card pool is at its smallest – so it often gets explored and settled pretty quickly. The only major event after the Pro-Tour in October is the World Magic Cup, which you have to be interested in team Magic to really enjoy. A quick aside, I actually miss the old format of having Team Constructed being three separate formats. Personally, I don’t find Team Unified Standard, where the team as a whole can only have 4 of any card spread across three decks, to be really entertaining. All the interesting choices happen off screen, and we’re left watching three handicapped matches.
But I digress. Oath of the Gatewatch released a few weeks back, and over the weekend we got our first look at the new Standard environment – sadly snow storms kept me from traveling to Atlanta Open. With a new Standard environment and a Modern Pro-Tour coming up shortly, I’m looking forward to jumping back on the wagon and having more frequent Hexproof articles again.
Here are some of the Oath of the Gatewatch cards making a splash from the SCG Atlanta Open. Ultimately the tournament was won by an aggressive red deck with only three new Oath of the Gatewatch cards – [mtg_card=Reckless Bushwhacker], but that’s not uncommon for new formats where everyone is trying new things and lists are not quite optimized yet. That didn’t stop a few cards from making a good showing however.
These are all the cards that showed up in the Top 16 as greater than a four-of in a single deck.
[mtg_card=Thought-Knot Seer] 18
Magic players love comparing new cards to older cards, and [mtg_card=Thought-Knot Seer] draws a lot of similarities with the cross format all-star [mtg_card=Vendilion Clique]. On the surface this kind of effect doesn’t seem like much, when it’s all said and done they are not actually down a card, but the power of disruption can’t be overlooked. Games of Magic are often about crafting a plan with the cards in your hand, so stripping out a key piece at the right time can be disastrous. [mtg_card=Thought-Knot Seer] had a strong presence in many of the ramp-style decks as something they could deploy in the mid-game to either slow the game down or clear the way for their bigger threats.
[mtg_card= Reflector Mage] 17
Initially, [mtg_card= Stormchaser Mage] was hogging the spotlight as the brand-new darling uncommon in a UR prowess deck, which was also using [mtg_card= Slip Through Space] and [mtg_card= Expedite] from the new set. As the day went on though [mtg_card= Reflector Mage] continually showed how annoying and backbreaking it could be. One of the reasons it was so popular was that it saw the most play out of the [mtg_card=Rally the Ancestors] decks, which struggle with [mtg_card=Anafenza, the Foremost] and the new [mtg_card= Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet] messing with their graveyard. [mtg_card= Reflector Mage] gives you some maindeck reprieve against them without watering the deck down with removal.
[mtg_card= Matter Reshaper] 10
Frankly, there’s not a lot to in-depth analysis on why [mtg_card= Matter Reshaper] was seeing play. It’s just a nice little 2-for-1 value, giving a decent body for the cost along with replacing itself when it dies. This can be especially potent when in a deck naturally crafted around its ability like [mtg_card=Collected Company]. Chances are high you’re just putting a free creature or land into play, and worst case you’re adding a removal spell or even better a [mtg_card=Collected Company] into your hand.
[mtg_card= Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet] 9
As mentioned above, a few players figured out that [mtg_card= Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet] offers a similar level of disruption to the popular [mtg_card=Rally the Ancestors] decks, which won the last GP, as [mtg_card=Anafenza, the Foremost]. Having a decently sized creature with lifelink is desirable in a format with a pretty popular aggressive GR deck, making it a nice flexible card against some of the more popular decks. Of all the cards [mtg_card= Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet] saw the most distributed play, with a whole bunch of decks running 1-2 copies spread out between mainboard and sideboard.
[mtg_card= Kozilek’s Return] 8[mtg_card= Kozilek’s Return] was perhaps the most talked about mythic coming out of spoiler season. [mtg_card=Pyroclasm] has always been a popular and powerful card, so adding one mana for instant speed and free five damage board wipe when you cast your big Eldrazi is exciting to say the least. [mtg_card= Kozilek’s Return] didn’t have quite the penetration to live up to its hype, but more of the initial talk was directed at Modern. With the Pro-Tour looming on the horizon we’ll see how it fairs in decks like GR Tron.
[mtg_card=Sylvan Advocate] 8
A few decks stumbled on [mtg_card=Sylvan Advocate] as a cheap early creature to put you on the board against the aggressive decks that also wasn’t a miserable draw in the late game as a 4/5 vigilance. As an added and sometimes overlooked bonus, it provides a nice boost to any manlands or awakened lands you might have as well. Note that multiple [mtg_card=Sylvan Advocate] will buff your lands accordingly, but not each other. Unless explicitly stated to be every card named that, when a card refers to itself by name it only applies to that one.
[mtg_card=Oath of Nissa] 8
OMG Guys! Green [mtg_card=Ponder]!?!
Our first week with [mtg_card=Oath of Nissa] makes it look more like another card that hasn’t quite lived up to its initial hype. Only one of the Eldrazi ramp decks in the Top 16 was using it – despite it looking like they would be interested in the filtering, though it did look more at home in the Top 8 Abzan Blue list. It allowed the deck to shave the numbers on several cards, help the splash into Blue, and it could even fix the four color mana base into double white for [mtg_card=Gideon, Ally of Zendikar].
[mtg_card=Crumbling Vestige] 7
Similar to the painlands, [mtg_card=Crumbling Vestige] was an almost free way for many decks to splash into colorless mana. It saw inclusion in decks trying to cast [mtg_card= Reaver Drone] all the way up to ramp decks wanting a few more coloress sources for [mtg_card=Kozilek, the Great Distortion].
[mtg_card=Spatial Contortion] 7
Colorless non-tribal [mtg_card=Nameless Inversion]. Most of the time it’s just a removal spell, but every now and then you might push lethal with a four toughness creature.
[mtg_card=Grasp of Darkness] 7
It’s no [mtg_card=Bile Blight], but the extra -1/-1 is pretty crucial. You still can’t cleanly answer [mtg_card=Siege Rhino], or larger, without another card or a block, but there are a lot of 4/4s that enjoy dodging all the removal locked in at three. [mtg_card=Anafenza, the Foremost], [mtg_card= Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet], and [mtg_card=Thought-Knot Seer] just to name a few. The double black is a serious investment in a Standard format that’s promoted a lot of three and four color decks, but it’s a nice payoff.
[mtg_card=Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim] 6
I honestly don’t recall seeing [mtg_card=Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim] ever get activated over the weekend, but just like [mtg_card=Sylvan Advocate] it is a flexible card that can come down early and has some late game potential with its deathtouch and other abilities. Worst case you’re probably just using it to get a little value out of your opponent pointing removal spells at your creatures, and every now and then you get to start turning all your creatures into [mtg_card=Utter End]s.
[mtg_card=Wandering Fumarole] 5
While the Battle for Zendikar manlands don’t quite stand toe-to-toe with their older Zendikar cousins, that doesn’t stop them from still being valuable resources in deck construction. Manlands are sort of the Swiss Army knife of Magic card for smoothing out many decks since they operate as both a creature and a land. It’s a threat that survives board wipes, helps alleviate mana flood situations, or gives you an advantage when playing match-ups centered on trading resources.
[mtg_card=World Breaker] 5[mtg_card=World Breaker] had a solid, if not exciting showing. At seven mana it’s still pretty expensive, and doesn’t have quite the initial impact as the other Eldrazi. It’s been more important for simply giving the ramp decks additional threats to play around [mtg_card=Infinite Obliteration].
Statistically I’m sure out of the hundreds of folks in attendance sometime at the event probably tried it, but no [mtg_card=Walker of the Wastes] 9/9 tramplers for five deck made it into the Top 16. For most decks there are simply better options to get colorless mana. I could actually see these all but fall off for painlands, [mtg_card=Crumbling Vestige]s, and such.
Yes, my title might have been a set-up for an Oath of GooglyWatch gallery…