Old Cards New Faces

Spoiler season, or as I like to call it: Nerd Christmas, is upon us again and we are awash with Dinosaurs, Pirates and Vampires (oh my!). Many people’s favourite thing about this part of year is speculation, talking about and trying new cards and making predictions about what the next big thing will be. One of the main ways we analyze new cards is by comparing them to old ones and how those old ones played out for us. When cards are slightly similar to old constructed playable cards they will pop out of the spoiler at us, but when they are strict upgrades to old favorites alarm bells start going off like crazy. Today we are going to look at a couple of Ixalan cards that might be upgrades to old favorites.

Looks like the Butcher finally got a face. Faceless saw some play back in its first printing in Torment in decks like monoblack control. It didn’t fair as well in its second printing in Time Spiral as the power level of cards had moved beyond it. Hostage Taker has also moved beyond its mono black brother. Firstly being able to take artifacts is huge, we are just off an artifact themed set and vehicles have proven time and again to be constructed playable. Secondly its ability to play the card sures up a huge down side of these style of cards. The ability for your opponent to deal with this card at their own pace and then get their commitment to the board back is where these cards fall short, but now the turn after you play Hostage Taker your opponent has to choose whether they need to kill it or let you also get card advantage out of the situation. Not to mention its application late game of being able just to eat a creature and play it straight away. Hostage Taker not only brings the tempo swings of our old faceless pal but brings awkward play patterns from opponents and the possibility of card advantage.

Mesmeric Fiend saw a considerable amount more play then our last example. Another Torment print fiend was played in the original rock deck, not only a great disruptive 2 drop but combo with sacrifice outlets, it’s “leave play” and “come into play” triggers being separate meant you could stack them in advantageous ways. Now Freebooter isn’t just a strict upgrade like Hostage Taker is, not being able to take creatures hurts its flexibility. While the typical black deck probably wants to take non-creature spells the majority of the time, you will sometimes lose because you can’t take a Timely Glorybringer or Walking Balista. The points it drops in this department are made up for by its 1 extra toughness and its evasion. Being able to chip away where creatures like Brain Maggot and Mesmeric Fiend were left doing nothing is not to be underestimated. Also, being able to block creatures like Bomat Courier in the early game is a plus too.

Well, some cards are just straight up reprints. We can compare them to other older cards too but mostly we will just look back and see how they have played out before.  Opt is a truly beautiful card from Invasion. It was a format staple at the start but fell out of favour because the amount of excellent blue card drawing spells there were (Deep Analyses, Fact or Fiction, Accumulate Knowledge and more). We should also take into consideration that cantrips have become more favored in modern magic. One of the highest profile finishes for the card was in the nether-go deck piloted by Antoine Ruel to a top 8 finish in Worlds 2001. Times they are a changing and we aren’t spoiled with that many broken blue spells anymore. Ponder and Preordain have showed us how powerful these simple cantrips can be and while this card is a tier below those multi format all-stars the flexibility of it being instant is important. Spell Pierce on the other hand stayed relevant for most of its tenure in standard. We originally saw the card in Zendikar and it played an integral part in one of the most broken standard decks of all time: Caw Blade. The card is savagely mana efficient and acts as a 1 mana negate in the right shell. The cards we have looked up so far fall pretty well into the same decklist, some kind of UB pirate based tempo deck. That’s not what we are going to look at today though. Alot of different people are going write about lists like that so this week we will break down something a little different with another new/old friend from Ixalan.

Quirion Dryad was the center of the Miracle Grow deck. A tempo/control deck designed to make dryad as big as possible and protect it. Big difference for the new guy is that it only triggers off of non-creatures, the original Miracle Grow deck was able to play other creatures like Meddling Mage to back up and protect the powerful win condition. This isn’t all downside because Deeproot triggering off green cards like Attune with AEther could be useful. The second Deeproot Champion was spoiled I started trying to put a deck together for it. Unfortunately much like the second time Quirion Dryad was printed there was no cheap cantrips or protection. That was until the next day when the 1 mana blue instants we looked at above were previewed. This set of cards go hand in hand and I think fit perfectly into the old Temur Tower build.

Lands 21
4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
4 Spirebluff Canal
5 Forest
2 Island
1 Mountain
1 Sheltered Thicket
Creatures 7
4 Deeproot Champion
3 Torrentail Gearhulk
Spells 32
3 Dynavolt Tower
4 Attune with Aether
4 Opt
3 Spell Pierce
4 Censor
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
3 Disallow
1 Hour of Devesation
2 Magma Spray

Sideboard 15
1 Hour of Devesation
2 Sweltering Sun
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Carnage Tyrant
2 Abrade
1 Confiscation Coup
1 Negate
2 Whiler Virtuoso
2 Sheilded Aether Thief

While the original versions of this deck prospered at the start of the format they ended up not being able to hold its own against decks like Saheeli combo and the superior energy decks like Aetherworks Marvel. After these decks got banned out, a hostile format including 2 top tier aggro decks and the majority of red decks packing Abrades stopped Temur Tower making a comeback. Abrade killing both your win conditions really made it unappealing to play this energy shell over normal Temur midrange lists. Now with Deeproot Champion giving you a cheap non-artifact win condition the game may have changed. Deeproot and Tower demand the same things from the deck: plenty of cheap interactive spells. Spell Pierce is a perfect fit here, like in the Caw Blade days it is super cheap protection spell to protect your already cheap win conditions. Opt again is a cheap trigger for both win conditions and just helps the overall consistency of the deck which only plays 25 mana sources.  

The whole spoiler is just out and there will be plenty more time to brew but this is an early front runner for Irish nationals for me. It’s hard for me to say no to such mana efficient threats and spells. On the other hand, we are always looking to replicate past success. Much like we analyze new cards by comparing them to old ones we make new decks from the blueprints of past ones. This won’t always work and the power creep could have moved past these old “protect the queen” strategies. Either way I’m very excited to give this one a try!

Thanks for reading and if you want to chat to me about the article you can catch me on my Twitch stream of follow me on Twitter.



David Murphy
By Dave Murphy
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