The preview season for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has been a whirlwind. In fact, by this time next week, we’ll already be able to play with the set on Arena! If you’re still catching up on previews and wondering which cards you should spend your wildcards on, look no further. Today, we’ll be taking a look at some of the cards that could make a big impact in Standard.
Every set seems to provide some new tool for mono-green beatdown decks, and Pack Leader is filling that spot this go-round. This creature is a nice play on curve with a reasonable payoff and mana sink. Green stompy decks often run out of cards to play after the first couple turns, so it’s good to have a way to use your extra mana to get a nice little boost in stats. But the “pack tactics” ability is where the real juice comes from. Cards like Garruk, Unleashed and Primal Might are already very appealing cards for a curve-out aggro deck, and they’ll help ensure you have a six-power Pack Leader if you don’t have other creatures to attack with. The green decks’ two-drop slot may have been lackluster for a while, but we might have found the missing piece.
So, you see a guard approaching. Do you hide from them, or knock them out and run? This card brings the flavor and versatility of D&D problem-solving to the game of Magic.
In practice, this card is a cheap way to protect your creatures from your opponents’ answers; blue creature-based decks will often want a card like this. But while I expect to choose the hexproof mode most of the time, the “tap target creature” mode is also quite good. There will be plenty of times when you might need to tap down an annoying Dragon or pesky lifelinker that’s getting in your way for a lethal attack. This spell offers a great choice between a classic protection spell and a useful ability in combat, so it’s rarely dead in a match-up.
Fly is another great card for blue creature decks in the vein of Curiosity and Curious Obsession. In Mono-Blue Tempo decks, those cards allowed you to get value out of your creatures for a minimal mana investment, so you could keep holding up interaction or protection spells. But Fly does a bit of a different trick. While it doesn’t provide a power boost or cards from your deck, it does give you access to a dungeon card, which you can always plan for. For example, the Lost Mine dungeon does a decent Curious Obsession impression by providing some card advantage and a little power over a couple turns.
But most importantly, as its name suggests, this card provides flying to the creature — which, in many situations, means your creature is unblockable. Mono-Blue decks used to need early creatures that already had flying or unblockable; now that we can give any creature flying, we have more choices for early drops in our decks. We can use creatures like Frost Augur, which provide advantage on their own, or Ascendant Spirit, which normally takes a little while to get going. If you’ve played Mono-Blue in the past, this is a great card to start building a new shell around.
This is one of the most exciting cards we’ve seen in a while, but it requires a specific build to work. So, what exactly should we do with Volo?
The first creature that comes to mind is Goldspan Dragon. Goldspan is an on-curve play with a fairly unique creature type, and all the mana it provides can fuel your follow-up plays. The treasure it provides also gives you the flexibility to stretch your mana a bit.
There are also a number of good white cards that work well with Volo. Skyclave Apparition has a fringe creature type and a high-impact ETB effect, so it will most likely catch you up after you took a turn off to play Volo. Selfless Savior and Alseid of Life’s Bounty also have potential here — Dog and Nymph are rare creature types, and they’ll make it even harder for your opponents to answer Volo.
While it may not be as exciting as Volo, this card hasn’t received nearly enough attention. Power Word Kill won’t kill a Goldspan Dragon, but it’s great at preventing go-wide creature decks from getting traction on the board. It’s an efficient kill spell, and it’ll be a card to watch if more players start building Volo decks around creatures with obscure types. Keep an eye on this card when Heartless Act and Eliminate rotate out of Standard this fall, too.
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.