10 Cards I Can’t Wait To Blow Up With Assassin’s Trophy

Bryan’s brain is spinning right now. He is addicted to the bombshell preview everyone is obsessed with! So where will its effects be felt most? Here we go…

Now this is how you kick off a preview season.

A card that is going to have dramatic implications across every conceivable
format, Assassin’s Trophy is the most exciting removal spell printed in
years. There were about ten minutes after this card had been revealed that
my brain spent insidiously insisting that the card had the words “nonland
permanent” somewhere in its text box. Even under this completely fictitious
limitation, I was still convinced this card was solid.


Assassin’s Trophy’s ability to deal with problematic lands is what assures
this card is going to enter the pantheon of all-time great removal spells
alongside Fatal Push, Swords to Plowshares, Abrupt Decay, and of course,
the obviously comparable Path to Exile.

My fellow author, Jadine Klomparens, covers the strategic implications of
the “search their library for an (untapped) basic land card” clause in
depth today, but I still feel compelled to say a word on comparisons to
Path to Exile.

There’s no question that relying on Path to Exile as your method of removal
can occasionally be punished. If you’re removing one and two mana creatures
in the early game, you’re accelerating your opponent’s mana growth at
precisely the wrong time. A Rampant Growth on turn 1 or 2 can be a
backbreaking play. On turn 5, Rampant Growth is often irrelevant.
Therefore, it’s important to understand that Assassin’s Trophy’s ability to
destroy an early permanent should be viewed as an emergency safety measure.
Think about the removal spells you’ll replace with Assassin’s Trophy
carefully. It’s not meant to be a replacement for your Fatal Pushes. It’s
your new flex slot all-star. Assassin’s Trophy is here to deal with sticky
permanents like planeswalkers and lands, not to obliterate your opponent’s
Llanowar Elves.

I plan on targeting a lot of permanents with Assassin’s Trophies in the
coming months, but there are some cards that really have it coming-the
types of cards that have held down base Golgari decks for far too long.
This article is here to put the following cards on notice.

10. Back to Basics

The greedy manabase punisher du jour in Legacy, I chose Back to Basics as
my first entrant on this list to illustrate a very important point.
Assassin’s Trophy’s true strength will always be its versatility. Sultai
decks (and Jund decks, when they exist again) have completely reasonable
options to answer Back to Basics at instant speed, Abrupt Decay chief among
them. However, with the decline in Counterbalances, there’s less incentive
to play a tool as narrow as Abrupt Decay.

Fair decks in Legacy need to be able to answer every conceivable type of
threat that can be thrown at them (like Miracles) or need to be able to
close the game relatively quickly once they’ve established control (like
Grixis Control). A deck like Sultai currently struggles at accomplishing
both tasks.

Now, this style of deck can simultaneously shore up its weakness to weird
Legacy “I win” cards such as Back to Basics and Ensnaring Bridge, while
still maintaining outs against virtually anything else that can be thrown
their way. This versatility is indispensable for any Legacy deck attempting
to play the long game.

9. Gurmag Angler

Gurmag Angler – and to a lesser extent, their friends Hollow One and Street
Wraith – has made its living off its falsely inflated mana cost. Too
expensive to be Fatal Pushed or Abrupt Decayed, too large to be Lightning
Bolted, the presence of Angler in Modern and Legacy has forced the
inclusion of loads of one-of Dreadbores and Terminates, all of which have
never been in our hand when we needed them. Thankfully, those days are
over. No longer must we look at our converted mana cost-based removal and
wither in the face of these threats. While Assassin’s Trophy would much
rather take out a nice juicy lategame target, the option to not just scoop
to a 5/5 is very much appreciated.

8. Jace, the Mind Sculptor

I again want to emphasize that I’m not blind to Assassin’s Trophy’s
dangerous downside. Giving my opponent an extra untapped land isn’t
something I intend to do without careful consideration. However, there are
some targets that require no real debate, and it’s these spots where
Assassin’s Trophy will truly shine.

Is it better to give your opponent an additional Jace, the Mind Sculptor
activation or another basic land? I know which option I will choose 99
times out of 100. Jace may have gotten off to a slow start in Modern, but
there’s no question that he’s now hitting his stride. Jace also took down
the last Legacy Grand Prix. For Golgari decks to reclaim metagame share in
either format, they must present a clean answer to this card. Sorcery speed
answers are simply not effective once the lategame has been reached, and no
deck wants to rely on Liliana ultimates as their primary means of keeping
Jace, the Mind Sculptor in check.

7. Wasteland

I’ve heard it said that no Legacy deck benefitted more from the printing of
Assassin’s Trophy than Golgari Depths, and I’m inclined to agree. A deck
already sitting on the precipice of greatness, Golgari Depths is adept at
dealing with countermeasures contained in an opponent’s hand, but things
get stickier as those cards enter the battlefield. There are only so many
Pithing Needles to go around, and let’s be honest, no one has ever been
thrilled to play Pithing Needle.

Being able to pick off a Wasteland at instant speed gives the deck a new
wrinkle that should force opponents into an even more defensive posture.
Bolstered by a card that will function as a high-quality defensive and
offensive tool, I think Golgari Depths can now successfully implement a
two-pronged attack.

If I had a week one post-Guilds of Ravnica Legacy tournament to
play, I would happily register this deck.

6. Conclave Tribunal

We’ve now reached the Standard portion of our list, and in general, the
cost of providing your opponent with an untapped basic is much higher in
Standard than it is in Eternal formats. Games are often dictated by who can
stick a five or six-drop first, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Assassin’s
Trophy is played in more limited numbers in Standard than it is in Modern
or Legacy.

Despite this trepidation, there are some high-profile targets available,
and one is this scarily efficient removal spell that I anticipate seeing a
lot of play post-Guilds of Ravnica release. In general, instant
speed ways to unlock your threats from your opponent’s enchantment-based
removal only see widespread play in sideboard games. The versatility of
Assassin’s Trophy liberates us though, and opponents will never feel secure
that our threats won’t re-enter the battlefield at the most impactful
possible time.

5. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

There’s no planeswalker in Standard that better exemplifies “must-kill”
than Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. And not only does this card need to leave
the battlefield for you to have any realistic chance at winning a prolonged
game, it needs to leave quickly, before your opponent gets to untap some
mana and deal with whatever spell you were preying could free you from a
Teferi-centric nightmare.

This was one of the cards I was really concerned about going into the Guilds of Ravnica Standard. Teferi tends to encourage a very
specific way of playing games. You must either generate battlefield
presence, answer the sweeper, and kill Teferi, or have access to Vraska’s
Contempt and hope you get a window to cast it. Otherwise, you lose.
Assassin’s Trophy turns this paradigm on its head and will encourage a more
diverse and interesting metagame.

4. Search for Azcanta

Basically, see everything I said about Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and slap
it on a much more difficult to deal with card type. This card was primed to
absolutely terrorize Standard for the next year or so. Now we have access
to a card that can deal with both transformed and non-transfomed modes, and
we don’t have to feel quite as bad about giving our opponent that untapped
mana, since we’re targeting a land (or soon to be land).

In the absence of Assassin’s Trophy, I would have doubted the viability of
three-color decks that weren’t playing their own Search for Azcantas.
Trying to play anything but an aggressive plan without access to Field of
Ruin was going to be an exercise in frustration.

In current Standard, it is telling that Azorius Control can find a
respectable matchup against Rakdos Midrange despite being comprised of a
couple Search for Azcantas, 4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and 69 of the most
forgettable cards to ever hop into a set of sleeves. Rakdos Midrange lacks
ways to interact with Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin outside of Sorcerous
Spyglass, which the Azorius Control deck is all too ready to remove.

Thankfully, this isn’t the world we find ourselves venturing into. Powerful
answers are back in vogue, and I’m willing to bet a midrange deck packing
Assassin’s Trophy will be able to keep pace with the best Search for
Azcanta decks.

3. Urza’s Power Plant

2. Urza’s Mine

1. Urza’s Tower

Look, Karn, we’ve had some crazy times together. Remember that time I cast
you on turn 3 and my opponent just conceded on the spot? Or that other time
I cast you on turn 3 and my opponent conceded on the spot? Or how about
that time where I cast you on turn 3 and my opponent didn’t concede and
just sat there with no permanents on the battlefield. Fun stuff.

The truth is though, I don’t think I like who I am when I’m with you. I’m
cackling at the people complaining they didn’t get to play Magic. I’m
obsessively counting to seven. I’m just disregarding people who try to
suggest that Blood Moon can slow me down.

Beyond that, it’s always felt like you’ve robbed me of any autonomy in our
relationship. Like you were the one making all the decisions. I’m better
than that, Karn. I can play a game where I do more than get you your
precious Urza’s lands. I can extend the game out twenty turns and trust
myself to make the proper decisions on all of them. With Assassin’s Trophy,
I can finally allow myself to play fair in Modern again, and I won’t have
to have you sitting across the table from me, reminding me how foolish I am
for abandoning you.

Sometimes, the planeswalker that’s right for us in the moment isn’t the
planeswalker that’s right for us for the rest of our lives. That’s you,
Karn. You’re not right for me. So get out of my life, and take your stupid
Urza’s lands with you. But you can leave that pretty Antiquities
Urza’s Tower. I’m keeping that as a trophy.

Don’t go.