An Apocalypse Overview: Opinions on Standard, Draft, and Sleeper Cards

Apocalypse is taking conventional thinking and turning it 180 degrees, in directions the game hasn’t ever gone.

Well, this was going to be my Apocalypse prerelease report; however, since our lone Level III judge for the entire state of Oregon has retired — some crap about”wanting to spend more time with family” — this means that there’s no one available to run the prerelease for Oregon, so the nearest prerelease was up in Seattle. And I’m not quite willing to drive all that way for a pretty foil card.

So, we’ll just have to make do with my overview of the spoiler list and my general musings.

Now historically, the third expansion in a block has tended to contain the real game-breaking cards that end up dominating Standard and Block formats for their brief time in the sun — cards like Oath of Druids, Opposition, Masticore, Opalescence, Chimeric Idol, and Replenish. I imagine that’s because that while the first expansion in a block is in Standard for two years, the third’s halcyon time is a mere sixteen months.

Apocalypse is no exception. But it’s not just full of powerful cards. It’s taking conventional thinking and turning it 180 degrees, in directions the game hasn’t ever gone. Well, yes, there have been a smattering of cross-color gold cards in a couple of expansions past, but those were practically throwaways, R&D’s sort-of”lesbian fling in college,” although we will always have Cadaverous Bloom to blame for introducing players to combo. But never before has an entire expansion been dedicated to utilizing cross-colors.


For the last two expansions, we’ve been pushed in the direction of two- and three-color decks running allied colors, red-green, blue-white, red-black-blue, etc. Now, Apocalypse throws all that thinking out the window. It’s going to be utter chaos out there when Apocalypse is Standard-legal. To steal a line from a favorite film of mine, it’ll be”riots in the streets, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!” Nice to know that for a game that is coming up on ten years of age and over 3,000 original cards, R&D is still capable of surprising us.

Draft-wise, it’s going to throw the proverbial spanner in the works (I’d say it would be”apocalyptic,” but I’m sure someone would smack me for such an obvious pun). I don’t know if it’s going to mean more of an emphasis on going towards the”5cG” strategy, using the plentiful mana fixers like Harrow and Lay of the Land to be able to play cards like the Volvers, or more of the three-color methodology, but the third color being an opposite instead of an allied color — for example, black/blue with a splash of green.

What’s going to happen when you’re drafting a nice little R/B deck and your first pick in Apocalypse is a Vindicate or Pernicious Deed? Are you going to splash the opposite color for a goodie like this? Probably. Nay, absolutely! Given that the bulk of the power cards in the set are opposite-color gold cards, you’re going to have to break out of the old mindsets or accept the fact that you’ll be drafting your deck out of Invasion and Planeshift and”taking the zero” on Apocalypse.

Now, sure, everyone’s going ga-ga over the obvious power cards in the set, like Pernicious Deed, Spiritmonger (R&D must like them black-green decks), and the cross-color pain lands — but while everyone’s bidding those cards up on eBay, they may be missing some of the not-quite-so-sexy cards in the format that turn out to be the real definers of the expansion. After all, Doomsday Specter got all the good press out of Planeshift, but how often have you seen that in a deck lately?

Gerrard’s Verdict: Remember Hymn to Tourach? Remember how broken that was? This isn’t too far off from that kind of power.”Replacements” for Hymn, like Stupor, are also quite powerful, but you can’t beat getting two cards for two mana. And the lifegain part of the equation punishes those who chose to discard hoarded lands. With the numerous cards with discard effects currently available in Standard — Duress, Ravenous Rats, Abyssal Specter — as well as being in the same two colors as the uber-removal spell Vindicate, there’s got to be a good B/W discard deck in the works somewhere (which you’ll probably see from yours truly in the next week or two…)

Unnatural Selection: Man alive, does anyone else see a combo with this card and Engineered Plague or Tsabo’s Decree? Or at least with Shoreline Raider in Sealed?

Wild Research: Speaking of Unnatural Selection, what we have here is the love child of Gamble and Enlightened/Mystical Tutor. Anything that lets you hunt out specific cards from your library — and in enchantment form, no less — has the potential to be extremely broken, discard effect or no discard effect. However, this card really, really needed to be in Planeshift as a blue-white card. The three-color requirement probably makes this unplayable.

Probably. I could be wrong. (No, but it’s a must-have for 5-Color – The Ferrett)

Powerstone Minefield: Caltrops on steroids. Y’know, I used to love playing R/W Millstone decks back in the day, with the burn replacing the countermagic. This card might make those kinds of decks viable again.

Guided Passage: Again, I suspect the odd mana cost of this card will make it less than playable, but any card that lets you pull three cards out of your library and into your hand for the price of one has the potential to be very, very broken. Now, if there was only a good blue-red-green deck out there to put this card in…

Yavimaya’s Embrace: I mention this only because this is the only Control Magic-type spell in the Invasion block format. Unlike other spells of its ilk, like Dominate, Bribery and Treachery, this one is totally unplayable. Eight mana, puh-leeze.

Suffocating Blast and Prophetic Bolt: I used to love Counter-Hammer and Counter-Burn decks. These two spells could revive the Counter-Burn archetype. Suffocating Blast is probably going to see a lot of play, even with a four casting cost, as it’s a two-for-one spell. The Impulse + Lightning Bolt effects of Prophetic Bolt make it too damn good not to be put into some deck.

Quicksilver Dagger: Hermetic Study was good enough to see play in some decks, mostly those built around the untapping Horseshoe Crab. Otherwise, the”Tap: Deal one damage to target creature of player” ability make you wish you just had a Tim in the first place. However, you add the”draw a card” ability, and all of the sudden you have a very good card, even if you can’t kill critters with it. Remember, anything that lets you draw cards has the potential to be broken. While not really Standard-worthy, this card would make me want to find a way to go red-blue.

I am really looking forward to Apocalypse and how it’s going to disrupt the Standard environment like no other expansion.

If only my brain would stop hurting.

Dave Meddish

[email protected]