Brad Nelson, Champion Of Wit

Brad Nelson has gone full Pungeon Master! But in between the potshots he’s taking at Nicol Bolas, he has some serious recommendations for Standard after Hour of Devastation is released!

The Hour of Devastation is upon us. Nicol Bolas has descended upon Amonkhet to wreak havoc and control things. Maybe gain power, or something. Eternal life? I don’t know. Whatever it is, a powerful band of planeswalkers have formed an alliance of sorts to stop him. They’re kind of like the Avengers, but don’t just stay in one place to do their protecting. Like, who knows, Innistrad might already be destroyed. They, like, just left Emrakul in the moon. In the actual moon!

They were like, “Yeah whatever, it’s fine.” Who does that? Anyway, now this ragtag group of unbelievably powerful mages are up against the universe’s Multiverse’s most evil villain. Do they have what it takes to stop him? Well, again, since they already did this in past? We may never know, but at least we get new cards to talk about while we find out.

So here we are once again: the second set in a block where something terrible’s been looming. Finally that bad thing shows its face, and we see if the protagonists can defeat it. Expectations run high as we hope that evil thing is impressively broken. It always seems to be hit-or-miss, as we’ve seen Emrakul, the Promised End be so disgusting that it was too much for us to handle. On the flip side, Tezzeret the Schemer was a bigger flop than the last time someone grazed LeBron James. It’s gotta be tough balancing these second set splendors, but one thing has to be true about this next one. Nicol Bolas just has to be straight fire, right?

What? That’s it? Isn’t this that unbelievably powerful planeswalker that almost killed the Gatewatch pre-trademark? I’m going to go back really quickly and make sure I wasn’t confusing him with someone else. I do that sometimes.

Nope, my memory serves me well this time. So you’re telling me that Nicol Bolas went into hiding for all this time and now shows up looking like this? Well, this is about as disappointing as that one time Netflix gave Bob Saget a lot of money to ruin my childhood. What am I supposed to do with this? Okay, so I get to seven mana and cast this card. Then what? I deal seven damage to something so I don’t just die? On top of that, this card can’t even kill Gods!

Look, I’m not asking for full-blown Deicide here, but not allowing the set’s “greatest Dragon in the universe Multiverse” to kill a God feels like a fail. In the stories, the bro rolls up and just kills all the gods at once. With the wave of his claw he unraveled their minds! All this guy knows is how to be a bad mother (shut your mouth!), so why can’t he be that in card form anymore?

This card can’t even sweep the battlefield for four turns, yet he wiped out every adult on Amonkhet as his first order of business on the plane. Even Ugin, the Spirit Dragon can do it right away, yet got embarrassed by Nicol Bolas the last time they fought. It was so bad that we had to send Sarkhan Vol back in time to stop Nicol Bolas from straight-up killing the old-timer.

Flux capacitors aren’t cheap! If you told me I had to choose between a nerfed Nicol Bolas or all of existence being destroyed, I’d choose the latter. I’d always choose the latter.

Look, I know some of you out there (ahem, Patrick Chapin and Shaheen Soorani) are really excited about this card, but it just doesn’t do it for me. It could very well be playable, but it’s not what I’d expect to come out of the strongest creature of all existence. Now, many of you might be upset by this, but I did get permission from my editor before I wrote this.

I’m a man of my word, so here you go, Danny. Hope you enjoy!

Now that I have that out of my system, it’s time to talk about the cards I’m really excited about.

First on the docket is not just a champion of wits, but “the” Champion of Wits. Now this is a Magic card! It might not look like much on the surface, but once you really think about it, this card will “megamorph” into one of the best cards in the set. Get it? That was a joke about how Eternalize is just another lazy design, much like megamorph was. And that was a lazy way to explain a joke!

…here’s the card.

The reason I’m so excited about this card is simply because I believe Elder Deep-Fiend to be the best card in Standard. It was great back in the day but soon got pushed out by all the degeneracy we’ve come to normalize in the past year. Almost like the stack, all of that disgusting stuff got banned, leaving Elder Deep-Fiend as the most devastating thing we can be doing on a macro-level.

Champion of Wits looks like it will become best mates with Elder Deep-Fiend. Broken cards need enablers, and that’s exactly what Champion of the Wits is. Without even hurting my brain muscles, I can just see this card finding a home in U/R Emerge.

Now, Champion of Wits isn’t doing things better than the other options this deck has access to. It’s just giving the deck some more consistency, which has always been one of the deck’s most glaring weaknesses. That might even involve simply discarding Kozilek’s Return to the Champion of Wits ability on turn 3 before sacrificing it to Elder Deep-Fiend on turn 4.

If U/R Emerge isn’t your speed, we can “complexify” things a bit. Champion of Wits can also become an enabler for delirium!

Now Champion of Wits not only lets you discard Kozilek’s Return for Elder Deep-Fiend, it also sets you up quite nicely for Ishkanah, Grafwidow! This could very well become the heart and soul of this strategy. Even in the late-game, this card can Eternalize to refuel for another go! Now we’ve found a deck that wants both halves of this card!

What if you want to use it for delirium, but don’t want to emerge? Well, I wouldn’t be a good master of Standard if I didn’t cover all my bases, would I?

The possibilities are endless for this new enabler. Honestly, I have no idea how I’m going to use Champion of Wits first, but I do know that by the end I’ll have one of the best decks in Standard.

We’re going to switch things up a bit with the next card I’ve fallen in love with from Hour of Devastation. This little removal spell isn’t going to enable decks like Champion of Wits, but it’ll do exactly the opposite. Finally Wizards is printing the answers we’ve been begging for, and Abrade is just that.

One of Mardu Vehicles’s greatest strengths was that we didn’t have access to good removal for Heart of Kiran outside of creature removal. Not activating Heart of Kiran in the face of open mana became the norm for many Mardu Vehicles pilots. Holding up mana became a detriment, as it just slowed down the opposition long enough for a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to come down and punish all that patience.

That time is now over for those who want to play with this removal spell. Not only can this card take out a freshly cast Heart of Kiran, it can also deal with other obnoxious combinations. It kills both Verdurous Gearhulk and Winding Constrictor. It smashes both Servant of the Conduit and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. It even takes out Bygone Bishop and Oketra’s Monument. Artifacts are commonplace in Standard right now, making Abrade the removal spell we’ve needed to even the score between threats and removal.

I predict a significant shift away from relying on artifacts thanks to this card. Of course, some will still see play, but decks will no longer be able to lean on them to close out games as much as they have been. Sadly, though, Magic is a self-correcting game, which means we will see cards like Archangel Avacyn, and Glorybringer still being just as good as we’ve seen them be, since they dodge this removal spell.

For now, that’s about all I know for certain about Hour of Devastation. The full card image gallery isn’t out yet to give us a better idea of what’s going to happen, plus the Aetherworks Marvel ban has thrown current Standard into flux. There are so many unanswered questions right now that we will need time to truly tell what’s going to be good. Until then, we can just Horse around and talk about the most fun card from the set thus far.

I’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about this card all day. I saddled in to write my entire article about this card, but it’s never correct to beat a dead Horse. Instead I thought I would ride into the sunset with this card instead of breaking it in right away.

Crested Sunmare is the Barnslayer Angel we’ve needed for some time. She might cost a lot of mana, but that’s just an excuse the neighsayers will use to say the card’s bad. Now, a 5/5 for five mana might not sound like a good rate, but for a good Horse you have to pay (for) a bit.

The only issue is finding the right conditions to break this card in. Lifegain isn’t a hot commodity right now in Standard making it difficult to break this card in. I’m not sold this card’s ready for market just yet, but in a few months we may see the right conditions to gallop into the victory column.

Look at my Horse. My Horse is amazing.

Okay, I’m done.

Now I have to gallop (not done) towards the #SCGINVI this weekend. I’m pretty sure I’ll be playing the considered “best deck” for each format: Temur Energy in Standard and Grixis Death’s Shadow in Modern. Since I’m playing targeted decks, I need to get back to making sure my lists are perfect and my plans are sound.

Hopefully next week I’ll be back with another article titled “1st,” but that’s only if I stop horsing around with this outro and actually figure things out in time. It would be a nightmare if I didn’t do well this weekend.