Innovations – Two-Headed Morningtide Standard Set Review, Part 2

The Star City $5,000 Standard Open comes to Charlotte, NC!
On Friday, Mike brought us his take on Morningtide for Standard play. Today it’s the turn of Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin. Patrick runs through some of the more interesting cards in the set, and tells us where he agrees – and, more importantly, disagrees – with Mike’s assessment.

My partner in crime Michael J Flores called me up to discuss the two-headed set review that has been assigned to us. As it is unrealistic to write a review of all 150 cards, even over the course of two articles (that would leave us 25 words per card or so), Michael suggested a format where we each pick 5 cards from Morningtide and then we each pick one more from each color (plus one artifact and one land).

Little did I realize I was supposed to be picking my picks for the best cards in the set. I was just picking some cards that I thought were interesting. Luckily, the cards I picked were probably better than Flores’s selection anyway. Let the record show, though, that neither of us even picked the best card in the set…

I guess that would make this Mike’s Top 5 cards in Morningtide for Standard (as well as one more from each color) plus twelve cards that I just wanted to talk about. There is obviously some overlap, as Flores can’t be wrong about everything all the time. To read Mike’s’ thoughts on these cards, you can go here.

Mike’s Top 5 Cards in Morningtide (He actually thinks these five are the best?!)

1. Countryside Crusher
2. Taurean Mauler
3. Titan’s Revenge
4. Oona’s Blackguard
5. Noggin Whack

My Top 5 Cards in Morningtide (that I wanted to talk about… still, they’re all pretty good)

1. Oona’s Blackguard
2. Chameleon Colossus
3. Noggin Whack
4. Mutavault
5. Bitterblossom

As for the rest:

White: Ballyrush Banneret
Blue: Negate
Black: Scarblade Elite
Red: Shard Volley
Green: Chameleon Colossus
Artifact: Thornbite Staff
Land: Murmuring Bosk

White: Stonehewer Giant
Blue: Everminder
Black: Earwig Squad
Red: Titan’s Revenge
Green: Wolf-Skull Shaman
Artifact: Obsidian Battle-Axe
Land: Murmuring Bosk

Remember, this review is from the perspective of one considering the merits in Standard. As good as Hostile Realm is in Vintage, it won’t have a place in Standard, so it doesn’t make the cut.

Let’s get to the cards!

Countryside Crusher

Like Mike said, no big surprise here. This is one of the early chase rares, as it is so obviously above the curve in power level. The thing is, I do not think it is as good as many people think. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I lost to it in Sealed Deck twice during a release event, but that is hardly a sign that it is broken in Constructed. I have yet to be impressed by the “second-coming of Tarmogoyf.”

Let me go on record as saying this is not the next Tarmogoyf. It is not even the best creature in the set. This guy is gonna bend the universe around him? What is this, some kind of sick joke? Are you telling people that this will be the guy to get people to use Shriekmaw or Eyeblight’s Ending or Oblivion Ring? Tarmogoyf. Gaddock Teeg. Those are the types of creatures that bend the universe. And those are the reasons people already play with removal that kills the Crusher.

I think this guy is incredibly overrated, even in Extended, where he can be powered by a freaking Life from the Loam. Build a Crusher Loam deck that beats Counterbalance. I dare you. Will he contribute to some winning strategies? Sure, but not like the hype promises.

But this is a Standard review, and in Standard he is even less game-breaking. The Countryside Crusher is a role-player who has a spot on the team, but is not going to be like Teferi, Damnation, Bridge from Below, or Profane Command and help define the format. On paper, his stats are unreal, no question. He’s simply a big dumb dork that costs 1RR. Right now, I guess I could see him as topping out a R/G aggro strategy, but I am not thrilled.

Countryside Crusher is a fantastic card with a lot of potential, but I will go on record as not buying into the hype.

Taurean Mauler

See what I mean? MichaelJ, I will give you Countryside Crusher, but Taurean Mauler is your pick for Number 2 in the set? This is what happens when a Forgotten Ancient and a Grey Ogre reproduce. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this guy is cute, but what exactly are we doing with him besides making another big dumb dork that dies to Shriekmaw?

On power level, the Mauler is above the curve enough that he could easily see play. All you have to do is put him out there on turn 2. That said, I think the format is already going to be very hostile to creatures that fail the Shriekmaw test.

I can appreciate that he powers up your Tribal lands and gets random pumps, but I want to do something broken. Making a Grey Ogre that threatens to get large eventually does not impress me.

I will be trying to use this guy, though, especially as a Changeling. Between the Mauler and the Colossus, there is now a much larger supply of quality Goats (and Dwarves and Treefolk and Elves and…). I would love it if the format were such that Countryside Crusher and Taurean Mauler are actually great. I really like creature-based formats, and I love the idea of cool creatures with no defensive abilities thriving in a format with such good removal. Still, I am skeptical.

Forgotten Ancient was so sick at 1GG. As one of the members of Wizards R&D during this era, I do remember how good it was. That said, there are two primary differences. One, Forgotten Ancient powered up your Birds of Paradise and allowed for the “Big Bird Plan,” and two, back then, we didn’t have nice things like Shriekmaw

Titan’s Revenge

Demonfire was one of the best cards in Standard for a time, and anything that reminds me of Demonfire is worth a second look. Head to head there is no question… paying an extra mana for “Clashback” is certainly not the same as getting the Hellbent option for free. Still, Counterspells are not heavily played, so perhaps the Hellbent option is not as necessary.

The nice thing about Titan’s Revenge is that it promises the possibility of card advantage from an effect that you would want anyway. Revenging blind is likely to successfully clashback 30-45% of the time, and for one extra Red in the casting cost I think it is conceivable that several strategies would be willing to roll the dice.

While it theoretically costs a lot of mana, I think it should be noted that Titan’s Revenge works favorably with Scrying Sheets. If you take a look and your top card is a land, it will go into your hand. If it is a spell, it a perfect time to clash with Titan’s Revenge.

I agree with MichaelJ in his assessment of Titan’s Revenge in Snow. I also do not think it will see a large amount of play outside this sort of strategy. Those decks make big mana anyway and are inclined to play big cards like this. They will also win clashes.

I do think that anyone playing a Red strategy capable of generating a lot of mana would do well to consider Titan’s Revenge. After all, just envision a bad draw where you are flooded and getting beat down. Two turns before death you Titan’s Revenge your opponent for half their life total. You randomly win the clash, and now you are threatening to do it again next turn… I beat many a mage with the random double-Demonfire. Titan’s Revenge has the ability to double-Demonfire on its own.

One final point: clashing is potentially a net positive, especially if your deck is a deck with more mana and more power cards. The ability to dig to a situationally powerful or expensive spell is usually worth more than the cost of letting an aggro deck filter its Mons’s Goblin Raiders away so that it can draw an Ironclaw Orc.

Oona’s Blackguard

Rogues will be one of the most popular new strategies to arise from Morningtide, as talked about here. Oona’s Blackguard is probably the premier reason to play Rogues. Prowling is good, sure, but this guy is a Lord of Atlantis I can get behind. Islandwalk? How about all my guys are Specters!

There is really not a lot more to say about this guy. If you want to play Rogues, he is one of the pillars of the archetype. If you don’t, then you won’t be using him. This guy is one of the best cards in the set, but the joke isn’t funny to me anymore. I get it, your team is made up of Specters. Ha. Ha.

Noggin Whack

This card is great. It is the best prowl card and one of the other reasons to play a Rogue deck. The beautiful thing is that it’s still solid on four mana.

This is almost like an inverted Deep Analysis (if you are continuing the model of viewing Rogues like Madness). It is a key source of card advantage to help make the most of “getting undercosted effects” in exchange for Prowling. The key difference is that it is also disruptive, making it almost a Circular Logic.

There’s not too much else to say. If you are Prowling, this is why. If you aren’t, it isn’t good enough. The only interesting thing is can you play Noggin Whack off just a few Changelings, or perhaps off the Rogue Goblins in a Goblin deck?

Chameleon Colossus

This guy is great! He’d better be, considering how much he ruins Limited games.

He is the right power. The right toughness. The right creature type. With the right protection ability. And a relevant bonus ability. The stars all aligned on this guy. He is my idea of a creature that can survive in the hostile world of Rogues and Shriekmaws.

He threatens to do 16-20 damage so fast that whole archetypes will have to rethink their anti-creature plans. Control decks need to be able to produce a very good answer fast or they will quickly be obliviated. Rogue decks will often be stuck on the “chump with Mutavault” plan. Even non-Red aggro decks will respect a 4/4 for four that threatens to go really large.

Did I mention he powers up Murmuring Bosk, Gilt-Leaf Palace, Obsidian Battle-Axe, Imperious Perfect, and so on? This is the Changeling to end all Changelings. Jamie Wakefield, are you getting this?

I think it is important to recognize just how much more powerful this guy gets with a simple +1/+1 counter, such as the type provided by Llanowar Reborn or any of the creature lords, old or new. Threatening to do twenty in one or two turns is no joke, especially on a Protection from Black creature that doesn’t even require the mana because they will chump, and then you won’t have to pay since 4/4 is bigger than whatever they have. (What, a Tarmogoyf? Gladly paying four!)

This guy threatens to bend the universe, Mike. Think about it! It is not enough to just be a big dumb dork. You need to be disruptive, or have some defensive ability to ensure that your creature will not be eliminated with value by some cheap removal spell that people are playing anyway.


First of all, this guy is being heralded as the second coming of Mishra’s Factory, and yes, that is pretty accurate. The truth is that Mishra’s Factory is not actually that insane. Oh, it’s good – great even – but the Factory thrived contextually. There were a lot more spells and a lot fewer blockers in those days. Also, there was a lot less room to fight Wrath and Disk, and cards that could, such as Mishra’s Factory, were valued at a premium.

That said, Mutavault is great, and is exactly what the doctor ordered for a variety of strategies. In many decks, the fact that he is a Changeling makes him even better than Mishra’s Factory. The format may not be as perfect for him, but he certainly has a starting role of the team.

While Mutavault is not as powerful as Treetop Village, he is probably a little better than Faerie Conclave, though it depends on your mana requirements.

Tribal creature decks are probably the ones who best stand to take advantage of Mutavault. Elves already have Treetop Village and are splashing Profane Command, so I am not so sure they can make it work. However, Goblins, Kithkin, Rogues, etc all stand to slide four in from the get go.


It is interesting that Mike compared this card to Phyrexian Arena, as it is so clearly strongly than that card. Think about it. They are the same card except for a few differences:

1. Bitterblossom is 1B instead of 1BB. That is huge. That is the difference between Tarmogoyf and Burning-Tree Shaman.
2. Bitterblossom actually produces what is arguably a stronger effect. A 1/1 flying Faerie Rogue for zero? That is better than a random card, in the abstract.
3. Bitterblossom is a Tribal — Faerie, which is certainly a non-zero benefit.

On top of all of these differences, you have to remember that Phyrexian Arena was actually good…

Another thing to remember is that while some would complain that when under pressure you don’t want to be taking one every turn, you are the Rogue deck. You should be putting them under pressure. Also, if nothing else, you get a free chump blocker every turn, turning Bitterblossom into a free Forcefield.

I suspect this card will prove to be crucial to providing longevity to Rogue decks, and may also find a home in some Faerie decks. They are typically so vulnerable to mass removal, and this is a perfect counter strategy. It is an interesting question, how many to play, as I can appreciate arguments for any number: 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4.

Finally, it cannot be overlooked that this card becomes disgusting with Bad Moon, Oona’s Blackguard, Scion of Oona, etc.

Ballyrush Banneret

A fine card for a wretched deck. I don’t want to be negative though, so how about I rephrase. I think this is a good card and its ability is much appreciated, especially in Soldier decks. That said, Soldiers (and Kithkin) do not have Noggin Whack, Earwig Squad, and Thoughtseize. You cannot just play guys these days. You must interact or you will die. Do you think that Ballyrush Banneret is so fast that Dragonstorm won’t sneak up on you again?

If someone is going to make a successful Soldier (or possibly a Kithkin) deck, this guy will be a central piece. Still, they will need to figure out how to interact with their opponent in a meaningful way. Playing a few Gaddock Teegs is not enough. I am talking serious interaction. I don’t know if the cards exist to allow for this. If they do, I do not know what they are.

One closing thought: this guy could be the key to an Extended Soldier deck. That format is better able to allow splashing other colors for disruption (Vindicate and Thoughtseize?), plus there are some very interesting Soldiers not legal for Standard. (Did you know they have their own Ringleader?)


This one is interesting. It could turn out to be the next Spell Snare and we all just start using it because hey, who doesn’t have targets?

However, these days, creatures are a lot better than they used to be, and I am not ashamed to admit that I am quick to counter creatures themselves, as I no longer am allowed to use Swords to Plowshares to clean up my messes.

It is the right cost and has sideboard applications, but I am not sure if the format will be right to maindeck this bad boy. I wish I could offer more insight, but I simply won’t be able to tell until I see what sort of strategies are played. How about we call it a two-of in draw-go? How about I err towards caution and say that there are too many creatures that need to be dealt with for this card to have maximum impact in this Standard format?

Still, I wouldn’t mind if it turned out the world was right for this card…

Scarblade Elite

I really like this one, and am glad Mike selected it. I love this type of card. He is a fine man in his own right, with the customary two-power two-mana requirement. The key is that if you get to use his ability even once, he is incredible. It doesn’t take many assassins in a deck to make this realistic.

What assassins? Aside from my boy the Colossus, what about Nameless Inversion? How sick is that!? Garza’s Assassin is a little harder to make work, but is a fine choice. Besides, with the influx of Crushers and Maulers, I think Garza’s Assassin could be posed to make a comeback (or is that a first appearance?).

This guy is an honest man’s road to card advantage and board position. Look for many Assassin Innovations to come.

Shard Volley

Yeah, I know, I know. Seriously though, let’s keep it real.

1. How many would I have used in Dragonstorm at Worlds? Zero. Try it. When you cut Tarfire for it and your opponent plays a Bird on turn 1, you will be ready to jump.
2. This is not Fireblast. It costs a mana more and does 1 less damage. That is the difference between Kindle and Lightning Bolt.
3. This card isn’t even good. Oh, it has roles, but seriously, Incinerate isn’t even that good and this card is much worse. It is too narrow to be good. It has great uses, but it is not versatile.

Thornbite Staff

It is clear that Mike has never played this card. It is solid in Limited, sure, but it is nowhere near Constructed. You know it has an activation cost of two, right Mike? It doesn’t compare to Viridian Longbow, let alone Goblin Sharpshooter.

I am just gonna go ahead and give Michael the benefit of the doubt and assume that he thought it was imply “tap” to use.

Obsidian Battle-Axe

Now this card is sick. It is like Fires of Yavimaya in many regards, but it actually surpasses the original in many regards too. Having +2/+1 every turn is huge.

Imagine this opening:

Turn 1: Llanowar Elves
Turn 2: Obsidian Battle-Axe
Turn 3: Imperious Perfect, use it with haste to make a token, attack with the token for four!

There are a lot of interesting Warriors. Vanquisher, Packmaster, Countryside Crusher, Colossus, Mauler, even Allosaurus Rider. The interesting puzzle with this deck is how to make a good warrior deck for those games where you don’t draw the Axe.

One obvious strategy is to play Elves as your “other plan,” since so many of the good ones are Warriors already. The other is to just play the best Warriors that Red and Green have to offer. This one is more likely to end up looking like Birds, Elves, and powerhouses such as the Warriors listed above (probably not the Allosaurus Rider), complimented by a little burn.

This can be devastating on a perfect curve, but I am not sure what the missing link is to make the deck tick even without the Axe. Maybe the Warriors are just that good on their own.

Murmuring Bosk

This card is the exact perfect card for many mages. If you are trying to make all three of these colors, this is the card you have been waiting for .

Let’s review:

1. It’s a Forest, so obviously combos with cards like Yavimaya Dryad and Reach of Branches.
2. There are some good Treefolk like Doran, Colossus, Nameless Inversion, and Reach of Branches.
3. Even if you have to play it tapped, it is the best tri-land ever by no small margin.

This card is strong enough that it will show up in Extended. Basically, if you are playing these three colors, use four of this card.

Stonehewer Giant

I am surprised Mike was not on board with this guy. This is exactly the type of card he would like. That said, this card fails the Shriekmaw test in a spectacular fashion. I certainly did not pick it on power level. I thought we were just picking cards we wanted to talk about, and I wanted to see Mike talk about this guy.

He is fun!

Of course, he is not Godo Bandit Warlord, but man, if you ever get to do his ability… wow, he is pretty sick. I will be trying this guy, but the format just isn’t right.

Still, this guy is a pet card and I will probably try to make him work more than I should. The best White cards in the set are actually Reveillark, Feudkiller’s Verdict, and possibly some Kithkin cards.

Everminder… (Okay, I meant Nevermaker, but I’ll say a few words on Slithermuse, I suppose)

Nevermaker is deceptively good and would be a tournament all-star if he could hit land. Sadly he cannot, so he is probably not quite good enough. Still, I will be trying to fit him in various Blink decks. He is a fantastic creature to throw down on turn 3 or 4, using him to block.

Slithermuse? A fun one that obviously brings Windfall to mind, but is sadly lacking as a card draw spell. That said, he is a Hill Giant to boot, and as such he has a chance to live the dream. You just play this guy and then you trade in combat, but here is the joke. You play some bounce and suddenly all of your Boomerang type effects cantrip.

We’re not gonna break Constructed with this one, but he could be a sleeper. Maybe in a deck of Riftwings, Vensers, and Blinks…

Earwig Squad

This guy may not be Noggin Whack, but he is still very solid. He is obviously the Arrogant Wurm for the Rogue strategies, but I maintain that a 5/3 body attached to a Jester’s Cap for 3 mana is solid. He has the right creature types. He is versatile. He has the ability to serve as a fine beater, but he can also just win games outright or even just provide subtle advantage. It’s huge if you take the other guy’s Damnations: he may be able to get you once, but he won’t get a second crack.

This card will see play in basically all formats, from Vintage to Legacy to Extended to Standard to Block, as Goblins can thrive anywhere.

He will help redefine Standard and force players to play more robust strategies that are not entirely reliant on a single card.

Whether he is taking Damnations, Bogardan Hellkites, Cloudthreshers, or Profane Commands, it just feels good playing this guy on turn 3.

Wolf-Skull Shaman

This card is a lot like Scarblade Elite. He has stats to justify himself outside of his ability. The wolves you get are pure bonus. Where will he fit? Unclear, but I predict he will be a tournament staple of both dedicated Elf decks and possible hybrids.

You aren’t gonna hit every time, but the first time you do you are already way ahead. Try this guy. He is a solid contributor.

I think that Morningtide will actually turn out to have a big impact on Standard, pushing the format to be more anti-creature and more interactive. If you can’t deal with your opponent’s creatures, you are in for a thrashing from some of these new monsters. If you can’t interact with your opponent through discard, permission, land destruction, or some kind of disruption, then I think you are fighting the wrong fight.

See you guys next week!

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”