My Magic Origins Top Ten List

Brad is super excited about Magic Origins, and he’s here to share his top ten picks from the new set – as well as a few starter decklists!

I have never seen a Core Set this awesome! Wizards of the Coast has undoubtedly saved the best for last with Magic Origins. This set is littered with amazing cards that are prime suspects to change Standard the same way Dragons of Tarkir did only a few short months ago. Last time I wasn’t prepared for the impact that the Elder Dragons would have on the format, so this time around I want to do my best at finding all of the all-star spells from Magic Origins. Today we are going to go over what I think will be the ten most impactful cards from this set in preparation for the Open Series in Chicago.

10) Kytheon, Hero of Akros / Gideon, Battle-Forged

Gideon sure has had many faces in this game over the years, but no one could have guessed he would end up being a glorified Savannah Lions. Not to say there is anything wrong with that. Kytheon, Hero of Akros actually has a lot going for a one-mana creature. The ability to gain Indestructible for three mana might seem deceiving, but it is a fairly strong ability on a card that already has so much text. You see, the best-case scenario for this card is that it flips as early as possible and starts making an opposing Courser of Kruphix chump-attack into your board position. That isn’t always going to be the case, in which this card can also play nicely against a stream of attackers. Mana sinks have always been something every aggressive deck looks for and rarely has. The flood is indeed real, and having abilities to sink your mana into are always nice.

One of the biggest upsides to Kytheon, Hero of Akros is that he gets his “spark” only when you attack with him. That means that even if you have a copy of Gideon, Battle-Forged in play, you don’t have to fear losing one of them to the legend rule as long as you keep Kytheon, Hero of Akros back on defense – a game he is prepared to play. Liliana, Heretical Healer doesn’t have the same restraint when becoming one of the most badass necromancers in the game.

Kytheon, Hero of Akros definitely gets the checkmark for being Standard playable, but we might not see this guy breaking down tournament walls until Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid becomes a thing of the past. Even though this is easily the best one-drop they have printed in some time, it still does not pass the tests that all the other 2/1s for one have failed for the past year.

9) Pia and Kiran Nalaar

Siege-Gang Commander may be ancient in the eyes of many, but I remember when this card had more kitchen table time than my mother’s cooking. I learned how to Magic with ole SGC and never thought I would see the day that they would print anything close to that power level again. Well, Magic Origins is a bit of an oddity when it comes to Magic sets, and here we are with yet another all-star. It’s sad when the apple falls very far from the tree. Hopefully Pia and Kiran can cope with the fact that they are much better than their daughter by defining Standard for the next year.

You don’t believe me? Well, let’s break this card down. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is a 2/2 for 2RR. They enter the battlefield with two flying creatures that can be sacrificed, attack, or block. They also threaten to be turned into Shocks, making it much more difficult to play against. The whole card is difficult to be dealt with since three permanents are put onto the battlefield. Big daddy Purphoros has been waiting for a card like Pia and Kiran Nalaar, but they might even be too good to need that level of cuteness. All-in-all, this card might not be as flashy as Thunderbreak Reagent or Stormbreath Dragon but the utility that three creatures for four mana can provide will prove to be exactly what many mages are looking for in a world of spot removal.

8) Harbinger of the Tides

This card is going to make waves, but not the kind that people are expecting. Harbringer of the Tides looks like it might be as aggressive as Tidebinder Mage or Frostburn Weird, but that really isn’t the case. Sure, it looks like a great addition to the old school variants of Blue Devotion, but its ability will rarely come up by turn two. Not to say this card wouldn’t go in Mono-Blue or U/G Devotion simply for being good, but it might find a home in a more tempo-based shell like Jeskai Aggro or control shells that need an easy way to catch up on board. Regardless of where this card ends up, it will be seeing Constructed play for some time to come.

7) Erebos’s Titan

I thought the days of Desecration Demon-like power were behind us. Mono-Black Devotion was a powerhouse for some time last year, but the deck lost too many legs for it to stand on once Khans of Tarkir showed up. You can argue that the loss of Underworld Connections was the true downfall for this deck, but the ability to attack and deal damage is truly what it lost. With three black mana symbols and five power, this card is up for the challenge!

I have friends again!

Right now the archetype would need to make some significant changes to be competitive. Attrition-based strategies have once again been taken over by green decks, which would force Black Devotion to overpower the format to become relevant. Gray Merchant of Asphodel has the potential to do exactly this, but the build will be the most difficult thing to figure out.

In order to thrive in today’s Standard metagame, the deck might be able to get more aggressive with cards like Liliana, Heretical Healer and Despoiler of Souls fuelling an aggressive curve. Despoiler of Souls might not be the best replacement for Pack Rat, but the card does have the ability to be a continuing threat that also helps Gray Merchant of Asphodel in the late-game.

The rest of the deck will have to be filled with creatures to make this work, but also have enough removal to keep pace on the battlefield. Sign in Blood is going to have to be good enough for this deck to stay up with Den Protector. This is a whole bunch of what-ifs, but the curve and power level are there. We will just have to see if the deck functions well enough to be a contender.

6) Despoiler of Souls

This little fella snuck up on me. I recently recorded a Versus Video that you will be able to see next week with Mono-Black Aggro. Going into the video I thought that Liliana, Heretical Healer would be the shinning new card from Magic Origins, but to my surprise Despoiler of Souls carried more weight than any other card in the deck. The synergy this card has with Liliana and Fleshbag Marauders was palpable as I constantly had things to do with my mana and never felt like I ran out of gas. In fact, I was constantly busy and found the aggressive elements of the deck to be worse than the midrange ones. This was mostly due to the constant stream of pressure that Despoiler of Souls put on my opponent. It just kept coming back over and over again while also being sacrificed to spark my Liliana, Heretical Healer.

This card will be played heavily in Standard. I don’t know when, but I do know for certain. If you are a fan of black cards, you should pick these up before they become a staple rare.

5) Knight of the White Orchid

Knight of the White Orchid and I have a fairly tainted past. This little guy was a part of the deck that eventually was my downfall in Pro Tour Amsterdam in 2010. I was one match away from winning a Pro Tour, but Knight of the White Orchid and Steppe Lynx had something to say about me walking away with the championship.

The power level of Knight of the White Orchid isn’t obvious on the surface. This little guy isn’t here just to be beating down. The power of this card lies in its ability to help break serve when on the draw. Mono-White strategies have always had a major issue with being able to keep up when on the draw in this format. Courser of Kruphix stops any aggressive shenanigans right from the get-go. There really isn’t a great way for white to beat green at its own game.

Well, that was true until Knight of the White Orchid.

We have all seen how powerful Valorous Stance is against green strategies which gives me high hopes that a white deck can compete with green. That and the fact that turn-four Wingmate Roc is now a possibility in a Mono-White shell! That’s right, we are going to be rocking the socks off our opponent in no time!

Knight of the White Orchid is going to be a staple for white decks from now on. Breaking serve in Standard has been one of the most important, if not the most important, aspects to winning – and this card is exactly what white needed to be able to do this. We might see the deck even splash another color, but white-based decks are now a possibility with the inclusion of Knight of the White Orchid and Archangel of Tithes.

4) Clash of Wills

I know that a situational counterspell isn’t exactly what you had in mind when you clicked on this article, but we have to be honest with ourselves. Every counterspell printed like Clash of Wills has seen play. Sure, they all might have been better than this one, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t good. We have seen control decks get away with barely any two-mana counterspells for a while now, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t need it. Honestly, I’m petrified of this card, which makes me think that control got exactly what it needed to be successful in the format once again. Sure, it might not be the best card ever, but it will be the silver lining Adrian Sullivan needed after the new rules changes.

3) Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

I have been fascinated by Liliana, Heretical Healer ever since she was first spoiled. Not only do I have a warm place in my heart for sacrifice-based decks, but I have become quite fond of Liliana forcing both players to discard cards since I started playing Jund in Modern. The only problem is I have yet to find a great shell for this card. It feels extremely powerful, but I just don’t know exactly where she belongs.

The tension for Liliana, Heretical Healer is that the format is designed around interacting in the early turns, but she excels at building an overwhelming board position in the later stages of the game. Once sparked, Liliana, Defiant Necromancer can do her best at controlling the resources both players have access to, but too many decks in the format are already able to function with few things to do. Specifically, decks like the Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector decks that have been dominating the format for some time now.

My prediction for this card is that people will try to make her work right out of the gates and fail miserably. Once rotation occurs, this card might be able to find a shell in a slower world that suits her skillsets. I wouldn’t worry too much about this card in the first couple weeks, but be prepared to pick some up before the battle gets taken to Zendikar.

2) Languish

Fun time is over, nerds! This might not be a four-mana Wrath, but it’s close enough. For over a year we have seen the effects of not having a four-mana wrath. Sure, End Hostilities and Crux of Fate have had major impacts on the format, but nothing close to how detrimental Wrath of God, Damnation, and Supreme Verdict had on their formats from days of old. Languish might not be on the same power level as these cards, but it will do its best impression which will be good enough.

One of the benefits of this card is how well it interacts with Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Siege Rhino, and both versions of Silumgar. Even decks with Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector will want access to this card since they can win games on the latest of turns. The way we build decks will drastically change due to this card, which will make it detrimental to the format but not unbeatable. Just the way a Magic card should be made.

1) Nissa, Vastwood Seer / Nissa, Sage Animist

Did you really think you were going to go into a Bard Narson article that was based around a list and not have a green card come in first? Not only am I biased towards green, but this time it is irrelevant. This card is bonkers good! Civic Wayfinder and Borderland Ranger both saw play in their respected formats due to how powerful it was to put something on the board and get a land out of it. This card might not be able to help search up Swamps like her past versions, but the upside of having a planeswalker on the flipside is well worth it.

I’m not going to go into much detail about this card because “The Innovator” himself went into great detail discussing this card and I would rather not just regurgitate what he said. Instead, I simply want to direct you to his article if you haven’t already read it.

So that’s my list of cards from tenth to first. I might be right, I might be wrong. Only time will tell, but one thing for certain is that this is the first Core Set that just looks amazing. It was obvious when Baneslayer Angel was printed that she was going to be insane. Same goes for the Titan cycle. Magic Origins reminds me of Innistrad Block in the sense that it was difficult to evaluate the cards since they are so situational – the context matters. We really can’t know how good this set is going to be until we get our hands on the cards. I know I sure can’t wait to jump on a plane and battle in Chicago for the Open Series on release weekend. I won’t be there to pick up points since I’m already qualified for the Players’ Championships, I will be there simply because I enjoy Magic. That and for the fact that I have never taken a direct flight to a tournament and kind of want to do that!

Bonus Lists!

Did you really think I was going to write an entire article about the new set and not post some lists? Here are a couple of decks that I’m going to be testing right out of the gates. I expect many of them will be changing in the near future, but wanted to give you guys the rough lists that I had.

This is just the same old Bant Megamorph deck I used this past weekend at #SCGBALT. The only changes I made was adding Nissa, Vastwood Seer to the maindeck, Arashin Cleric to the sideboard for the Mono-Red matchup, and changing one Ajani Steadfast to an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. I don’t really think this deck needs to change much to be competitive. It’s really good!

I have no clue how good this deck is going to be. All I know is the cards in it can change, but finding a starting line is most important. We haven’t seen this level of power for Mono-White Devotion in some time, which makes me think that something along these lines might be exceptionally powerful.

Next week I will be back with some solidified strategies. My proxies are made, my kitchen table is set, and my friends are ready to do battle. I can’t wait to spend the next couple days figuring these new cards out to get you everything you need to know going into the prerelease. I just hope I’m right! See you guys next week!