The problem with having rules for yourself is that you feel bad when you’re forced to break them. During preview season I generally prefer to absorb as much as possible before starting to gush over new cards, especially when we have seen less than half of a new set. Cards like Ojutai’s Exemplars; Drana, Liberator of Malakir; and Kytheon, Hero of Akros; have all shown us in recent history that the early hype often peters out.
I broke my own rule last week with Chandra and Reflector Mage, and now here we are again breaking it over a one-mana enchantment and a Mistmeadow Witch variant. So this is what we’ve become. I’m now That Guy who gets excited about preview cards with no context.
Let me start by saying how much I love the entire Oath cycle. Everything down to the flavour text is just perfect, and giving them all enters-the-battlefield abilities makes us feel less miserable when we draw the redundant copy. Gideon has sworn an impressive Oath himself, but Nissa’s is by far my favourite.
I’m not going to lie to you; I’d probably play a green sorcery that said “Look at the top three cards of your library. You may reveal a creature, land, or planeswalker card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the remaining cards on the bottom of your library in any order.” It’s not a great card, but it’s definitely playable. I’m notoriously bad at mulligan decisions, and having a solid way to find my third (okay, it’s probably my second; I told you I was bad at this) land while also being able to dig me out of the five-land keeps I seem to enjoy would be a boon.
This ability goes deeper though. In the (unlikely) event that we’re not digging for a second land, we’re finding a threat. We might even do both if we’re finding a Lumbering Falls or Hissing Quagmire. The argument that we can’t find removal is only partially true, as we can hit both Den Protector and Hidden Dragonslayer. What’s that? Okay, I suppose we can hit Silumgar Assassin too, but that’s sadly not very relevant.
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes basically let us do the same thing as a +1 ability on a five-mana planeswalker, trading enchantments for lands. That ability on Ajani was widely considered the best one of the three, and having it isolated in the form of a one-mana enchantment suggests that we want to be looking hard at Oath of Nissa.
Fortunately, Nissa isn’t swearing an oath to stop there. Oh no no. She’s making it easier to find her some friends! That last ability is being dismissed in many corners as irrelevant, but it’s actually one of my favourite parts of the card.
The mana in this Standard environment is better than at any time since Alara block. Yes, I am including the Farseek/shockland/buddy land environment of Innistrad/Return to Ravnica Standard in that list. Obviously then, we don’t need a green card for our fixing, right?
I’m not so sure. Let’s not look at this as the way to make Five-Colour Planeswalkers viable (yet) and instead look at it as a painless, card-neutral way to smooth our existing mana out. The first place something like that could be relevant is in Modern, where the G/B/X decks want to be casting Liliana of the Veil on turn 3 after a Tarmogoyf on turn 2. While the Oath can’t help you with the turn 2 play, it certainly will with the turn 3. Being able to cut down on dual lands in the mana base could make these decks less vulnerable to Blood Moon.
The concept extends to Standard though. If we consider a Naya midrange deck with Gideon, Chandra, and possibly both Nissas, our mana base is a little shaky but likely manageable with Battle lands and fetchlands. Now, add in Oath of Nissa as a turn 1 or 2 play and not only can we curve Nissa into Gideon with ease but we can also look at splashing Sarkhan Unbroken without much effort. We could also splash Kiora, and if we run Rattleclaw Mystic, I like that idea even more.
The rumours that G/R Tron could add this as a way to cast Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker seem excessive to me. What, Karn and Ugin aren’t enough? I’d be more likely to accept Chandra, Flamecaller in the list as a potential game-winner that can also keep the board clear of those pesky early threats. That Tron can cast her without Oath is a bonus.
The five-colour shenanigans might come, but the problem right now is that the synergy between our planeswalkers isn’t quite there. The base I can see wants Sorin, Gideon, Sarkhan Unbroken, and Nissa together with Oath of Gideon and Oath of Nissa, but feels like it’s missing something to actually be, you know, good.
It’s a Legendary Enchantment!
I’ve actually seen people saying that once you get the pseudo-Ponder effect, Oath is a great insurance policy for your Silkwraps against Dromoka’s Command. While technically that’s true, there are other ways we can take advantage of the card types here.
Let’s start with the often-overlooked Starfield of Nyx. Aside from the obvious benefits of recycling Silkwraps, Starfield will let us recur an Oath every turn if we already have one on the battlefield. The trigger is optional, so if we need to draw a spell we can just not bring back the Oath. Then there’s the obvious interaction with delve. Filling our graveyard has been a desirable thing for over a year now, and hastening us towards Tasigur or Murderous Cut is rarely a bad thing.
The card types are perhaps even more relevant in Modern. Delve still applies there, but so does the ubiquitous Tarmogoyf. Getting an enchantment into the graveyard isn’t always easy, but now it can be. There’s also the Green Devotion Genesis Wave deck, which currently plays Abundant Growth as a turn 1 cantrip that provides a pip for devotion. Although Oath won’t be able to draw you into Fertile Ground or Genesis Wave, it can get you your mana dorks or Garruk or, of course, Nykthos. You trade the certainty of drawing a card with Abundant Growth for the ability to get some selection, but there’s also the problem of not being able to get multiple copies on the battlefield. Some you win, some you lose.
Displacer? I Hardly Know ‘Er!
As stoked as I am to be swearing some Oaths, Eldrazi Displacer might be my favourite card previewed so far. Last week I got excited about a potential addition to Death and Taxes in Modern, and now here we are looking at a card that is even better for the Modern deck and possibly even fits in my beloved Legacy version. Better yet, the potential homes for this…thing are even more plentiful.
The obvious use for the activated ability is to reuse enters-the-battlefield effects. Siege Rhino needed the help, right? Bringing the creature back tapped is a minor inconvenience here, but if you were attacking with that creature anyway (or doing it at the end of the opponent’s turn), that drawback is negated. You could also just blink a Wingmate Roc and laugh maniacally. Oh and if this wasn’t making you salivate, you’ll notice the lack of a tap symbol on that ability. Six mana to drain for six each turn? I am so in.
Dodge removal? Sounds good. Permanently remove tokens? I like that sauce, sir. But we all knew about those options, because they’ve been a staple use of blink effects for a long time. We haven’t been able to blink an opposing creature in a while, and that adds some new options. Fog an attacker and/or remove a blocker? I can dig it. Negate the activation of a creature-land? That’s going to hurt.
But wait, there’s more! The advent of flip planeswalkers has given us a new use for this ability in that we can prevent them from transforming. With Jace and Nissa, that delay may only be for one turn, but it’s more than likely that we can just exile the offending creature again the next turn when they try again.
Still not convinced just on the generic uses for the Displacer? It’s cool, we have additional options here. The combo potential with Brood Monitor didn’t take long to be discovered, and I think it might be viable. Although the best third-piece options would take us into a third colour (Impact Tremors and Zulaport Cutthroat), we can also look at the nearly-forgotten Altar of the Brood as a win condition that is much harder to prevent.
Not interested in six-mana 3/3s to start your combo? I can understand that. It’s a tough sell. What about manifests? If you’re like me, you’ve manifested something incredibly powerful like Gideon or Ugin and promptly started mentally ripping every Whisperwood Elemental in existence into tiny squares of treacherous confetti. It’s okay, Displacer has you covered. It only cares that the target is a creature on activation, so if you have an Ugin face-down as a 2/2, we can have ourselves a (tapped) planeswalker for the low low cost of 2<>. It’s enough to make you consider playing Soul Summons!
Okay, maybe not. What you can do though is completely ruin the day of any Hangarback Walker player. I know, I’m evil. Letting your opponent invest all that mana into a big Hangarback only to negate their effort for three mana is a real kick in the pants. If Managorger Hydra makes a comeback, it will suffer a similar (albeit less lethal) fate. Similarly we can reset an Undergrowth Champion or Warden of the First Tree, both of which are potentially deadly.
Displacing Modern and Legacy
We’re going to talk about Death and Taxes again, but first let’s look at Emeria Control. For those not familiar with the archetype, here’s a (pre-Oath) version:
- 3 Court Hussar
- 1 Stonecloaker
- 1 Pilgrim's Eye
- 3 Lone Missionary
- 4 Wall of Omens
- 4 Sun Titan
- 2 Phantasmal Image
- 1 Snapcaster Mage
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Emeria Shepherd
This is one of the grindiest decks in Modern, and it is also a ton of fun. There’s a lot of play to be had, and a lot of pieces can be swapped in and out. As the deck thrives on reusing enters-the-battlefield effects, adding a couple of Displacers gives you even more play on that front without folding to a Rest in Peace. Aside from the drool-inducing value of blinking a Sun Titan, we can also reuse our Snapcaster Mage for immense value.
Modern allows us to add Emrakul’s Hatcher to the list of creatures we can blink for unbounded mana, although in that format we can achieve that goal a lot easier. If you add Training Grounds, the list of cards that allow you to go infinite grows significantly, but Training Grounds is notorious for that. We can also do fun things with Mulldrifter, Thragtusk, and anything else with a leaves-the-battlefield trigger.
Okay, I can’t hold on anymore. This is going directly into Modern Death and Taxes, and is under serious consideration for Legacy as well. We run Flickerwisp in both decks because of the flexibility of that trigger. Well, how about a way to reuse that trigger over and over again? The combination lets us blink any permanent type instead of restricting us to creatures, whether we need to reset an Aether Vial or remove an opposing Ensnaring Bridge for a turn. We get to grow our Blade Splicer token army–rarely a bad thing–and block Etched Champions. All this and a beefy 3/3 body to boot.
The Legacy applications are impressive, but they’re almost entirely a function of having more things to target with Flickerwisp. We do get to blink our Stoneforge Mystics as a way to counteract the Vendilion Clique problem, which is significant. That said, I am still giving it a try because of the power of blinking a Marit Lage token without relying on the dies-to-Wasteland Karakas. The mana-intensive nature of the ability is a concern, especially in a Port/Wasteland deck, but the payoff might be worth it.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t expect to use Eldrazi Displacer to break up combos like the Atarka Red buff in Standard or Twin in Modern. Although technically we can do that, no good player is going to try to combo off in the face of three open mana and Eldrazi Displacer. Also be aware that the Displacer can’t blink itself.
Can It Possibly Get Better?
It’s been a long time since a new set has had me this excited. With the Prerelease a mere five days away, I am already looking forward to getting my hands on these cards. My preorder has already been placed with this very website, and I can promise you that four of each of the cards I discussed today are part of that order. I have a hard time imagining how Wizards can possibly top this. But hey, I can’t wait to watch them try. As always, thanks for stopping by and until next time…Brew On!