Every set has its shining stars—the cards that are quite obviously going to turn Standard upside-down. With Theros just beginning to make its mark on Standard, a few cards in particular have stood out. Everyone already knows about your plan to return Obzedat, Ghost Council to play with Whip of Erebos. Everyone knows that you can’t wait to break out those Elspeth, Sun’s Champion emblems that you’ve collected.
These cards are nothing special. I don’t think you read my articles just to hear about the same things that every other writer has already told you. Today, I want to focus on the cards that aren’t getting the publicity they deserve. While some may be a bit better than others, I think that these are cards to watch. Don’t be surprised when one of these gets a ton of press.
White aggro decks are going to shine in new Standard, especially for the first few weeks. While people are still trying to push the limits of their new mana bases, one- and two-color aggro decks are going to be tearing up the format. W/x decks are of course not the only option, though, so what should these aggro decks do when they want to fight each other?
Mono-Red Aggro has typically had a pretty linear approach to these matchups—play a greater mass of creatures at a greater speed and use burn to clear out the occasional problem creature. Putting an aggro deck on the back foot is a great way to gain an advantage.
As the non-red aggro decks, we can try approach these matchups from a few different angles. We can try to race them, which is now more legitimate than it has been in a while thanks to the staggering number of efficiently costed white and green creatures. The most effective angle in my opinion is to just embrace the control role.
The Mono-Red Aggro decks can only have so much removal for your creatures before they just aren’t casting their own creatures anymore. Last Breath gives us a great way to capitalize on the fact that they are using a turn to kill a creature instead of playing one of their own. Instead of just getting crushed by one-drop into two-drop into removal spell, white aggro decks can now keep up and significantly reduce the amount of damage they take from the early creatures while they stabilize.
Spear of Heliod
I’ll mention this card briefly, as it follows the same philosophy as Last Breath. Spear of Heliod will do a great job of making sure you always have the largest board in aggressive mirrors. Especially in mirror matches, it gives you bigger creatures while making sure they can’t just keep alpha striking you until you’re dead.
Spear is also a bit more versatile in that it still plays a good role against the control decks. Glorious Anthem is not to be underestimated. It can often represent similar damage levels to a four-power creature with haste.
Annul & Swan Song
These are more sideboard cards than anything else but are certainly things the blue decks should look toward. People have already talked a lot about using the Gods cycle to gain an edge versus control. An indestructible value machine that can occasionally attack for five can certainly be a monster in controlling matchups.
It’s also important to not forget the other cards in Return to Ravnica and M14 that control really doesn’t like resolving. Assemble the Legion, Trading Post, and Detention Sphere are just a few examples. Speaking of Detention Sphere, not only is countering our opponent’s sweet but so is casting our own. While not as cheap or efficient as Annul and Swan Song, it can remove the problem if you didn’t have the timely counterspell.
The worst part about these two counterspells is the fact that they are very narrow. Even Negate was left out of control sideboards for not being broad enough at times. That being said, one-mana counterspells should never be underestimated. Dispel was a reasonable sideboard card that could often blow people out unexpectedly.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
I love this card! There, I said it. I’ve already been testing a Mono-Black Drain deck that uses this card and Corrupt. In a deck built to use this card, it can really represent a lot of damage.
Even against control, all you have to do is play this card with a Whip of Erebos in play to represent the potential to deal a lot of damage if they don’t put up some sort of defense. The fact that it attacks for two has been particularly relevant for me thus far. Plus, if you play this, you get to play Thoughtseize in your deck, which is a pretty sweet bonus.
The biggest issue is that I haven’t found an effective way to sacrifice it when I want to use it with the Whip. This has rarely been a problem that caused me to lose the game, but it certainly has enabled my opponent to have an extra turn or two that they otherwise wouldn’t. I plan to test out Rescue from the Underworld out at some point since it’s also sweet with an Erebos, God of the Dead in your graveyard.
I feel like I’m cheating a bit on this one, as it isn’t really a sleeper card. Most people know about this card already. Regardless, Boon Satyr brings me back to the release of Restoration Angel. It became such a popular card so quickly, yet it took a few months before I saw most people playing around it.
This card is going to be a major player in Standard. If it was just a three-mana 4/2 with flash, it might still be okay, but bestow gives it the potential for so much value. You can blow your opponent out in combat and be left with a giant creature that turns into a 4/2 when it dies.
I was originally a little more skeptical of bestow, but for those who haven’t heard, if the creature you targeted is no longer in play when the bestow spell tries to resolve, it will still resolve as a creature. So even if they kill my creature in response, I still get a 4/2. When playing games of Standard, do not forget about this card. People will be playing it, and people will be killing you with it. Don’t make their job any easier by walking right into it.
Medomai the Ageless
This creature is a tank; there’s no way around it. A 4/4 flyer for six mana is not the worst thing you can be doing with your time, and the upside on this guy in unbelievable. If you combine it with basically any other creature of reasonable size, you will win the game pretty quickly. Medomai dodges a lot of the red removal in the format (darn you Mizzium Mortars) and will eat most blockers in combat.
The biggest thing holding this card back in my opinion is the weaker mana. It likely will fit best in a U/W/x Midrange deck that plays large creatures all the way up the curve, but it’s quite possible that just won’t exist. Maybe I’m underestimating the mana we have, so I’ll certainly wait and see. This is the card I’m least confidant in on the list, but it certainly has some of the highest potential upside.
Similar to Medomai, I’m unsure of what the world has in store for everyone’s favorite metal deer. It gets my honorable mention, but it’s quite possible that wasting two turns and relying on a fragile creature to stay in play is just asking too much.
Regardless, if your deck needs a little fixing and you feel like having access to seven mana on turn 5, this is your best friend. I hope it sees play, but its future doesn’t look the shiniest. If a deck does come around that wants it, though, it’ll certainly be a real player in whatever deck that is.
Anyway, those are my choices for potential sleepers in the set. I have at least some amount of hope and belief in all of the cards on this list. Before I go, I want to show you my Mono-Black Drain decklist. Keep in mind that this is my version of something BBD talked about in his article a week ago. I’ve played some games with the deck, and I really like what it’s doing. The numbers are mostly irrelevant at this point, as they are mostly indicative of how much I wanted to try out certain cards compared to others.
Let me know what you think about the deck and any sleeper cards you think I missed. Until next time, don’t let the sleeper agents catch you off-guard.
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