After the banning of Agent of Treachery and Fires of Invention, I gotta say that Ikoria Standard was pretty fun when I played it this past Sunday in a charity event. The games were long, interactive, and fun, with a lot of back and forth between me and my opponents. My sideboard plans mattered, as I switched fluidly between Temur Reclamation to just playing Temur Control with counterspells, Commence the Endgame, and Nightpack Ambusher.
So I’m hopeful. For the first time in a long time I’m hopeful that Standard can be fun again. There’s a new set on the horizon, Core Set 2021, and with it comes new cards and sweet reprints. After reviewing the cards previewed thus far with Ryan Overturf, there are only a few standout over-pushed cards, with the bulk of the set showcasing some great design and interesting play patterns. My favorite card previewed, by far, is Double Vision.
With the art looking so similar to Splinter Twin, you would think this might be my Invitational Card!
Upon first reading of this awesome enchantment, I couldn’t quite place my finger on why I liked it so much. Obviously it fits right into my repertoire, as I have a growing list of “big cool things to do with lots of mana or copying spells.” Wilderness Reclamation and Expansion/Explosion with Ral, Storm Conduit was the last time I attempted such tomfoolery. I’ve also experimented with Primal Amulet. But the one that stood out among the rest was Pyromancer’s Goggles.
Pyromancer’s Goggles fills a special place in my heart because it was the first time I ever really feel like I “broke it.” While the original shell (without Pyromancer’s Goggles) was a Gerry Thompson brew, some tenderness and big brain deckbuilding ultimately ended with a sweet brew. Thing in the Ice and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy allowed me to apply some early pressure to opponents without much removal. If they didn’t have removal, the transformation of either could bury the opponent. But that was just the early game. Red removal helped push you to the later turns where the big artifact, Pyromancer’s Goggles, would bury any opponent that didn’t counter or kill it.
Doubling up on a spell felt really good, and trivial to setup. Just casting a single Magmatic Insight or Fiery Impulse on the turn where you cast Pyromancer’s Goggles was enough to make up for spending all five mana. Double Vision doesn’t have that luxury, as you need to have more than five mana or untap with it for it to shine, but that’s actually half the fun! There’s tension, as you must spend an entire turn setting up before you get any payoff, but the kicker is that Double Vision resets for both your turn and your opponent’s turn.
It took me some time to figure that part out. I was so focused on the “once per turn” clause that I didn’t realize you could cast something on your turn and your opponent’s turn. That means Double Vision is quite a bit better than I initially thought, and my first impression was that it was really good. Let’s see if I’m right.
A Different Kind of Engine
We’ve had quite a few mana engines over the last two years. Wilderness Reclamation and Fires of Invention stand out as potential problems with Fires of Invention eventually getting banned. Giving players extra mana to do busted stuff with is potentially problematic. Double Vision doesn’t add mana per se, but doubling up on any spell you cast has a similar effect of mana generation. The trick will be finding a balance between card advantage, removal, and finishers. You need enough removal to protect your life total so that you don’t die before resolving Double Vision. You need enough longevity to beat a resolved Teferi, Time Raveler or three. You want every removal spell in your deck to be able to tag planeswalkers as well as creatures, as unlocking the ability to cast spells on your opponent’s turn is really important.
Cards like Shock are desirable here because they can act as interaction and a finishing move. While it will be more fun and explosive to cast and Fork some Fireball variant, it might be a smarter move to just small-ball your opponent to death. Why fill your deck with lackluster and inefficient spells when you can slowly grind them out by copying burn spells that have long since lost their value of killing creatures?
I might be overestimating how easy it will be to burn the opponent out, as it seems like the better burn spells we have access to in Standard can’t go to the dome. Flame Sweep is a great removal spell, buying you time against the aggressive strategies. Scorching Dragonfire is an efficient way to exile annoying creatures like Anax, Hardened in the Forge while doubling as a way to tag Teferi that’s drawn a card.
Before we get into the deckbuilding aspect of Double Vision, let me say that any card costing more than three mana that gets bounced without value by Teferi might be a trap. That’s way more of a Teferi problem than a problem with the card itself. Until Teferi rotates, there’s a chance this card does nothing. However, there’s also a chance this card is bonkers even in the face of Teferi because of how easy it is to kill a planeswalker once you have this on the battlefield.
For me, the biggest difference between Double Vision and Pyromancer’s Goggles is that Double Vision works on any color of spell. Blue draw spells are much more efficient than the red ones like Tormenting Voice, so now we get to draw four with Chemister’s Insight instead of getting absolutely dunked on by counterspells. Don’t get me wrong, the red spells surrounding Pyromancer’s Goggles are absolutely what fueled it to become the monster it did, but Double Vision opens up a much wider selection.
The next question I want to ask about Double Vision is “what colors should we play?” Green gives us a Cultivate reprint which conveniently casts Double Vision a turn early. Growth Spiral is also a nice consideration here, as it functions both as a ramp spell and draws two cards once Double Vision is active. It’s also an instant that can be cast on the opponent’s turn.
We want instants primarily so that we can play spells on both our turn and the opponent’s turn. Ramp effects to cast Double Vision a turn or two early or giving you enough mana to cast Double Vision and a spell to copy on the same turn is a big deal. Temur is also a color combination I’m naturally drawn to, so let’s start with that and explore other options after.
If I’ve learned anything about playing the current Standard, it’s that Shark Typhoon and Wilderness Reclamation are a powerful duo. Not playing those two cards in my maindeck is almost painful, as Wilderness Reclamation is such a great way to generate extra mana, and Shark Typhoon is a great way to use all that extra mana while getting around both counterspells and Teferi’s static ability.
This list is more of a speculative list for a future without Wilderness Reclamation than anything. As of right now, there are very few instants and sorceries previewed from Core Set 2021, and something as simple as Lightning Strike could drastically alter the composition of this archetype. The bones of this type of deck are much more important than the rest, as your utility spells become turbo-charged once you have Double Vision on the battlefield. Pyromancer’s Goggles wouldn’t have been nearly as good without access to Magmatic Insight or Tormenting Voice. Those two spells helped filter mediocre draws early, but later became explosive with Goggles.
There aren’t many valuable “X” spells at the moment either. No Fight with Fire or Fall of the Titans. Instead, we have Expansion/Explosion, which still seems significantly better with Wilderness Reclamation than Double Vision. That means killing with Double Vision itself isn’t exactly easy, so we’re forced to rely on Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath to do the heavy lifting. We also are going to try Commence the Endgame as our replacement for Shark Typhoon (for now), because doubling it seems quite nice! It’s not as good against Teferi but it’s pretty decent against an opposing Mystical Dispute!
Look, right now Standard is full of powerful cards that are currently oppressing a lot of other strategies. Even when we get a rotation in a few months, there’s no guarantee that these play patterns will change much. Cat/Oven is still legal for another fifteen months. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath will be around for the same amount of time. It’s honestly kind of frustrating to think about. But in three months, Wilderness Reclamation will rotate along with a ton of annoying planeswalkers. Hopefully it’ll shake things up enough for something as sweet as Double Vision to see some play. After all, Pyromancer’s Goggles was printed months and months before the deck was built.
I’m sure Double Vision will have some more toys to play with by the time Core Set 2021 is fully out, but looking over the set at the moment shows me very little to dance with. Many of the cards we’ve seen paired with Wilderness Reclamation (instants) go nicely with Double Vision. The ability to get value on both your turn and your opponent’s turn is huge, so obviously moving toward playing more instants is big. That means we’ll likely be butting heads with Wilderness Reclamation for the entirety that it’s in the format. But what if we just combined the two for now?
This incorporation of Double Vision into an already powerful archetype might be the way to go, at least for now. The fact that both archetypes want to play similar cards is really cool! I am also a fan of untapping with Double Vision, which you get to do quite easily with Wilderness Reclamation. It’s a wonderful pairing that can showcase exactly what Double Vision can do without forcing it to carry your entire strategy.
I will likely revisit this card once Wilderness Reclamation is gone, if only because it will have more room to shine. For now, finding the right home for it might mean it plays a support role instead of being our enforcer. If Standard becomes much more about creatures, interaction, and traditional gameplay values, Double Vision will hopefully make a big splash in a future Standard. However, if the Standard format continues to be decks ignoring each other and going over the top, we’ll need some serious firepower to make Double Vision worth playing.
Looking at all the previewed cards multiple times over the last few days has given me a semblance of hope. Each day brings new previews and another chance for Wizards of the Coast to provide us with a palatable play experience in what should be the most popular format: Standard. There are only one or two head-scratchers as far as design goes, as the planeswalkers all feel balanced but exciting. They play roles instead of being auto-includes in the color they represent. Am I excited about the prospect of Cultivate into Nissa, Who Shakes the World into Ugin, the Spirit Dragon? Not really, but maybe that means counterspells come back with a vengeance. After all, counterspells used to be the natural foil to ramp strategies.
I will freely admit that my enjoyment of Standard over the last year has been basically non-existent. However, the banning of both Agent of Treachery and Fires of Invention is a step in the right direction. Teferi, Time Raveler and Wilderness Reclamation will be rotating in three months. After that, I’m hoping for a soft reset and rooting for some lesser known cards to shine.