As soon as Smoldering Egg was released, I was drawn to it as a card that was potentially very good. I strongly debated including it in my Innistrad: Midnight Hunt First Impressions: Standard Top 5 list but ultimately Burn Down the House edged it out in fifth place. The other authors didn’t seem too high on it, with the exception of Todd Anderson, who placed it as his literal best card in the set, but I think they’re sleeping on the card, and the more I think about it, the better Smoldering Egg looks like to me. Maybe Todd really was onto something.
The comparison to Thing in the Ice is obvious — so much so that people have been starting to call Smoldering Egg Thing in the Egg, Thing in the Fire, and other creative names (though if you must know, my Twitter poll showed an 80% preference for Thing in the Egg).
Thing in the Ice wasn’t super-popular in its Standard format, but it really found a home in higher-powered formats as part of what was at one time the best deck in Modern (Izzet Phoenix). Can Smoldering Egg be that card for Standard and Historic? Let’s see how they match up:
- The original size of 0/4 is the same. In Modern, this was relevant because it survived Lightning Bolt and could block many of the Humans in the early-game. With Smoldering Egg, it’s very similar, as much of the removal both in Standard and Historic also deals three or less damage. In Standard, we have Frost Bite, Dragon’s Fire, Play with Fire, Moonrager’s Slash, and Cathartic Pyre as spells, and then a wealth of two- or three-power attackers. It’s actually not trivial to find a three-drop that attacks past Smoldering Egg, let alone a two-drop. In Historic, this dodges Unholy Heat without delirium, Fiery Temper, and most importantly Lightning Helix.
- The triggering condition is different. With Thing in the Ice, you need to cast four spells, but it doesn’t matter which spells you’re casting, so you’re super-incentivized to play cheap cantrips, including zero-mana cards if possible. With Smoldering Egg, we need to watch out for our costs. This means a couple of things:
- Cheating costs is a big no-no with Smoldering Egg, because it looks at how much you paid, and not what the mana value is. For example, if you use the alternate cost for something like a Force of Will or Force of Negation, that won’t work at all with Smoldering Egg. Foretell is also not the best combo with Smoldering Egg, as if you foretell Behold the Multiverse, for example, you only get two counters as opposed to four if you hard-cast it.
- Alternate costs that make you pay more mana work favorably with Smoldering Egg (namely flashback). In an incredible coincidence, flashback just so happens to be in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. You can use, for example, a spell like Arcane Infusion to singlehandedly transform Smoldering Egg into Ashmouth Dragon by simply casting it and flashing it back later on. Alternatively, if they cast something like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, the extra tax you’re playing will count towards transforming it!
- It requires more mana, but less material. In Modern, Thing in the Ice could transform on Turn 3, and it could transform with a zero-mana investment if you drew numerous copies of Manamorphose. Realistically, it usually costs between three and four mana to transform, which is significantly less than the seven mana you need to spend for Smoldering Egg. However, you also need four cards to accomplish it, whereas with Smoldering Egg you could do it with just one card if it’s expensive enough. This means if you’ve mulliganed, if you’re flooded, or if your opponent hit you with some discard spells, transforming Smoldering Egg might actually be easier than transforming Thing in the Ice. Again, all you need is one Arcane Infusion, one Memory Deluge flashbacked, or one Alrund’s Epiphany to accomplish it. This also makes Smoldering Egg a much better topdeck than Thing in The Ice.
Once you transform them, they also behave differently. With Thing in the Ice, you’re done — no more investment required, you have your 7/8. With Ashmouth Dragon, you still want to be able to cast some spells. Getting a 4/4 flyer for 1R is still a fantastic deal, so you’re not going to be upset if you don’t have other spells to cast, but part of the strength of this card is being able to machine-gun your opponents’ creatures (as well as opponents themselves), and if you have no spells you miss out on that.
Because of this, Smoldering Egg would prefer either mid-sized spells or a mix of cheap and expensive spells, so that you can both transform it and use it once it’s transformed The upside is that if you do have these spells, it can be even better than Thing in the Ice, as that’s a one-and-done kind of deal and with Smoldering Dragon you could in theory kill every creature they cast for the rest of the game.
Another big difference between the two cards is that Thing in the Ice resets the battlefield, which means that you can spend a lot of your resources just trying to transform it (you’re not punished for falling behind). Smoldering Egg is not like this. Once you transform it, you still have their battlefield to contend with, and unless you have a lot of cheap spells to cast right after, it might not be able to save you from someone who spent this time developing their own forces.
All these differences make for relatively different playstyles, even though the cards are remarkably similar. Thing in the Ice rewards you for playing the Thing in the Ice mini-game — you want to cast it early, chain a bunch of cantrips, and transform it as quickly as possible so you can kill your opponent. Once you have Thing in the Ice on the battlefield, the game might end up being completely different from how it was before.
Smoldering Egg, on the other hand, rewards you for simply playing a game of Magic. You don’t want to chain air into air so that you can transform it — first because it requires a lot of mana to be spent on air, and second because then you might fall too far behind. Instead, you want to use your mana to cast real cards — you want to kill their creatures, counter their spells, maybe cast some beefy card drawing, and then it will incidentally transform into your win condition. This is perfect for us because Standard is, for the most part, a format where doing the Smoldering Egg thing is much easier than doing the Thing in the Ice thing, whereas in Modern and other high-powered formats, the Thing in the Ice thing becomes much easier.
So where do I see this card in Standard? In my opinion, it has a couple of possible homes. The first, and the one that I believe is most likely to work, is where it acts as a finisher in a control deck. It’s just there, lurking as a blocker, until it eventually transforms and takes over the game. In my mind, the three best cards to pair it with in a control deck are Arcane Infusion, Memory Deluge, and Alrund’s Epiphany.
I’ve already touched on Arcane Infusion before, but I think this card works really well with Smoldering Egg. You can cast it on Turn 3 and find something to cast immediately (such as a Frost Bite), you can find interaction for Turn 4, or you can simply flash it back on Turn 5 and it already transforms Smoldering Egg with no extra work. If you do that, you’ve also found an extra two spells, so there are good chances you’ll have ammunition for Ashmouth Dragon.
Memory Deluge is similar — just a powerful card that works towards transforming Smoldering Egg and also towards finding more spells to cast after you’ve transformed it. I think three possible play patterns will be common:
- Turn 2 Smoldering Egg, Turn 3 any three-mana spell (Saw It Coming for example, or Arcane Infusion into Frost Bite or Consider), Turn 4 Memory Deluge, transform Smoldering Egg.
- Turn 4 cast Memory Deluge, find Smoldering Egg and a three or four-mana spell. On Turn 5, cast Smoldering Egg plus a three-mana spell, Turn 6 cast the other spell and transform Smoldering Egg.
- Turn 4 cast Memory Deluge and find Smoldering Egg. Turn 5 or 6 cast Smoldering Egg, Turn 7 flashback Memory Deluge, and that’s already enough to transform it.
Alrund’s Epiphany is also a seven-mana spell that will automatically transform Smoldering Egg, and it will allow you to immediately attack with it. If you have nothing else, you get an attack for four and an attack in for six, and then an extra two for each spell you cast. This is perfect to make relatively empty battlefields threatening. Sure, you only have an 0/4 on the battlefield, but they might have to treat it as a 4/4 and go to great lengths to kill it, because if they blink and you have Epiphany, they might just die.
Two copies of Smoldering Egg plus Alrund’s Epiphany make eighteen damage without any extra spells. Sure enough, any 4/4 flyers are going to be good with Alrund’s Epiphany if it lives, but Smoldering Egg is a two-drop — it’s trivial to just sneak it in and it’s not going to trade down with removal spells like other big creatures you could play. 4/4 flyers are all good with Alrund’s Epiphany, but two-drops are not all good with Alrund’s Epiphany and this one is excellent.
One thing to pay attention to is that, again, if you foretell Alrund’s Epiphany, it will no longer be enough to singlehandedly transform Smoldering Egg, so keep this in mind. In the previous Standard, if you had Saw It Coming and four mana, it was an automatic play to foretell it. But right now it might be in your best interest to pay full retail for it that turn or later on, and the same is true for other foretell cards.
The rest of the deck should be similar to the Izzet Dragons deck we currently have. I think you still want Goldspan Dragon to power up your Epiphanies as well as some counterspells and removal. Another new addition to the deck is Burn Down the House, which I also mentioned in the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt First Impressions: Standard Top 5 list. I think this card will be pretty important at dealing with the green planeswalkers while at the same time being a five-mana card that you can just cast to transform Smoldering Egg while you gum up the ground.
This is how I would try the deck out:
This deck looks quite good to me. If I had to bet on a home for Smoldering Egg, it would be something like this, as I feel it checks every box I’m looking for with that card.
The other option I can think of is a faster deck, which I think is less likely to work because the spells are very cheap and therefore don’t do a great job of transforming Smoldering Egg, but I think this style is still worth a try:
I honestly don’t think this deck is quite there yet, but maybe it serves as inspiration for someone to build a better version of it. The card certainly has the potential to be strong in an aggro deck as well, just as long as we find the right supporting cast.