Hello everyone! If you’re just joining us, we’ve already highlighted a bunch of sweet cards with Elspeth Resplendent, Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, Luxior, Giada’s Gift, Vivien on the Hunt, and Shadow of Mortality, Lord Xander, the Collector, and Shakedown Heavy! Despite going through all of those, we still have sweet cards to dissect!
Like with Shakedown Heavy, I think all the flashy cards have distracted players from the real hidden gems of the set. How do I know? I didn’t know this card existed until today! I read through it so many times to make sure I was understanding it correctly despite it being a relatively simple card and I’m blown away that I haven’t heard about it before. Let’s break down what makes Extraction Specialist so insane.
As I said before, this card is overall pretty simple. It’s a 3 mana 3/2 lifelink, which aren’t incredible stats, but definitely a constructed playable rate as long as there’s more text on the card. Obviously what makes this card sing is the ETB ability! When Extraction Specialist comes in, you get to reanimate a creature with CMV 2 or less, but it can’t attack or block as long as Specialist is on the board.
Before we even get into the card review, thematically this card is an absolute home run. You can see on the art that Specialist is literally carrying that creature to safety, I mean come on, you have to love it!
Now that I got my mini appreciation section out of the way, this reads like a very innocuous ability, but is substantially more powerful than it seems. Let’s take a look at some historical examples of similar designs.
So if we take a look at the 3 White cards, they have an immediate common thread between them beyond the similarity in their abilities: they saw functionally no competitive play. So if we have THREE standard legal cards that do something similar, why do I think number 4 is going to be the one that makes it? It has the best aspects of each card.
The issue with Savior of Ollenbock and Venerable Warsinger is that they both need to attack to trigger their ability. Furthermore, it’s not just attacking that’s going to activate it, but another hurdle as well! For Savior, you need to attack with an additional creature that has more power than Savior and for Warsinger you need to actually deal combat damage to the player. Despite them having a strong ability, it’s just too many hoops to jump through for a 3 drop. So what’s the issue with Sigardian Savior? It’s 5 mana! 5 drops have to be obscenely powerful to see play in Standard nowadays (compare it to Goldspan Dragon) so this obviously doesn’t make the cut. How Extraction Specialist sticks out from the others is that it’s still relatively cheap, but it gets the ability up front without any additional hoop to jump through. This makes it leagues more playable than the first three.
You could point at the downside of the creature not being able to attack or block as a huge detriment to the card, and while that obviously is a downside, I think it’s extremely marginal. If we reframe our thinking, we could view this card as “Whenever this creature dies, put a creature with CMV 2 or less from your graveyard onto the battlefield.” This is a card I would still be happy to play, but is not particularly exciting and would likely be relegated to board play. However, this card is nearly strictly better than that design for two reasons: you can get any abilities immediately and you have an additional body to work with. Let’s take Mono White Aggro as an example.
All three of these cards see play in your average Mono White list, all 3 is extremely high priority kills, and all 3 have an immediate impact on the board, whether you can attack with them or not. Luminarch Aspirant and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in particular are extremely scary when kept on the board awhile so if an opponent has removal for one on curve, you can simply bring it back! Then the opponent is stuck in this awkward dilemma where they need to kill the same creature again, but you got a 3/2 lifelink out of the deal putting you up a card. Even in creature mirrors, you can simply trade aggressively, then bring it back and threaten another trade with Specialist itself! The lifelink makes it an even scarier prospect against creature decks as you’ll get additional value out of it whether they let you keep attacking and gaining life or trading with a creature and gaining life.
This is a great use of Specialist so I definitely expect to see a lot of copies in Mono White moving forward. Whether it should be a main deck card, a board card, or a split is debatable, but the power is real. Funny enough, despite me talking about it’s applications in Mono White, it may not even be the most powerful shell for it! While Mono White clearly makes great use of it, Orzhov can really push Specialist to the limits of value.
When you have a deck full of 2 drops that have ETB value and can be sacrificed with Deadly Dispute or Rite of Oblivion for further value, Extraction Specialist looks absolutely bananas. It may look weird to only play 3 Specialist in the list, but as good as it is, you don’t want to draw a Specialist before a small creature to bring back so it’s utility is going to shine later. If 4 of them turns out being correct though, I would be the furthest thing from surprised.
Extraction Specialist does so much for so little. I would love to give it a higher rating, but with how specific the ability is, the amount of decks that can realistically play it is very limited. That said, any deck that can make good use of it’s ability is going to be thrilled to see it and I believe it will be one of the most beloved and feared white cards in Standard.
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