Dominaria United is right around the corner, and with it, we’re getting a slew of sick cards to look at! I don’t know about you, but to me, these are some of the most exciting spoilers I’ve seen in a long time. Between super cool designs and beloved callbacks, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up being one of the best sets of all time. That said, one of the cards that caught my eye (as well as many others I’m sure) is the newest addition to the pantheon of Figure of Destiny clones, Evolved Sleeper.
So at it’s base we have a 1 mana 1/1 which is obviously unexciting, but considering it’s following the Figure model, this is always how it goes. Then for one more mana you get a 2/2, for two more mana you get a 3/3 Deathtouch, and then for 3 mana you get a counter and a card at the cost of a life. This is a lot to break down, so one way to approach it is by looking at it’s contemporaries.
Let’s first look at Warden of the First Tree. While you get a bigger body up front for less mana (a 3/3 for 3 mana versus Sleeper’s 4), the second and third activated abilities are substantially pricier which makes it harder to continue to level up. To me, most of the time Warden is going to be a Nessian Courser that can get Trample and Lifelink, which while nice, don’t suit a 3/3 particularly well. To that end, I think Sleeper has Warden easily beat.
For a more recent example, Ascendant Spirit has seen a lot of play due to it’s power level. While each ability costs one more to activate and requires Snow, getting a 2/3, a 4/4 flier, until finally a 6/6 Flier with Curiosity is very powerful, even if it’s a big mana investment. On pure power, Ascendant Spirit is likely the stronger card, but Sleeper is less mana intensive and less restrictive.
So where does that leave us?
Sleeper is such a tough card to evaluate as you can’t just look at it in a vacuum. What deck it goes into and what the early game of the respective format looks like matters a lot. You would hate to invest a bunch of mana into a card that’s either easily killed or outclassed right? So let’s first answer what deck it would go into.
Considering this is an aggressive creature, you have to put it in Mono Black Aggro! This feels like the perfect card for the deck as the strategy desperately wanted another one drop creature. Furthermore, this fills a similar role as Tenacious Underdog as a solid card on rate that gives you mana sinks later in the game. While Liliana of the Veil tends to rid yourself of extra land drops, an aggressive deck having a means to use mana when it’s top decking is invaluable.
To answer the second question, I feel that this card is very much on par with the early game we have right now in Standard. While it will be annoying to lose your Sleeper to a Play with Fire, losing a two drop to Shock is not an uncommon play pattern. Furthermore, I feel it would be relatively easy to get it out of trading range for one and two mana creatures so you can constantly threaten to trade at parity or up (parity in this case meaning around the 3 cmc mark).
This card does feel a bit narrow and takes a little bit to get going, but I really like what’s going on here. Any aggressive creature that lets you utilize your mana when you may be holding up removal or playing off curve tends to be much better than it looks. While not many decks will be interested in this, the decks that are will be extremely happy to have it.
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