The Top 5 Unplayed Standard Cards That Are Close to Being Broken

Vampire Socialite Art by Suzanne Helmigh
Vampire Socialite Art by Suzanne Helmigh

Hello everyone! Today I’m sharing the results of a practice I do right before every spoiler season is that I go through the complete Standard card pool, identify cards that see no play, but have a lot of potential. Furthermore, if you identify what the card is missing to shine, you can find a lot of the new great synergies much faster than the rest of the field.

Obviously this won’t always yield in finding the next great Standard deck and the card may continue to see no play, but I still think it’s worth the effort. For this set, I narrowed it down to my top 5 (which is kind of 7!) best cards that currently see no play, but I think could easily be great. Let’s dive in.

HONORABLE MENTION: OSWALD FIDDLEBENDER

I have a good feeling most of you had to reread this card to even know what it did, despite being so new. Are the odds good that Oswald Fiddlebender is going to see Standard play? Realistically no, but I think he’s closer than most suspect! A functional Birthing Pod for artifacts is a potent ability that has already seen some play in older formats to reasonable success. You may think we don’t have nearly enough artifacts in Standard to support this, but we’re closer than I expected.

We unfortunately don’t have any 0s, but: we have Excavated Wall and Pithing Needle for 1s, Eye of Vecna and Spare Supplies on 2, a bunch of mana rocks on 3, Lithoform Engine and Myriad Construct on 4, and Forsaken Monument on 5. Realistically combining all these together isn’t going to make a cohesive plan, but if there were a few more really strong artifacts printed, it wouldn’t be impossible to build a deck around them. Again, odds are low, but you never know.

5. CHAMPION OF THE PERISHED / VAMPIRE SOCIALITE

I’ll admit this listing is a little bit of a cop out, but it does fit the prompt! I lumped these two together since they’re similar-ish cards and need similar things to pan out for them. For Champion of the Perished, it’s obviously a Champion of the Parish analog that is similarly powerful. For Vampire Socialite, it’s a more situational 2 mana lord, but has a better body and permanently buffs the creatures rather than temporarily. Both are extremely powerful in their respective tribes and obviously both need more tribal support from future sets to see play, especially in the 1 drops section.

Champion of the Perished is already on the precipice of playability as their is a solid amount of Zombies, realistically 1-2 more is going to push it into playable territory whether it’s another solid body, or better yet, another payoff. Vampire Socialite on the other hand is going to need a bit more help to get there. There aren’t an excess of good vampires right now and there’s only one good Vampire one drop, Falkenrath Pit Fighter, and even that’s not the best. At a minimum, Vampires is going to need another playable 1 drop and ideally another Vampire payoff since Socialite is really the only good one right now.

4. CURSE OF LEECHES

Curse of Leeches is a super interesting design and an absolute house in Limited. Funny enough, I would even contend that Curse is better in Constructed than Limited as many Limited games become board stalls that the 4/4 half can’t do much on while it’s rare a 4/4 won’t have some sort of impact on the board. It’s a great midrange tool that I think its powerful on either end as long as your deck is looking to pressure the opponent.

So why hasn’t it seen play yet? I think the card doesn’t really need anything but a less hostile metagame. It seems solid against both slow and fast decks which makes it such an appealing option, but right now those decks are super polarized in both directions making it hard for a midrange deck to even exist. Curse of Leeches isn’t seeing play because it’s no good enough, but any deck that could play it has been hated out by the metagame! If midrange comes back into swing, I can see this being a very reasonable option for Black decks.

3. THERMO-ALCHEMIST

This is definitely my most biased pick on the list, but I think Thermo-Alchemist is really, really good. I played with it a lot when it was first in Standard and in Historic Burn and both times it’s been an absolute house. Adding 1 damage to all your spells, dealing 1 a turn when you don’t cast any instants or sorceries, and blocking small creatures is just a lot to pack onto one card, and it still doesn’t see play!

Overall, Thermo-Alchemist can be great if either more cheap Red spells are printed or more burn spells are printed. Thermo works best when you’re casting a lot of cheap spells (which lets it work in Izzet shells as well) or if your spells are already killing the opponent, so realistically you don’t need much to make this card much better.

If we get anything that’s even remotely analogous to Light Up the Stage as well (which wouldn’t be that unreasonable considering that’s somewhat a Vampire mechanic like it is on Florian, Voldaren Scion) this card shoots up in power level. Lastly, if there are some Standard bannings, the power level of everything else will rocket up and Thermo is definitely one of the cards I would look to first to see if there’s a good enough shell. As I said I’m definitely higher on this card than most, but I would not sleep on it.

2. MONK CLASS

This is probably the saddest entry on the list as Monk Class is a fantastic card that’s close to being a great option, but so many things have gone wrong for it to not see play. First of all, there’s this awkward issue with the cheap spells you’d want to play with this. Sure you can play a bunch of 1 mana White creatures to help fuel this, which is something I actually tried. Although this card was great, it wasn’t good enough to justify not just playing Monowhite with the same cards, even though when I got to cast this it overpowered. On the other hand, If you try to play a bunch of Blue 1 drops to fuel this, you’re going to find yourself coming up short on good playables.

Second, this is an excellent tempo/midrange card, as getting a mana advantage on your spells, bouncing something, and then having a psuedo-Phyrexian Arena are all very powerful abilities, while all of them being fairly costed. However, that game plan isn’t supported right now as either you’re playing an Izzet deck or a super fast deck to punish Izzet, not much in between. Lastly, If the mana was a bit better for Azorius as well, this could be a more viable option in a more aggressive or more interactive deck, but i would need another dual land realistically. I’m near positive this is going to see play at some point as it’s such a strong card, it’s just a waiting game.

1. DIREGRAF REBIRTH

This is a card that I’ve seen functionally no discussion on, but can be obscenely powerful in the right scenario. Any card that looks anything like Unburial Rites should be examined thoroughly, and I think this card is much less abusable, but very close in power level. We actually have some reasonable set up for this card as well whether it’s cards that produce Pests that can easily die, Decayed tokens that do the same, and self mill enablers.

What is this missing? Once again, this is an extremely hostile metagame towards any sort of slower fair strategy so even if the support was there, it’d be extremely doubtful that this would see play. Beyond that, it isn’t missing particularly much. We’d be happy to see another self mill card or a really big payoff for Reanimator, but I could see this card getting reasonable play once the meta is shaken up a bit. Considering this can pretty easily be a 2 mana Rise From the Grave without putting in that much work, I’d be very surprised if we don’t see a good Reanimator deck before this rotates out.

Are there any cards you think I overlooked? Which one are you most excited to play? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

10 Responses

  1. Zafarion says:

    “there’s only one good Vampire on drop, Falkenrath Pit Fighter, and even that’s not the best. At a minimum, Vampires is going to need another playable 1 drop and ideally another Vampire payoff since Socialite is really the only good one right now.”

    You forgot about Bloodthirsty Adversary, immersun predator, Nighthawk Scavenger and even Nullpriest of Oblivion is not that bad, but I agree that’s not enough. On cmc1 range we have Valentin.

    About Curse of Leeches I see it as a Sanctum of Stone Fangs for cmc3 (and that card never see play). You lose turn 3 to cast something that hardly affects the gameplay. When it turns into a creature, his stats are not the best (may be decent vs mono red due to lifelink) and it becomes vulnerable to removal.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      I think there’s a good amount of strong vampires, but it needs more 1s specifically, the others you mentioned are quite good and a big part on why Socialite is so close. I think Curse is substantially better than Sanctum as you can play out multiple and a 4/4 lifelink is a really good stat line, doubly so at 3 mana. Both halves of the card I think are really good which makes it so appealing to me.

  2. ratkorga says:

    Alright, now I can’t help but start tinkering with some Diregraf Rebirth decks. Definite callback to my early days of playing (before I took a ~20 year hiatus), when my first competitive deck was a Living Death deck – I’m a sucker for this kind of card.

    Seems like it wouldn’t be terrible on a deck with a similar structure to Golgori/Sultai Festival decks – lots of mana dorks, Wrenn + Chariot and Diregraf at the high end instead of Festival. Wrenn should be pretty good at milling creatures into the graveyard, and could even pop in Old Stickfingers or something. Blue gives access to better high end creatures to bring back (Koma in particular), plus some of the better discard/mill effects so that you don’t get clogged hands with high end stuff you’d rather have in the graveyard.

    Alright, time to start building…

    • ratkorga says:

      After a day of playing around… yeah, couldn’t really make it work. I mean, the deck was passable because it was Sultai Ramp and was pretty good at just doing its own thing until it could drop big wincons, but Rebirth almost never felt key and lots of times was just a dead card. Suspicious Stowaway as an early draw engine that could also pop useful cards into the graveyard was fun, but it felt strictly worse than Storm the Festival decks with similar structures.

      I did play around a bit with a more aggressive zombie-focused Golgari deck, caring less about getting big Rebirth targets and more about putting a ton of zombies on the board and filling up the graveyard for Ghoulcaller’s Harvest. That was pretty fun, and Diregraf Rebirth saw itself getting played a lot more there since it was really easy to get it to only cost BG, but it was still kind of gimmicky and felt strictly worse than just running a straight aggro strategy with zombies.

  3. Chronoshifter says:

    Overlooked cards: perhaps Tasha’s hideous Laughter, and Go Blank.
    Why is Azorius mana not good compared to other combinations?

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Hideous Laughter is great in formats with Lurrus, not so much otherwise unfortunately. Go Blank is great but people are already on that tech. I could’ve been clearer with the Monk Class section, I meant its not good enough to support a lot of cheap cards in both colors, not that the color combo specifically has an issue. Like all the non Strix guilds, it has the best 2 color mana in Standard.

  4. CrakkaJaxx says:

    I think Lunar Frenzy is terribly under rated and under utilized right now. It’s essentially just a poor man’s Embercleave and can work in any red variant aggro or midrange deck.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Lunar Frenzy is probably underrated, but I would say it’s much more like a Fireball than it is Embercleave. To emulate Embercleave, you would need to spend 2X+2 mana where X is the power to get a similar effect you’d need 5 mana for a 2 power creature, 6 for a 3, and 7 for a 4. It could still be a cool one of in aggressive decks as nobody would ever play around it and it can be better than a Fireball in a sense since you have the added power of the creature itself as well barring removal.

      • CrakkaJaxx says:

        I’m referring less about the cost and more in how and when the card is played. It’s essentially played the same way as your first strike is getting you around the blocker and the trample going through the blocker potentially for lethal. It’s not nearly as powerful a card as EmberCleave, it just feels a whole lot like Embercleave in how and when it is played.

  5. ratkorga says:

    Never managed to get a decent Diregraf Rebirth deck to work, but since this article I’ve been packing a couple of Curse of Leeches in my mono black sideboard. They’re nice additions for longer, grindier matches when I sideboard out the more aggro parts of my deck. Definitely a decent add that I find myself bringing in on game 2 more often than I’d expected.