With the full spoiler now out, players are fervently poring over the cards that will soon be introduced onto Arena and either discussing their applications, brewing with them, and everything in between. Par for the course, I’m meticulously going over the spoiler for inspiration, but also, because I would hate to miss out on a sick card that goes unnoticed otherwise! With Wedding Announcement and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker being the most prominent examples, in recent memory, finding more of those cards would be an absolute delight, especially when you’re ahead of the pack.
While I’m definitely going to be talking about the cards that I think many players are overlooking, I’m actually going to talk about the opposite topic today! There’s been so much conversation generated about this set as this is easily one of the coolest I’ve literally ever seen, but just like cards I’m surprised are being overlooked, there are a lot of cards I’m surprised are being so highly praised! While of course there is going to be a strong chance I’m off by a little (or even a lot) on some of these evaluations, using historical examples and current context, I think we can get a decent grasp on how well some of these cards are going to perform!
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the top five cards that I think are currently being overrated in The Brothers' War
Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim
I already spoke about Teferi last week, so if you want the full breakdown I’ll link the article, but I’ll give a recap here as well.
In essence, I’ve seen a lot of players calling this one of the most aggressive Blue planeswalkers of all time because of the passive ability, which is definitely strong in a vacuum, but I don’t think is actually that strong in reality. The major element that seems to be making Teferi so highly valued is the idea that you can create a huge army of tokens that will keep scaling when you have a lot of card draw, which again in theory, sounds pretty powerful. However, as I even point out in the article, there’s a few problems with that.
One, planeswalkers that minus to create a blocker are really susceptible to getting killed, especially if they go to a pretty low loyalty to do it. Obviously it’s better than the walker not defending itself at all, but all it takes is a creature and a removal spell and you have a dead walker, generally at a tempo premium for the opponent. You can argue that maybe you have multiple blockers out, but realistically, how many creatures do you envision playing in a deck that would want to play Teferi?
Second, the card draw spells are very limited in Standard right now. You do have interesting options like Consider and Silver Scrutiny which are reasonable, but that’s about where the line ends. Silver Scrutiny in particular can be very powerful with Teferi, but that’s only if you can defend it for long enough.
Even with all that said, it’s not like there aren’t a bunch of ways to kill Planeswalkers, and while accruing a bunch of loyalty is cool, the ultimate isn’t even that strong so having a lot of loyalty is really only beneficial to prevent Teferi from being attacked down.
Overall, I’m not impressed with what Teferi is offering, and while it can take over games, it seems it’s only going to solidify board states that are already thoroughly controlled.
Now isn’t this a fun one! You have Fact or Fiction mixed in with both a Devil’s Deal and the punisher mechanic making this a really unique Black card!
As far as analysis, the moral of the story is that this four mana to draw three, mill three, and lose three life. It doesn’t read as simple because you have the sub game with choosing which pile to reveal and the opponent gets to choose which pile you get, but at it’s heart, you draw three and mill three. So is that card good enough? Not really.
As I say in a lot of my analyses of cards, once you get into cards costing four or more mana (and you can probably argue that bar is now down to three or more mana), the quality you need to see play is extremely high. If you’re not sure why, look at your competition. At three there is Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Wedding Announcement, and Liliana of the Veil (which I’ll remind you hasn’t even been seeing that much play!). At four you have Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and The Wandering Emperor. At five you have heavy hitters like Ao, the Dawn Sky and Invoke Despair. So yeah, pretty high impact cards. Furthermore, do you know the similarity between all these cards? They have an immediate board impact! I’m not saying card draw spells aren’t playable because they don’t have board impact (although that has been kind of the case in this Standard meta), but they have to weave seamlessly in to your curve and game plan. What deck is going to want Hostile Negotiations? Honestly, no clue.
You can point to the milling aspect and say that maybe a Reanimator deck wants this. I think that’s a reasonable argument as paying four mana to get a bunch of cards then potentially even more resources is a pretty good deal. The issue is, Reanimators weakness right now isn’t setting up your strategy, it’s literally just survival. Not only does this card not help you survive, it does the literal opposite as it costs you life and a lot of tempo to cast it.
Lastly, and most importantly, the predication that this is a four mana draw three and mill three isn’t even that accurate, because the opponent gets additional information! Not only is the information of what goes to your hand a pretty large advantage for your opponent, they may even be able to give you the worse of the two piles on top of it! Whether they mill something they will struggle to beat or give you a pile they believe they can beat, giving the opponent a choice is never a good sign, and still to this day, cards that give the opponents a lot of agency very rarely see play.
With all these factors combined, I would be very surprised if this saw play in any of the major archetypes.
Before I dive into this entry, let’s get one thing out of the way. Will this card see play if Azorius Soldiers turns out to be a good archetype (which I suspect it will)? Almost certainly. This synergizes well with other Soldiers as it has similar text to Cryptbreaker, and while you can’t create Zombies, you can create the requisite tokens you need to power the ability which is pretty strong. Sure, Cryptbreaker was one mana and this is three, but you had to invest more mana to get the Zombies or cast more spells while this simply asks you to attack, not a bad trade off.
So if it seems that I like this card, why am I calling it overrated? I think it’s fine in a Soldiers deck, but I’ve seen players hailing this as the new Goblin Rabblemaster which I’m definitely not seeing. If you’re thinking of using this as a cheeky way to gain equity in extremely grindy matchups, I see the point in theory, but this falls short for a variety of reasons.
First off, currently, there are no matchups in Standard that this would make sense in, both playing with or against. What I mean is what deck is looking to board this in, and even if there is a deck that would board this is, what are you boarding it in against? If there were two glacially slow Control decks and you expect that both of you are boarding out removal in game two, maybe I can see it, but that does not exist, and even if it did, would be a niche application of this card.
The second issue I have is that it’s Blue. I’m not against Blue cards, but a big reason Goblin Rabblemaster variants were good as sideboard tech was because they gave decks that normally didn’t have a good anti-control tool a good tool to use. Blue, in general, shouldn’t have that problem as you can simply run counterspells like Negate which will fulfill a similar role. Sure, Negate can’t win you the game, but it’s going to have more broad applications than Skystrike.
Finally, a big reason Goblin Rabblemaster variants were good was because they did something the turn they came into play. While generating a 1/1 token and then getting killed isn’t an amazing exchange, they are so much more higher impact compared to Skystrike. By the second turn each is in play, unobstructed, Legion Warboss will have generated two tokens, buffed one of those tokens, and dealt five damage, while Skystrike Officer will have only dealt two damage and created one token.
While Officer is cool and a likely asset in Soldier decks, I can’t imagine seeing it in other strategies.
Now we have one of the sweetest reprints we’ve gotten in awhile, Diabolic Intent! First off, this is an absolute slam dunk for Commander or Historic Brawl players as this will make this a much more affordable option for them rather than the original printing. Nice job, Wizards!
That said, I have seen a lot of talk about the potential Constructed applications of the card. Since the hole left by Deadly Dispute is rather large, this is a pretty enticing alternative. I mean, two mana sacrifice a random creature and tutor is awesome, right? It’s like Demonic Tutor which is a disgustingly powerful card! Well, unfortunately, this is certainly no Demonic Tutor, and believe it or not, I don’t think this is as good as Deadly Dispute! Let me explain.
Deadly Dispute was such a powerful sacrifice outlet for two main reasons. One, while it cost two mana, it wasn’t exactly two mana as it created a Treasure token. This turned out to be better than the one mana discount you get off of something like Village Rites because not only could you bank that mana for later, you could also use it as sacrifice fodder itself, whether to another Deadly Dispute or something like Oni-Cult Anvil. In that vein, even if there were a Village Rites that could sacrifice artifacts, I feel that Deadly Dispute would still win out. Second and rather obviously, Deadly Dispute is an instant! Being able to hold open mana either to represent removal, get a free block, or circumvent opposing removal is very powerful.
Now with that in mind, Diabolic Intent is not at all a similar card. Even if you’re sacrificing something you would be happy to sacrifice, you are still down more than a card as you’re giving up that creature and the Intent itself to get a card. In the ideal world, you’re only giving up like 1.5 of a card (if you get a death trigger from the thing you sacrificed, that is value) and you get to upgrade it to your best card which can easily be worth way more than a card, but that seems incredibly narrow. Sacrifice decks are the most likely place to find a lot of good sacrifice fodder, but what are they even tutoring for? Deadly Dispute is great because not only do you get to sacrifice something you don’t mind sacrificing, you are at a minimum, card neutral and you get a Treasure token on top of that! Intent gives you your best card, but for the most part, Sacrifice decks are quantity driven, not quality driven. Getting your best card has obvious upside, but when your best card may not be that much better than your average card, this is a pretty bad deal.
The one stipulation I will give Intent is that it could be good in a combo deck like Abzan Greasefang for instance. They currently don’t have many good creatures for Sacrifice fodder, but getting a Greasefang into your hand can easily be worth it if it wins you the game. Even with that in mind, you would need to build around Diabolic Intent heavily, and even if you have a deck that can support it, it may not be that powerful.
For the final entry on our list, we have Gixian Puppeteer. Wait a second…I recognize you!
For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, this is the Hearthstone card, Piloted Shredder. While looking rather innocuous, this card was very powerful back in the day as a great midrange threat that could get a good trade in and provide a decent body on death. However, I think a lot of Magic players are privy to play other card games, so I’m going to go out on a limb to say that a lot of Magic players have heard of or even played with this card in the past. Now that we look back at Gixian Puppeteer, I can see some family resemblance. Both four mana 4/3s that get creatures on death, but Puppeteer even has a sweet draw clause! This has to be a solid card, right? Well, just like Piloted Shredder, if this was 2014, then maybe! However, this is very much not 2014.
First off, a four mana 4/3 is a pretty sad stat line for a creature in a format where Lightning Strike exists. That is offset a bit by the death trigger, but still. Second, while Piloted Shredder required no set up to get the death trigger, Puppeteer does need a creature in the yard to get full value. While that doesn’t seem challenging, in a format with Dennick, Pious Apprentice and Graveyard Trespasser, that’s also no easy feat. Third, while the main ability is far from flavor text with Connive, I don’t think it’s going to come up as often as you’d like. Finally, like I keep saying, just compare this to the other four drops in the format like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and The Wandering Emperor. These are the perfect examples as it not only shows why Puppeteer is outclassed, those are the same exact fours you play in Esper which is the most reasonable home for this as well. Better yet, remember this card?
This card was printed not too long ago and it has seen exactly zero play. Considering this is quite similar to Puppeteer, that doesn’t bode well for it’s chances. Puppeteer is definitely better, but it’s hard to say if it’s by much.
Will Gixian Puppeteer see play? Maybe, as it does work quite well in Esper, but this isn’t going to be a powerhouse, but rather a potential one of in a deck that is already tight for space.
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