This Innistrad: Crimson Vow Card is Going to Get Alrund’s Epiphany Banned in Standard
Hello everyone! Spoiler season is in full swing and there’s a lot of super cool cards being previewed daily which gets me, and presumably a lot of us, extremely excited for Standard’s future. I know many weren’t the most excited about the current Standard environment as it’s distilled down into aggro decks and controlling Blue decks, but with Crimson Vow, there’s hope that things will get shaken up.
With that, as I was looking through spoilers I quickly realized that one of the new cards may shake up Standard, but is also extremely likely to get Alrund's Epiphany banned in Standard as well! To understand why I think that, we have to understand what makes Alrund's Epiphany so powerful to begin with.
WHY IS ALRUND’S EPIPHANY SO POWERFUL?
There’s a lot of good answers to this question, but I think it mostly distills down to two factors: tempo advantages that cost functionally zero and it provides it’s own win conditions. Let’s elaborate a bit.
So, like all Time Walk effects, when you resolve it you accrue tempo advantages that cost functionally nothing. Why? Well you get an extra turn out of the deal so there’s another untap phase! This is what makes every Time Walk effect powerful and obviously we can’t say they always cost zero since you have to reach the mana threshold to cast it and it can be countered, but if it resolves, it was kind of like a 0 mana spell. Think Peregrine Drake except way, way better. This is obviously an extremely important piece to the puzzle, but not the most important piece as this would make every Time Warp effect busted.
The biggest reason Epiphany is busted is that it helps to create it’s own win conditions. Sure, two 1/1 Fliers seem innocuous, but even by themselves they can provide a steady stream of damage and if you have any other permanent on board dealing them damage, you can close out the game extremely fast!
There are other small elements like the ability to foretell it and the lack of Mystical Dispute that also make it so strong, but the previous two factors are really the big ones. I’m personally not the biggest fan of Time Walks, but generally speaking they don’t end up being too problematic as if you don’t have something to accrue advantage or threaten the opponent with, they don’t really do anything. Take the newest Time Walk effect being released as an example,
I saw a lot of players think this was going to work in conjunction with Alrund's Epiphany, but I don’t really agree. As I established, the biggest differentiator on why Epiphany is better than a lot of previous Time Walks we’ve seen is it makes it’s own win conditions. This reminds me much more of Chance for Glory rather than Alrund's Epiphany, and Chance for Glory never saw any play as it’s gimmick was that it made your creatures indestructible (which seemed actually relevant) versus this where damage can’t be prevented (which doesn’t seem particularly relevant). I’m not saying this card won’t see play, but this isn’t the card that’s going to get Epiphany banned and I have pretty substantial doubt that this is going to see play alongside Epiphany to begin with.
Now with all this in mind, there are two primary ways that players have been abusing Alrund's Epiphany as you can go the combo route or the permanents route.
The combo route I’m sure everyone is familiar with now, it abuses the provides it’s own win conditions part of Alrund's Epiphany in conjunction with Galvanic Iteration to kill the opponent with solely Bird tokens! This has been a tried and true strategy in Standard since Innistrad released and continues to go strong.
The second strategy, the permanents strategy, is the other way to abuse Epiphany. Comboing off is a viable way to go about it, but as Yuta Takahashi showed us, winning with permanents works nicely as well. In particular, he only used 8 creatures, but both work disgustingly well with Epiphany. Smoldering Egg defends early, then when you cast Epiphany, can flip immediately and do some serious damage to the opponent. Goldspan Dragon is more or less an all around good card, but helps generate extra mana which you can use on your extra turn, plus it just deals 4 in the air each turn which accelerates your clock.
Both these creatures have their distinct advantages, but the reason they’re both so good with Epiphany is the same: they can end the game extremely quickly after Epiphany resolves. Being able to win after resolving an Epiphany is so good and frustrating for the opponent as you can be massively behind with functionally no board state and end up killing them! This is a primary function of the combo version as well since Galvanic Iteration makes it that Epiphany can kill the opponent once resolved.
Contextually speaking, what makes Epiphany even more powerful than it inherently is, is that there’s a lot of cards that synergize well with it to make it lethal upon resolution or very soon after whether it’s Galvanic Iteration or Smoldering Egg/Goldspan Dragon. This all leads us nicely into our new card and why I think it’s going to get Epiphany banned from Standard sooner than later.
WELCOME TO YOUR NEW STANDARD OVERLORD
If we’re talking cards that synergize well with Alrund's Epiphany, you pretty much can’t do any better than the new Manaform Hellkite. Sure, it is vulnerable to interaction where the Galvanic Iteration route isn’t which is a big detractor, but this fits the bill on working with Alrund's Epiphany whether it resolves or not.
This isn’t exactly a new concept, but I think Manaform definitely does it the best. Smoldering Egg doesn’t require Alrund's Epiphany to resolve as it leaves you with it flipped into the Ashmouth Dragon side, which is still good and you got something for it. Galvanic Iteration kind of doesn’t need it to resolve as it creates two copies of the spell so it’s generally unlikely that the opponent will have two counterspells open (but it is still possible!) Both of those can help circumvent the need for it to resolve, but Hellkite makes a 7/7 hasty flier if it doesn’t resolve which is a massive tempo swing!
Considering this is already a 4/4, even if the Epiphany gets countered, it wouldn’t be that unlikely you kill the opponent whether or not they can stop the Epiphany. This puts players into impossible scenarios where they have to choose between going after the Hellkite (if they even can) or trying to stop the Epiphany, but if you can only focus on one, the other is likely to kill you. Take a completely reasonable scenario: you play this on 4, attack on 5 and 6, and play an Epiphany. If they counter an Epiphany, you would still deal 19 damage total over the course of turns 5-7, and that’s if you play nothing else!
Now the synergy with Alrund's Epiphany is obviously excellent, but it has 3 more distinct advantages that may be overlooked.
It’s a Dragon
This is the most minor of the three advantages, but still important. Dragons Fire is a great card and having it get to 4 consistently is awesome in a metagame with Old-Growth Troll and Esika's Chariot.
It Can Create Blockers
You don’t have to use this only offensively! If you cast spells on your opponent’s turn, you can surprise in some blockers which makes this extremely scary against creature decks as well if they leave this unanswered.
It’s Templating Can Make Huge Damage Turns Easy
A key part of Hellkite making Dragon illusions is that they get exiled at the beginning of the next end step. What this means is that you can wait for your opponent to reach the end step, then start casting spells to accrue Illusions to use on your next turn! Even if you don’t find Alrund's Epiphany with it, if you combine this with some Instant speed spells, you can easily kill off the opponent in a few turns after resolving this!
All these things are contingent on Hellkite surviving, but if you build with that in mind, you can constantly force your opponent into awkward spots where if they don’t try to constantly interact, they’re risking immediate death.
Now all this said, what’s the best Epiphany shell for Hellkite? I think you can put it in either the combo version or Dragons, but as the name suggests, it makes more sense in the Dragon shell.
*As a quick note, this can easily be a Bo3 list as well, but this will be the base 60 and lesson board for the purposes of this article*
This is not terribly different from the Izzet Dragons we already know, but this seems like a great base to start off from. I believe Izzet Dragons is the best Epiphany shell as you can make the best use of it since any threat into it will generally be game over where you really need Galvanic Iteration in the other build to accelerate into a win.
That said, the biggest problem with this deck was that you only needed a few removal spells to tear it apart as you only had 8 threats, but now with Hellkite, your opponent can’t just have a removal spell or two and feel comfortable. If they don’t kill literally every threat you present, even letting one live can easily take over the game, that’s what makes Manaform Hellkite such a strong addition to this shell.
Even with just Hellkite and a much better land I think this will probably be ban worthy power level, if the deck gets any more tools (I say as Abrade is revealed today), it’s hard to imagine anything beating it.
Thank you for reading!