It's a new year and MTG has a new set coming around the corner. I'm especially interested this time around because I've already booked Magicfest Chicago and registered for the Standard 75k.
I'll start my testing process once we have a full idea of the set. Until then, I'll look at each card and think about and relearn the format. Each individual set could have a lot of impact on the format if they decide to turn the crank on the power level, but in general each Standard set will have less impact because of how large Standard is becoming with the new rotation cycle.
Let's take a look at some cards that seem interesting thus far.
Alquist Proft, Master Sleuth
Alquist Proft, Master Sleuth is an interesting card. It has Rogue Refiner vibes, a three-power, three-mana creature that provides a Clue token that is comparable to "draw a card" when you factor in the use of an artifact token on top of the mana cost to get your card.
Additionally, we get the potential in the late game to turn any Clue into a Sphinx's Revelation. This effect is huge in games where boards stall out, which isn't typical in Standard these days, but long, back-and-forth games can happen in grindy formats like Standard, especially postboard when people bring in appropriate interaction. There will be times you peel Alquist with 10 mana, which you can then tap out to make a 3/3 that also draws four cards, much like a Hydroid Krasis.
This card will be excellent in those kinds of games, and vigilance allows you to set this up a little better while still pressuring life totals and planeswalkers, providing you with a 3/3 that can always block.
This is the card I'm most excited about trying based on the previews. It may be too slow for current Standard, but I could see it being quite good given a deck that tries to develop a long game plan.
A beloved reprint, Lightning Helix is sure to see play in any deck that can cast it, but casting is going to be the issue. I see Lightning Helix as more of a defensive card right now. It's a removal spell with life gain that can help more controlling or slower decks, such as Domain, push into the late game where you're able to overpower your opponent. With the mana the way it is in Standard currently, it's a difficult card to cast in aggressive decks. We likely won't see it splashed in a deck like Mono Red.
Helix is an appropriately powered card for Standard. While it's sure to see play, it's not good enough to wrap your deck around, as we have a huge Standard since sets keep being released. Helix will provide additional reach even in slower decks, so it's not strictly a removal spell because it can also help you close in a lot of situations.
Lightning Helix is an excellent printing because it's an appropriate power level, will see some play, and some players may get excited enough about it to try Standard again after having not played in a while. I'm especially interested in trying Lightning Helix in a deck with Chandra, Hope's Beacon.
It's a solid card and a great reprint.
Rakdos, Patron of Chaos
Rakdos, Patron of Chaos is certainly powerful, but six mana likely won't see play.
For six mana, a card needs to provide immediate value. While Rakdos can do that, situations where it eats an instant-speed-removal spell and provides nothing will be devastating having spent six mana.
Ideally, Rakdos comes into play, draws two cards, attacks the following turn, and draws two more. Basically, any six-mana card is going to run away with games untouched, so you want six-mana spells to provide immediate value all the time and not just when the opponent doesn't have it or when they're tapped out.
We'll probably see some people slide a copy into various Rakdos decks as a top-end finisher, but I'm unlikely to put this card in my deck over something like Chandra Hope's Beacon.
I wish they had just reprinted Thraben Inspector because I don't want to see multiple copies of this effect in Cubes, and I know I will. I've never been a huge fan of Thraben Inspector, but it has its spots.
I'm not expecting this card to age well in Standard, but it will see play, at least for a while.
It's worth noting that having a newly named Thraben Inspector is a big addition for Boros Convoke in Pioneer, which I think is kind of cool. Does it make that deck significantly better? Not really, as it doesn't change how the deck plays functionally, but it does make it a bit more consistent.
This is an interesting card for Pioneer Creativity decks. If you're looking to cast Creativity for X=1, then this card has a shot at seeing some real play. Deduce is not a card we'll see played for reasons outside of wanting to do something with that artifact token, but there are many places where it could be a role player.
It's not the most exciting card, but it's interesting to try when you want a token. Because it has investigate, you can split the mana cost as its fail mode and enable artifact and token synergies without actually being an artifact itself.
Last but not least is my favorite card I've seen thus far—Gleaming Geardrake. This is a bit of a sleeper pick from me, but Gleaming Geardrake provides value and puts two artifacts into play with one spell, which is an excellent follow-up to a card like Patchwork Automaton.
The most obvious old-school synergy would be with Arcbound Ravager, killing at an incredibly fast rate. There's lot of area to explore with Gleaming Geardrake outside of old Modern decks that won't be good enough, like traditional Ensoul decks in Pioneer.
Gleaming Geardrake is far from a slam dunk, but it's an all-around awesome design that is likely to find a home in at least some tier-2 decks. This card has a high ceiling with tons of artifact synergies, such as decks that make treasure, with Cat Oven, or anything else in this space that can produce lots of artifact tokens.
This is my favorite design in the set thus far. It reminds me a bit of Bloodtithe Harvester as a two-drop that provides value and is a scary threat to boot.
I don't see anything groundbreaking for Standard, or any format for that matter, so far. However, a set with investigate as a key mechanic should be a lot of fun, and I'm hoping they're saving the best previews for after winter break. Regardless, there are some interesting cards that I'm excited to try.