Guilds of Ravnica is almost upon us and spoiler season has truly kicked off after the initial teaser we received. This set looks like it has something for everyone and I’m counting the days till I can start cracking those prerelease packs. There is a certain card that has been garnering a lot of attention and some hyperbolic statements since spoiler season has kicked off and I wanted to share my thoughts on it.
Here is the card in question and one that I believe is truly powerful. It’s implications in Standard may not go far but we have said that before and been wrong so I wouldn’t discredit it too much just yet without some testing. Generally giving your opponent an extra land in Standard can be a huge problem, and with so many creatures requiring an exile effect in Standard these days, destroy effects don’t necessarily stop some top end threats. While many of the indestructible creatures are rotating out Rekindling Phoenix will still be a player in the meta and we have yet to see if there are going to be many other recursive threats. Though I can definitely see a Standard format were this card could shine. But this isn’t the real point of contention.
Assassin’s Trophy will be best utilized in a format like Modern or even the possibility for Legacy play. The main point that people have made is that Assassin’s Trophy will just destroy Tron decks in Modern and that Tron should just give up. This I don’t believe to necessarily be true. While we have seen quite a few different pieces of interaction for Tron being printed lately these are cards that are very narrow and generally designated for the sideboard. Damping Sphere has started to be played in more sideboards but Alpine Moon has mainly been ignored and Blood Moon is still preferred for such an effect. The problem with Blood Moon is that it does not stop turn 3 Tron on the play. Compounded by the fact that all of these cards are mainly designated to the sideboard in decks. Assassin’s Trophy is a main deck card that can help a deck (that is able to produce BG on turn 2) beat a turn 3 Tron deck on the play. Which brings me to the point that this card, while strong against Tron, isn’t able to be played in just every strategy since it has a pretty heavy color requirement. What I think this card does is make some lower tier archetypes a little better and creates the possibility for whole new strategies to emerge.
Modern is a very crazy format with a constant developing meta and some surprise spike wins from archetypes. Tron and Burn are the two decks that set the speed of the format and require you to either be able to kill them faster or interact in some way before dying. Generally this sets the turn to kill at virtually 3 in Modern. The format has slowly been getting faster getting more decks that can get virtual turn 2 kills, like Hollow One and KCI, which has pushed many of the slower decks out of the format. Midrange decks in general just don’t do that well in Modern these days. The main problem with having a good midrange deck in Modern is the extremely diverse threats that you encounter and the ability to have early interaction to stop from being train rolled.
I believe the true purpose of Assassins Trophy is to give Modern Midrange decks another tool to become more prevalent in the meta again. It gives these strategies a main deck answer to anything they need to stop. Creatures like Hollow One and Gurmag Angler have become some of the best creatures since they can’t be taken down by cards like Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push, which are commonly played removal spells. Things like Leyline of Sanctity from the Bogles deck or Ensnaring Bridge out of a Lantern deck can be dealt with by a main deck card now. Not to mention the dominance of UW lately which plays high mana cost Planeswalkers like Teferi, which can now be destroyed for only 2 mana with Assassin’s TrophyAssassin’s Trophy and would generally be a dead card as an Abrupt Decay or any other general removal spell.
Now while this card does have extreme utility, the big factor is that it has a heavy mana requirement. In Modern the most powerful strategies are linear ones that don’t have time to be firing this off on turn 2. They are trying to enact their game plan and often will be stretching their mana in games to be able cast the card when deciding which lands to fetch. This gives decks like Jund, which historically has had a bad matchup against Tron, a chance to come back into the format and have some more 50-50 match-ups across the board. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend playing Tron I don’t think it is going anywhere and that there is a right time and a wrong time to play the deck. When Guilds of Ravnica comes out I may put it on the shelf for awhile. Me personally, I hope to start brewing a Sultai list with Assassin’s Trophy but I am waiting to see if we get any more interesting cards before going too deep.