Friday, December 30, 2016

Lost and Mostly Forgotten - The Neglected Bombs of Standard

We've all been the orange stick guy.
Friends, hello! It's Dan, and I'm here with everyone's my favorite article. The Neglected cards of Standard.

This Standard season (and 2016) is starting to draw to an end. Aether Revolt comes out soon, and with it, a big shake up of the meta. Well, hopefully. I dunno about you, but I'm tired of never ending turn four Emrakuls. Ideally the new set will give us something better to do, and then we can all hate a new card together, because we're Magic players and life just isn't that good if we can't complain about something.

The dominance of big bombs like Emrakul has definitely left some other cards out of the spotlight. These may not be the Promised End level of strong, but they've got some kick to them, and they shouldn't be totally wrote off. One spicy new spell from Aether Revolt could catapult these duds to stardom.

But what could these cards be? Surely anything good has been discovered and played by plenty of people.

"One day, my time will come."
You'd be surprised just how quick people are to ignore a card just because it isn't in a pro deck. Hopefully seeing this list will remind you what we've been missing in Standard, and you can use this super secret tech to make a frothy new brew with the Aether Revolt cards. Let's take a look at these poor, unwanted cards, and see if we can give them the recognition they deserve.

Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list - there are definitely some other insane cards that aren't getting a shot. If there's something that in your opinion should be on this list, let me know that I missed it!

Going fast as hell, but only finishing Fifth:

"Everyone remember a weapon?"
"Uh... yeah, totally..."
*Grabs fence post*
This is a weird fuckin' card. Weird stats, weird ability, weird choice of weapon. Weird hat, too. Despite the oddity, sometimes four power on a hasty flier is a fine way to win a game. Taking double damage is a massive drawback for sure, but if you're on the offensive anyways, it shouldn't matter much. So mono-Red Aggro is tier 1, right?

Sadly, Castigator is one of many victims of the current format. Four power just doesn't make the cut when cards like Ishkanah, Mindwrack Demon, and even Sigarda are played in a ton of decks. Not to mention the sad possibility of them hitting Goldnight with a Noxious Gearhulk. If a good, reliable answer for Ishkanah comes out of Aether Revolt, I would look for aggressive fliers like this to make a resurgence once the big bad Reach creatures and five-toughness fliers drop in popularity.

Naturally, this isn't likely since Ishkanah is crazy, but we can dream, man. Goldnight is still a sideboard card in some of my Red decks, since she does good work against Control decks that aren't ready to shoot her down.

Flying her four arms into Fourth:

Is it an Angel that invents stuff, or an Angel that was invented by someone?
Our second Angel on the list! When I first saw this card, my only thought was "Ugh, G/W Tokens is back." I know a lot of people agreed with me, and then I know a lot of people didn't care because they just wanted to reanimate it with Alesha in EDH. But the angel seems built to be the sweetness - a creature lord that can chip away in the air with lifelink? That's a lot of positives, and in a Standard focused on creature combat, making your 2/3's able to fight through their 2/3's is a huge boon.

But one toughness? YEAH RIGHT. She can get zapped by just about anything and die - even if you put the counters on her! There's too much solid removal for weak bods like this, and any old Harnessed Lightning or Grasp of Darkness can nuke your five drop in short order. Or even a Dual Shot, if your opponent is a cheeky bastard. There's a possibility she sees play in a tokens deck in the future, I mean, the ceiling on this is just absurd, but weakness to removal is a real cost to pay. You may want to play some spells like Blossoming Defense to protect her if you try it.

Burning up the competition in Third:

When in doubt, light everything on fire.
Once she was one of the ramp targets of choice, but even in the absence of real ramp spells, Chandra, Flamecaller is a potent finisher. She pumps out just a buttload of damage starting right on the turn she hits the board. Or, if killing stuff is more your style, her -X lets you blow up things of any size you desire, provided you desire to blow up stuff with four or less toughness. Think your hand is poop, and would like to try again? Her 0 ability is here to improve both your card quality and quantity. Her hairdo is lit as F. 🔥 What's not to like?

Turns out that people don't like to pay this much mana for a planeswalker these days.

So affordable.
The new four cost Chandra is super versatile, and has plenty of power to boot. She can come down very early in the game, help you ramp to later threats, get you extra cards, or kill a dude. And on top of all of that, she has a very achievable ult, making her the weapon of choice for red decks.

That being said, don't count big Chandy out just yet. Against a deck like U/W, her -X can clear out an entire board, and she herself dodges Spell Queller, unlike the mini version. Two 3/1 elementals close out the game much faster than two damage per turn, though this is less effective against a locked up board with Ishkanas and Mindwrack Demons. All in all, I think mondo Chandra's power is directly tied to the popularity of G/B Delirium strategies. If your store is relatively spider-free, give her a whirl in either an Aetherworks Marvel deck as another payoff card, or a more honest Red Midrange deck, like my super fun Mono Redrazi deck.

Hoppin' his way into Second:

"This is karma for eating all of those frog legs throughout your life."
Dats a big boi. The Gitrog has held a special place in my heart ever since I made The Molten Gitrog Vortex deck. Man, I miss that wacky pile of trash. He may not be able to be paired with his best bro Molten Vortex anymore, but there's still plenty to like about this froggy.

A 6/6 is fat enough to rumble with most any creature, and even if their guy is bigger, Deathtouch will be sure to take it town. Sacrificing a land is a big price to pay, but drawing extra cards and being able to drop two lands sure helps to mitigate it. Not to mention lands going to the graveyard from Lilianna minuses, Vessel of Nascency, or Grapple with the Past all trigger the frog for another card. With a card like Splendid Reclamation in the format, you'd think there'd be a reliable way to break him.

It actually seems to be a strange set of issues keeping Gitrog out of Standard. The natural home for this gigantic value machine is the B/G Delirium deck. They're running big expensive guys like Ishkanah, planeswalkers, Noxious Gearhulk, and of course, Emrakul. Despite this, the decks are actually running very few lands - only 23, which is impressive when running a 13 drop. Between Vessel of Nascency, Grapple with the Past, Pilgrim's Eye, Traverse the Ulvenwald, and Grim Flayer triggers, finding a land drop is fairly trivial, so the deck is able to shave down on lands while still playing one each turn. Having to sacrifice them to the Gitrog could upset this balance, and leave you short on lands.

If a B/G/x value mid-range deck shows up that runs a few more lands, say 25 or 26, keep your eyes on Gitrog as a possible five drop that will rule the ground and keep your hand full.

Clearing his way straight to First:

That seems like too nice of a setting for a Demon.
If I've learned anything in my years, it's that Control decks love Boardwipes, Card Advantage, and huge Fliers. And to never fight a Winter war in Russia. Well check this guy out! He murders all the small creatures on board when he comes out, and he earns energy whenever any creature dies, then lets you use that to recur dudes from either Graveyard. He's big and flies as well. I can't speak towards his feelings on Russia, but it looks like comrade demon has all it takes to be the Standard control finisher of choice!

The sad fact is, -2/-2 just doesn't kill anything on turn six. Against the popular Aggro decks, you are probably dead by then. Even if you aren't, threats like Gideon, Copter, Depala, and Inventor's Apprentice (with an artifact) all survive his boardwipe. Creature decks still run a lot of three-or-greater toughness dudes, and then some decks are just flopping Emrakul out on turn four and I'm pretty sure she lives through this. The meta just isn't right for him.

Even with the odds against him, he's still a fine card. He cleans up Ishkanah spiders, and is plenty able to attack through Ishkanah herself. He's a fine grindy card, and is definitely worth remembering if there's a shift in the meta that causes two-toughness cards to become more popular, or if your store is weird and people like bad cards.


That sums up our list! The biggest, baddest bombs, with an emphasis on Bad. JK, they're all fine cards with a lot of power, they just don't have the right home. As Aether Revolt spoilers roll out, we'll be doing everything we can to make all of the jank of the world feel loved, and we hope you guys do too!

Speaking of Jank, there's a card I wanted to mention.

Wait, there's three Nissas in Standard?
This Nissa is from the WotC Intro Planeswalker Decks. She isn't the most wild card in terms of raw power, but she sure is annoying. She jumps right to a whopping eight loyalty, and gives you a nice life buffer to keep activating her abilities. Her very achievable ult makes even the wimpiest dorks formidable for an alpha strike, too. This card from the intro deck, along with Flame SLash from the Chandra deck, are two off-beat cards that a lot of people forget are in Standard, but actually have the potential to do some work in certain decks.

That's it for today! If you missed it, be sure to check out the latest Heavy_Salami projects we're rolling out! Or, to get to the goods right away, you can click on these words to be deposited directly at our Twitch channel. We plan on starting off weekly streams of matches at our local store, along with all sorts of video shenanigans, so listen up for announcements!

Thanks for reading, folks. As always, never stop brewing.

Think one of these cards is here in error? Is there another worth contender to take its place? Speak up for them! Drop a comment below, or send us a message using the form off to the right. You can also pester us on Twitter @Heavy_Salami!


  1. Will Rashmi get out of the "absolutely ridiculous in limited, meh in standard" ghetto? Something something five-color, Bring to Light?

    Can Dovin Baan ever justify the pitter-patter I have for blue/white durdling around?

    1. Gaige plays both in his Deploy the Gatewatch deck, and they are obviously good there.

      I doubt Rashmi will ever be good. The only way I could see it is if a U/G ramp deck shows up, and even then only as a mirror-breaker.