Hello everyone! My name is Ethan, or LordTupperware if we’re on Twitch or MTGO, and I am a limited fiend. I draft over 200 times per format, and if there’s one thing I’m known for it’s greedy decks and splashy mana bases.
In Amonkhet, while everyone was going aggro with two drops and cartouches, I was running three
Gift of Paradise and splashing
Glorybringer. Once Hour of Devastation rolled around, I kept the multicolor dream alive with
Oasis Ritualist. I was on the
Sailor of Means train before Rivals of Ixalan came out, and by the time the format was over, I had drafted over 300 of them in my collection. I firmly believe
Skittering Surveyor to be the best common to pack 1 pick 1 in Dominaria. The point is, I love mana fixing and I love trying to play the most powerful cards I draft and the M19 spoiler made me very excited.
There’s a full cycle of come-into-play-tapped dual lands at common! There’s
Manalith, a colorless mana fixer at common as well. Even the aforementioned
Gift of Paradise is back, though rightly upgraded to uncommon this time. And if that weren't enough, there's
Rupture Spires at uncommon to help those 4 - 5 color decks. There looks to be a lot of fixing in this format, which is a shame.
Because I think durdle decks are going to get stomped in this format.
Now, let’s for a moment acknowledge that predicting a format’s speed off of the spoilers is folly. I thought
Sailor of Means was going to get worse once Rivals of Ixalan came out and boy was I wrong. I saw
Arcane Flight in Dominaria and was worried we were entering
One With the Wind 2.0. I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. And I sure hope that I’m wrong about this.
There were two major reasons why suiting up your creature with an aura (or pants) and going to town on your opponent was great in Ixalan but not in Rivals of Ixalan:
1) Removal Got Cheaper
Contract Killing became
Pious Interdiction became
Unfriendly Fire became
Bombard. Even blue got a removal spell in
Waterknot (something we’ll discuss later as it’s reprinted in M19.) You could react a turn sooner to your opponent’s enchanted creature thus lessening its impact on the game and securing yourself a two-for-one.
2) Auras Got Worse
The most popular ways to suit up your creatures were
One With the Wind,
Mark of the Vampire, and
Pirate’s Cutlass. All at common, all increasing power by 2, and the two former, toughness by 2. One granting evasion, the other granting lifelink which is incredible in racing situations. The only aura that came close to doing something similar in RIX was
Squire’s Devotion, which was a fantastic card but didn’t really lead to such one sided games of magic as it only buffed the creatures P/T by 1.
And let’s not forgot
Jade Guardian, the 3/3 hexproof that wore those auras oh so well.
So, using the past to predict the future, let’s explore the two point above in M19. First, we’ll look at the removal.
Here are the “clean” answers to creatures (I am using clean here to mean a card that will deal with a creature regardless of its power and toughness since that’s quite important when talking about auras.)
- White has
Take Vengeanceat 2 CMC
Luminous Bondsat 3 CMC at common and
Hieromancer’s Cageat 4 CMC at uncommon.
- Blue has
Disperseat 2 CMC at Common,
Waterknotat 3 CMC at common,
Dwindleat 3 CMC at common,
Totally Lostat 5 CMC at common,
Exclusion Mageat 3 CMC at uncommon, and
Switcherooat 5 CMC at uncommon.
- Black has
Lich’s Caressat 5 CMC at common and
Murderat 3 CMC at uncommon
- Red’s best burn for suited up creatures is either
Electrify, which deals 4 at 4 CMC at common and
Fiery Finish, which deals 7 for a whopping 6 CMC at uncommon.
- Green has
Rabid Bite, which is a one sided fight spell at 2 CMC at common, which requires some set-up, but could be used to take down an enchanted creatures.
For our purposes, we’ll focus on the common removal as it’s the most impactful. There was
Walk the Plank in XLN and that didn’t stop the aura strategies (perhaps because of the merfolk clause, but my point still stands.) White has two answers to this strategy in
Luminous Bonds and
Take Vengeance. Blue has a respectable answer in
Waterknot and a few bounce spells, though I’m wary to call bounce spells answers because there was plenty of that in XLN as well and it wasn’t always successful at stopping this strategy.
Luminous Bonds and
Waterknot were great in RIX, but a non-zero percentage of why they were great was that not only were they removal spells, but they were removal spells that counted as permanents towards The City’s Blessing, a mechanic that gave your spells bonuses once you had 10 or more permanents on the battlefield. I’m going to consider these great but slightly less great than they were before.
Take Vengeance is probably the biggest argument against the aggro decks trying to land an aura because it’s so cheap, but it’s a sorcery so you’ll still take at least one hit from the creature.
Dwindle is difficult to evaluate, but seems like it should basically take care of a creature that’s been augmented. Black has
Lich’s Caress, which does gain you a little life, but 5 mana is a lot to rely on removing a creature that’s already attacked you two or three times.
Electrify in red is hard to measure because depending on how the creatures get buffed it may be out of 4 toughness range.
Are there answers in this format to creatures that have been augmented by an aura? Absolutely. BUT they are all answers at sorcery speed (except
Murder at uncommon in Black), which makes aura strategies a bit better I think. It’s so hard to actually get two-for-one’d at instant speed, so you can almost always guarantee you’ll get at least one attack. And if there are ways to protect creatures, like
Dive Down in XLN, then we’re really in trouble.
Let’s take a look at the auras we may want to land in the format.
Knight’s Pledge: a pretty unexciting aura, but +2/+2 for 2 may be strong enough on an evasive creature. Can interest you in a one mana flyer curving into this?
Rustwing Falconhas you covered.
Knightly Valor: a very powerful card from my experience in the past, but at 5 CMC is not exactly the kind of aura I’m thinking about
Aether Tunnel: Cheap, increases power, and grants the ultimate form of evasion: unblockable. Thankfully it’s at uncommon, but this card terrifies me.
Infernal Scarring: this is cheap, but it doesn’t boost toughness. It replaces itself if the creature dies, so you’re not really getting 2 for 1’d. I think if this strategy is good in the format, this card will be underrated and definitely one to look out for.
Blanchwood Armor: another uncommon, and fluctuates wildly from backbreaking to underwhelming depending on how many forests you have in play.
Oakenform: 3 mana for +3/+3 at common. If your opponent curves two drop into this card and you don’t have an answer for it right away, you are going to die pretty quickly or enter
The Abyss. I believe this will be the
One With the Windof this format. The extra power and toughness is green’s form of evasion. It simply puts that creature too far out of reach.
Talons of Wildwood: This will depend a lot more on what creature you stick this on as it only grants +1/+1, so you want to put it on something where the trample is going to be relevant, making this a later play and therefore not really a great aggressive aura.
Marauder’s Axe: 2 mana to cast and 2 to equip is borderline.
Dagger of the Worthywas pretty terrible in HOU, but
Pirate’s Cutlasswas fantastic in XLN. These kinds of cards are very format dependent, but I’m going to guess this one will do just fine in M19.
The standouts here are
Aether Tunnel and
Oakenform: two evasion granting auras (yes, I’m really counting the beef from Oakenform as evasion and you should too.) And beyond those hard hitters are a number of very viable auras to pair with the countless aggressive cards this set seems to offer. White looks to have the ability to curve out very effectively. Take, for example, these 5 turns:
Loxodon Line Breaker
Angel of the Dawn
Everything on that list is at common! This kind of steamrolling is definitely going to happen, the tools are there in each color to be aggressive. Blue has
Departed Deckhand and
Aven Wind Mage. Black has
Diregraf Ghoul and
Skymarch Bloodletter. Red has
Viashino Pyromancer and
Boggart Brute. And Green has
These cards merely scratch the surface of the depth of aggressive cards available in this format. Evasive creatures, auras, and combat tricks look like they will be king, and the removal will oftentimes be struggling to keep up. I’m not even sure the lifegain that White and Black have to offer will be enough to stop these aggressive strategies from mowing you down. I hope that the durdle decks are real and I certainly will be drafting them before M19 is over, but I am looking to steal some free wins in the early part of this format and you should be too. M19 is out in a couple weeks, and even with the summer heat, my plan is to start out winning by putting on some PANTS.