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By: gwyned, gwyned
Jul 25 2014 12:00pm
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I. Introduction

A new Core Set has been released into the world with Magic 2015.  This set has already been hailed as one of the better ones for Standard Pauper. Core Sets are always an interesting mashup; a wedding, if you will, of reprints from former sets and brand new cards. And like any wedding, you need four things to make it a good one - something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Thus, for this review of Magic 2015 for Standard Pauper, I will be analyzing this set from these four perspectives and discussing how this will affect the current metagame. Last time, in Part One, I discussed the old and the new; the six best reprints as well as the best new cards that each color had to offer. Today, in Part Two, I finish off by examining the other top new cards from the set and then talk about what's borrowed and what's blue for this new set.

If you're familiar with my previous set reviews, this one will be a bit different. Rather than analyzing the entire set, I merely want to highlight the cards which will make the biggest impact in the format. Thanks to the design constraints of New World Order, we should expect that only around 20% of the Commons will be powerful enough to see widespread play in Standard Pauper. Rather than wasting space discussing the other 80%, I want to focus only on those cards that are worthy of consideration in the upcoming metagame.  With that explanation out of the way, let's get started!

II. Something New, Continued - The Rest of the Best New Cards

1. Ephemeral Shields is yet another example in a long line of cheap White combat tricks that protect the targeted creature. In a metagame that already includes Gods Willing and Ajani's Presence, why is this one worth discussing? While arguably worse than both of these cards, Ephemeral Shields has one major benefit - the ability to cast it for "free" thanks to Convoke. While this requires having at least two creatures untapped (one of which must be White), the benefit of casting this while tapped out is quite strong. While perhaps not good enough to replace the excellent Gods Willing, this should find a home both in White Weenie and in various Azorius builds.
 


2. Way back in Rise of the Eldrazi we had Totem-Guide Hartebeest, which was a good but expensive value card. Now, Heliod's Pilgrim is released into a metagame dominated by powerful Auras, making this ability to tutor up Bestow creatures or Aura-based removal cards quite strong. While a 1/2 for 22 is way below what you would expect, the value of being able to search out the perfect Aura for the situation can't be overstated. Both White Weenie and Orzhov Aura decks should give this card plenty of play, and even after Auramancer rotates out this should still be good enough for the future. While less overtly powerful than Triplicate Spirits, this is a strong addition for White.


3. Amphin Pathmage is the first instance of a repeatable ability to make any creature unblockable at the cost of 22; even better, it can be activated more than once a turn. A 3/2 for 22 isn't the worst in Blue either, other than the fact that only 2 points of Toughness makes it pretty fragile. Pair this with Green fatties and some permission spells, you have the potential to sidestep your opponent's defense and deal quite a bit of damage. Additionally, this could potentially give Green something to ramp into for considerable value. Still, this will probably only see play in a fairly dedicated build. Nonetheless, such an ability is almost unprecedented in the format, and thus should not simply be ignored.


4. Covenant of Blood immediately reminded me of Absorb Vis from Shards of Alara, which had this same effect paired with the ability to cycle for a Basic land rather than Convoke. Absorb Vis didn't see a lot of play, but it was used as a finisher in certain builds. In the current metagame, it could serve in a similar role. While 22 is quite expensive, even for an eight point Life swing, Black builds utilizing Gray Merchant of Asphodel are already incentivized to play lots of Black creatures. With three such creatures, this becomes comparable to Tendrils of Corruption, which was quite a powerful spell in its time. As such, this is well worth testing for MonoBlack Control or Orzhov.


5. Inferno Fist is one of the most interesting and flexible Auras ever printed at Common in Red. While a +2/+0 Aura for 22 is fairly mediocre, the ability to transform this into a Shock at Instant speed is quite strong. This is a great example of what I would term "good now, good later" kind of card. In an aggressive deck, this Aura allows you to punch through for some extra damage. Later, when it is no longer relevant, you can sacrifice it as a combat trick or even in response to removal. The fact that it only requires you to keep up one red mana is what really makes this so good. This seems like it would easily find a home in most of the RDW builds of late, but is worth considering in essentially any deck with early access to Red.


6. Fog effects are generally pretty terrible except as an answer to Overrun type effects or in the infamous TurboFog archetype. At first blush, Hunter's Ambush seems to be just another mediocre Green Fog variant. However, the fact that it ignores Green creatures takes this from simple damage-prevention to a potential combat trick. While probably only useful in a MonoGreen build, the ability to swing into a crowded board and clear out most of your opponent's creatures while not losing any of your own is nothing to scoff at. Such a build is also the most likely to need a timely Fog effect to swing a tight damage race back in your favor. As such, I believe that this card has potential to see some play in the emerging metagame.


7. Has Lhurgoyf shifted from a Rare to a Common, with a less mana-restrictive casting cost as added value? At first glance, Undergrowth Scavenger appears to be just that. However, there is a subtle difference between these two cards. While Lhurgoyf stats will shift as the total number of creatures in all graveyard change, the Scavenger's Power and Toughness is always locked into whatever it was when it was cast. While this does mean spells like Crypt Incursion won't destroy it after its come into play, it also limits its ability to get out of hand. This is another potentially powerful card, but without any evasion, this is still likely just to be another big dumb beater in Green.


III. Something Borrowed - "Unofficial" Reprints for Magic 2015

While I was unaware of this, apparently Wizards sends out Sample Decks to retailers to allow them to demo their game. This time around, these Sample Decks include cards with the Magic 2015 expansion symbol at three different rarities that are NOT otherwise available in the set. In other words, even though these cards are not going to be included in any boosters, they are officially part of the set and legal for Constructed play.

These reprints include six Commons; one of each color, plus one extra for White:

While none of these cards are format defining, at least three of them have seen regular play in Standard Pauper when they have been in print. Cancel is an important inclusion, as otherwise once Return to Ravnica block rotates the format would lack a 3 mana Blue all-purpose counterspell. Centaur Courser has also seen play in some MonoGreen builds, although it is currently upstaged by the significantly better Centaur Healer. But it is Inspired Charge that is the most relevant of these six. This is a powerful effect for White Weenie, and one that was a cornerstone of that particular archetype back when it was in Standard with Magic 2011. The decision to sneak these into the set is an interesting one, but anything that increases the total cardpool for Standard Pauper seems like good value to me.

IV. Something Blue - Former Commons Printed at Uncommon in Magic 2015

With the constraints of New World Order, the power level and/or complexity of Commons has been dramatically reduced. Additionally, in these Core Sets, Wizards usually sets these limits even lower than in Expert sets so as to provide a lower learning curve for new players. As such, Magic 2015 contains several Uncommons that once saw print at Common, either in the recent past, or long ago. I term these "blue" cards, both because it is disappointing to lose these effects at Common and because they are the ones most likely to confuse players new to the Standard Pauper format. So here are the five best such Uncommons from Magic 2015.

1. Gravedigger was once a staple Black Common in the format, and one that enabled some remarkable tricks, including the ability to chain one into another to endlessly recur a blocker. Sadly, you have to go all the way back to Magic 2012 to find this in print at Common. The rationale behind the change is simple: while not overtly complex, Gravedigger both affects the board and draws you an extra card (and often one of your best too!), and that level of card advantage violates the tenets of New World Order. Thus, while Black continues to have access to Sorcery speed Graveyard recursion, going forward such abilities will probably only be tied to a creature when it fits the overall theme of the block.


2. Stab Wound will actually continue to be legal in Standard Pauper until the October rotation, but afterwards this potent Aura will probably not see print as a Common in the future. On the surface, a 22 Aura that inflicts -2/-2 in Black is nothing special; in fact, as pure removal, it pales in comparison to Quag Sickness, which deals with much larger creatures. The difference, of course, is in the secondary effect. An Enchantment that deals 2 damage a turn to your opponent can easily be a win-condition all on its own, and being Enchantment-based makes it very difficult for some archetypes to deal with. Given the constraints of New World Order, it's surprisingly this ever saw play as a Common. Design probably won't let it slip through twice.


3. Unlike the previous two cards, Heat Ray seems to be more in line for what we should expect from a solid Red removal spell at Common. It last saw print as a Common back in Rise of the Eldrazi, and given the simplicity of the design, I would expect it to see print at Common again in the future. While capable of dealing with any creature, it requires a significant investment of mana to do so, and as such often means a loss of tempo when it's cast. Since it cannot target players (unlike the excellent Disintegrate from which it was derived), I would argue that this fits the constraints of New World Order, but was simply deemed slightly too complex for the more simple environment of a Core Set.


4. When I learned that Convoke was returning to Standard, Gather Courage was one of the Commons I hoped would be reprinted at Common. It's a low-powered Giant Growth variant, trading a point of Power and Toughness boost for the ability to cast it "for free" by tapping a single creature. This was quite strong in Return to Ravnica, since you could block with a Green creature, then tap it to cast Gather Courage and survive combat. While White gets a similar effect with Ephemeral Shields, the fact that this pumps both Power and Toughness, and only requires a single creature, makes this a more potent effect. As such, especially in a Core Set, design constraints no doubt forced this to be pushed back to Uncommon.


5. Last but not least is Tormod's Crypt, which has always been reprinted as an Uncommon since its initial release way back in Chronicles. Shards of Alara, however, saw Relic of Progenitus printed at Common, which is arguably better than Tormod's Crypt. Given the overall power of Graveyard recursion, the lack of a "catch-all" solution at Common has been disappointing, especially since the effect itself seems to fit the restrictions of New World Order. Indeed, the fact that Tormod's Crypt costs nothing and is an Artifact are probably the two major reasons why this will probably not see print at Common again. Nonetheless, I can only hope that a similar effect will return to Standard Pauper at some point in the future.


V. Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my Standard Pauper review of Magic 2015. As I close, let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. You can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Finally, I am the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to PDCMagic.com for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 6:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room.

And if you've got ideas for future articles, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!