Top 5 Best Magic: the Gathering Hour of Devastation Cards for Modern (and Legacy)
Hour of Devastation‘s full spoiler released this week, and well, the set has been a bit disappointing to say the least. The overall power level is quite low and although many of the cards are flavourful, they lack the playability that came in Kaladesh block and the excitement of Amonkhet has worn away a little, leaving us with a set that really, looks a little dry and unexciting. Even the Invocation series has some highly questionable inclusions (among some excellent ones – that Doomsday art!) which had led to an all-around letdown, particularly from a set that heralds the return of such a powerful villain as Nicol Bolas himself.
However, there are definitely some hidden gems in this set if you know where to look – some diamonds in the rough. Of the cards that are Constructed-playable in Hour of Devastation, a few could genuinely see some Eternal play in Modern and possibly even Legacy here and there, and I’ll be discussing the merits of each of those cards in this article, as well as where they might see play. This is not counting Commander – I am sure that the three Insect Gods will see ample play in the Commander format, and possibly even in Standard, as well as a number of other cards such as Majestic Myriarch and Crested Sunmare.
So, if it’s not the highly anticipated Mythic Gods or Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, which cards exactly are going to be included? Read on and find out…
This card has had quite a lot of hype since it was first spoiled, as it was one of the first cards to be released along with the HOU promotional material. It is part of a cycle depicting the final moments of each of the Amonkhet gods, who fall to their corrupted brethren during the events of Hour. All of them are fairly good cards, and there has been a lot of interest in Kefnet’s Last Word as well, and Rhonas’s last Stand which is effectively a 5/4 for 2, and will see a ton of play in Standard. For me, though, Bontu stands out as the one which will be have the most impact.
The cycle itself is intriguing because there hasn’t really been anything like this in recent Magic history, where the downside of the spell is that you can effectively skip your next turn. However, although it reads that way at first glance, it doesn’t always have to turn out quite that badly. It simply requires you to play in a specific way, specifically late game when you only have to tap the exact number of lands required and pass, so you still have access to most of your mana the following turn. I think if someone can figure out how to make these cards work, they can all really be quite good.
So let’s look at this card specifically. Early-game, the downside of this card is always going to be a hit. Taking turn four off is never what you want to be doing, especially in Modern which is “the turn four format” – although recently it’s slipped towards turn three. However, despite the drawback, this card could actually be perfectly placed, as prior to this, unquestionably the best boardwipe in black was Damnation, and most of the time against the fast decks like Affinity and Zoo, that card is just too slow. Although it means you will have to essentially take turn four off, you will still have access to one mana if you have a land in hand, and if you can wipe out an Affinity or Counters Company board with this card, clearing up their early game, and then next turn land a Thoughtseize to take away their last card, a Fatal Push on the next threat they play or even a Death’s Shadow to mount your own offense – all of which are entirely possible – you can re-stabilise and begin to take back control against aggressive lists.
I don’t think this card is going to be incredible, and I don’t think it’s going to replace Anger of the Gods in a lot of situations. However, unconditional boardwipes are always worth considering, and the fact that this costs only three mana definitely flags it as a potential Modern card to me. More than anything, the increasing speed of Modern is calling for faster answers to overwhelming aggro and creature-combo lists, and the density of one-mana plays means that you can probably still cast a spell on turn four, so you aren’t as far behind as it would first seem even when casting this ASAP on turn three. There are some spots where it will be pretty awkward and mess with your curve, but honestly, the value it can provide in the right spots could potentially more than make up for it, and it will be interesting to see if it makes its way into any sideboards in the near future.
The moment this card was spoiled, there was mania about it. It reads very similarly to an enchantment version of Melira, Sylvok Outcast, but instead of specifying -1/-1 counters, it just refers to counters of any kind. Although the immediate hysteria has now died down, this is a very good silver bullet against a lot of current Modern decks, and I think it will definitely see sideboard play.
Due to the fact that both players and creatures can’t gain counters, it beats Infect outright; anything that has infect will deal no damage. It’s very good against Affinity’s Arcbound Ravager and Steel Overseer. It makes the traditional Jund win condition of Raging Ravine a lot worse, and reduces the value of their Scavenging Ooze. It protects you from an opposing Chalice of the Void that’s drawn later in the game. Your Death and Taxes or Merfolk opponent can forget about their Aether Vial ticking up as well.
There are benefits to it for some combo decks. In the Counters Company deck, it’s brilliant, but a bit of a double-edged sword. While it acts as a secondary Vizier of Remedies for the Kitchen Finks infinite life-gain, it does make Devoted Druid useless, so it makes one combo better but shuts off another. There is an interesting interaction with Thing in the Ice, which may bring about a resurgence in this card’s use in Modern, as it will enter with no counters and be able to transform with the first instant or sorcery spell that’s cast. Best of all, it combos with Phyrexian Unlife meaning that the Ad Nauseam player literally can’t die until you remove one or another of the enchantments.
In addition, it’s an extra card which affects Dark Depths in Legacy; although those decks don’t currently run white and it’s quite expensive, it’s possible we could see a new brew forming which incorporates different colours, as using Solemnity instead of Thespian’s Stage means you only lose one land instead of two, and if your first token meets a Swords to Plowshares, as long as Solemnity is on the battlefield, you can keep presenting Marit Lage every turn for no cost other than a land drop and a Life from the Loam.
Now, of course, the main issue with this card is that it’s 3 mana. While that might seem pretty reasonable for a card with so many uses, it does mean that as a sideboard card it’s quite slow and you could reasonably have already lost the game by the time you get to play it, even if it’s on curve. Decks like Affinity can come out of the gate so quickly it might have no effect, or they could already have played the dreaded Chalice on one, or the Merfolk player could have already got their Vial to two if you’re on the draw. While this by no means makes the card unplayable, it does mean that it can’t be a win-the-game-on-its-own silver bullet that you can expect to keep in an opener and never lose, so for three mana, it would have to do some serious work in your meta to deserve a sideboard spot.
More likely, it’s going to see play in decks like Counters Company and Ad Nauseam that can make good use of it, and the rest of us will be left to dig out our Nature’s Claims.
Now, I really like this card. I think it’s well-designed, interesting, fun and powerful. The key thing here is its versatility, particularly in the long and grindy control decks it’s made to fit in; you can hold the cycling effect up to counter an ability, and if your opponent plays around it and doesn’t do anything, well, you can still flash it in as a 3/1 flyer at the end of their turn. A Vendilion Clique[c] with no ETB effect is not the worst backup option.
The reason why this card is excellent, though, isn’t even to do with the fact that you can give it a body if you need to. No, the best part about it is that the [c]Stifle effect is uncounterable, so your opponent can’t do anything about it. They just have to look sadly at their fetchland that’s just hit the bin while you draw a card and go to your untap step. With cards like Kolaghan’s Command that can fetch back creatures, you can keep threatening it as well, so it makes long and grindy games that much better for you – and if it gets to the point where you no longer need Stifles, you can start flashing in 3/1 flying blockers or go on the offensive yourself.
Currently, this card is definitely good enough for Modern, despite the high mana cost. However, the issue is that it might struggle to find a home. With Death’s Shadow currently the premier “control” deck (don’t even start me on that, we’ll be here ’til Christmas), and often only wanting three to four lands in play, it’s a lot to ask for, particularly when cards like Kolaghan’s Command cost the same amount. If the meta starts to shift back to a slower one and we get more of the Faeries/Grixis Control/Jeskai Mentor type decks appearing in Top 8s, I can definitely see this card taking place alongside Vendilion Clique as a one-or two- of in the long-game decks.
I don’t think this card will make it to Legacy, despite the popularity of Stifle effects and uncounterable effects in general. Paying three for anything is just so much in that format, particularly in the Delver-type decks that would want this kind of card – the usual going rate for 3-power fliers, or for Stifle itself, is just one mana! I don’t think the versatility offered by this card is enough to outweigh the mana downside, so it’s very unlikely to see play over Stifle itself.
That said, I think it’s a great card and really hope it manages to find a home somewhere.
This is another one of the highly-praised cards in the set, and has been cited as the best card out of all the spoilers. It takes the ability of Crucible of Worlds, a well-known and powerful card, and puts it onto a 2/3 creature, for the same mana cost as the original card, albeit two generic and one green instead of three generic. Now, while this initially may not seem excellent, given that Crucible itself doesn’t see much play in Modern, and a creature is surely just more likely to die than an artifact, in certain decks this has the potential to be a real powerhouse.
Despite its limiting factor being a weakness to removal, the way priority works means that if it resolves, you will be able to play a land from your graveyard before it’s killed, so you can always at least get some value back from it. In the Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge decks, this can be deadly, particularly when combined with Leonin Arbiter in the traditional Death and Taxes builds, essentially providing you with a reusable Strip Mine in Modern. If it lives, you can seriously start working away at your opponent’s mana. This card can be combined with Azusa, Lost but Seeking to really put the hurt on your opponent’s manabase and cut them out of the game quickly.
The best part about it, though, and what gives it the edge over Crucible of Worlds which isn’t currently being run in these lists despite its power, is that it’s fetchable with cards like Chord of Calling and Collected Company. It’s very easy to incorporate into already-existing strategies, and with the power to fetch it out at will, it’s definitely more playable than its colourless predecessor.
To be clear, I don’t know if this is going to make Crucible-tribal a thing. I doubt it. However, with Tron currently flexing its muscles and a lot of greedy Shadow manabases running around, it’s entirely possible that it could. At worst, I think this card will see marginal play in the Company lists that already exist, as a value engine in a similar vein to Eternal Witness (though obviously not nearly as versatile). If it sees play in Legacy, it will be a one-or two- of in the Maverick creature-toolbox lists which utilise Green Sun’s Zenith in conjunction with Knight of the Reliquary to enable Wasteland locks; in the Lands decks which have a similar strategy using Life from the Loam, original Crucible is just better because it’s harder to kill.
So, on to our final card….
Claim // Fame is simply an excellent uncommon. It’s one of those cards that, in the Limited and Standard format it will be a part of, will be good – but in Modern, will be great. Its low mana cost, convenient colour pairing and synergy with the current meta means that this card will definitely be seeing play very soon after release. You can all guess which deck I’m talking about – the big bad Avatar, Death’s Shadow.
The most important half of this card is Claim. To be able to cast the (arguably) best mode of Kolaghan’s Command for one mana is brilliant, negating your opponent’s removal for your biggest creature. Although it’s limited in that it can’t bring back Gurmag Angler, Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Street Wraith, it can work as an extra copy of the deck’s namesake, which will really put a strain on the opponent’s resources, or in a tight spot, bring back a Snapcaster Mage for the value play. Indeed, by consistently looping Claim, Mage and Command, the Shadow deck could become much more grindy than it already is. Make no mistake, just the one half of this card provides great value.
The other half, Fame, is less good. It’s probably not going to get cast in the majority of situations, as you will likely want to cast a Snapcaster Mage targeting Claim instead. However, just its presence in the graveyard means that the opponent has an extra thing to play around; a hasty Death’s Shadow or one of your big Delve creatures can end a game on the spot, and it’s important that the opponent remembers it’s there and can be cast at any time. The card is only two mana after all. If they make an unwise attack or leave themselves open to removal, it will be very easy to simply drop your 10/10 Avatar and smack them for 12 in the same turn.
I doubt this card will see much play in other decks for now. Most of the value comes from the fact that it’s black/red and perfect for Shadow lists. However, should anything happen to topple the current king, it’s possible that new aggro decks could emerge using this card, or even Grixis Delver or Control lists using it to loop Snapcasters which is never a bad thing. It’s very unlikely to see play outside of lists that run both its colours.
There’s no doubt that Claim // Fame’s value does drop significantly if Shadow is banned out or otherwise becomes unplayable, but for now, this is definitely the card that’s going to have the most impact on Eternal play from Hour of Devastation.
What do you think of my assessment? Do you agree with the cards I’ve mentioned? Do you think that a different card from the ‘final moment’ cycle should have been included? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading,