A Hateful Core Set: Enemy Color Hosers and Their History
Core Set 2020 is finally here, this time with enemy color hosers specifically designed for Standard. In this article, Rone reviews each of them, what applications they might have and looking at some of the cards they're based on.
Hello Magic lovers! I don’t know about you but I can’t keep up with so many sets released lately. War of the Spark had a massive impact on Standard, and immediately afterwards, Wizards brought us Modern Horizons, bringing about massive change in both its namesake format and Legacy. One mere week after Modern Horizons, Core 2020 spoiler season started. Phew! That's a lot of Magic news in a very short period of time.
These are the times though and no moaning will change it so we might as well adapt to it and enjoy the best we can. Today, I want to talk about hate cards, something we have been missing for a while and it's return is very welcome, both for the current Standard and for every format more generally.
Color Hate is Good!
If you look back to the early annals of Magic: The Gathering, there was always tension between enemy colors. Basically, White stands against Red and Black; Blue fights Red and Green; Black hates White and Green, Red hoses White and Blue and, finally, Green distrusts Blue and Black.
Alpha and Beta sets had cards like Northern Paladin, Blue Elemental Blast, Black Knight, Flashfires, and Lifeforce, which all helped depict the way in which each color hosed its enemies, whether by countering them, destroying them, or even protecting themselves from them.
Obviously at Magic's dawn, Color Pie rules weren't settled yet, but these cards helped identify what these colors were about, especially as R&D kept making more and reprinting the old ones. Core Sets, in particular, house many of these reprints and new cards.
We haven't really seen these hate cards recently though. There was a huge gap between Magic Origins and Core Set 19. Additionally, Magic hadn't really dabbled too much with color hosers either, as they tend to fairly narrow cards in usefulness. But Wizards decided to try them out in Core 2020, which is definitely a risky set, design-wise, and shows that Wizards is wiling to return to old standbys they may have misjudged. As we have these toys for the first time in a while, I've taken it upon myself to offer my humble evaluations on them, while also looking at some of the older, similar tools we've had in the past. Not that my opinion is not the be all and end all. This is naturally going to opinionated and we'll have to wait and see which of these become format-defining.
Protection is Back!
First, lets talk about the creatures in the room. They all have protection against one of their enemy colors, which also marks the return of protection to Standard for the first time since Tarkir.
A 2/1 Human Cleric for 1W with protection from black and a very interesting ability to exile cards from the graveyard by paying two generic mana.
This is the latest in a series of white creatures that counter Magic's most ambitious color. The first one was the classic White Knight from Magic's original set. This was last reprinted in Magic 2011. Other famous creatures, which also have protection from red, are Paladin en-Vec, Mirran Crusader or Auriok Champion which actually sees play in some Modern decks like Humans or Soul Sisters.
Okay! Apostle of Purifying Light – it's a nice choice against Command the Dreadhorde archetypes, exiling relevant creatures or planeswalkers in order to make the sorcery nearly useless. His biggest upside is that he dodges the most common removal in the format – Cast Down, Oath of Kaya and Tyrant’s Scorn. It's still affected by mass removal though, so remember to watch out for those wraths.
a blue 1/1 Drake with flying and protection from red that can be sacrificed to counter any spell targeting you. Well, good news is it can block every creature from Mono Red all day every day, but his stats are pretty small, which means all he can do is wall most creatures, which might not be enough against burn-heavy red decks, so I think it's unlikely that this card sees significant constructed play.
Nevertheless, is nice to see the rivalry between red and blue back again in Standard. In the early days, cards like Red Elemental Blast and Blue Elemental Blast helped show off the rivalry between these colors and we've seen plenty more hate from them since. The first blue creature with protection from red was Narwhal in Homelands, a card I didn’t know existed until I had to look it up. The only decent playable pro-red creature I found was Master of Waves from Theros – a real nightmare for any red mage.
Its got protection from green and a passive that prevents opponents from putting counters on creatures. This seems like it's meant to target the explore package from Ixalan.
Sadly, these cards won’t share much time together before rotation, so it's not likely to be a relevant line of text. It does also hard counter Hydroid Krasis and nerfs green creatures with riot and adapt, while also hitting sideboard all-stars like Knight of Autumn.
That being said, I'm not sure the little beetle is good enough in the format, unless Krasis becomes a real player again, although it's a nice addition as only the third black creature in the history of Magic to have protection from green after Masked Gorgon and Dunerider Outlaw.
A 1/1 for two mana that also gets +2/+0 as long as is attacking and has protection from white. To be honest, this seems to be the clunkiest card in the cycle and I'm not sure he has much of a home. It seems worse than Chainwhirler in most situations, even as a sideboard choice against Mono White. Maybe he'll have a home after rotation or maybe the protection will just be enough by itself.
Interestingly, red doesn't have many creatures with protection from white. The first one is from Chronicles and is a Mountain Yeti! He would later be followed by Wildfire Emissary. In recent years, Blood Knight was printed in Planar Chaos as White Knight’s counterpart and to round things off, you might also remember Stormbreath Dragon from Theros, a powerful card for a time in Modern Ponza lists.
It's the only rare card in the cycle and it's a 5/4 Dinosaur for 2GG that can't be countered, has protection from blue, and you can pay one green mana to give himself reach, trample, or haste until end of turn.
They really like pushing green creatures, don't they? Who knows why they printed such a powerful creature? Maybe they were worried about a certain bold (or bald) Planeswalker.
Jokes aside, this card is very strong against the Teferis and Narsets rampaging around, although it dies to any sort of black or white removal. This creature, unlike the others, is strong enough that I believe it will see a solid amount of Constructed play and it will serve as a nice replacement for Carnage Tyrant, especially come rotation.
This Ceratops comes from a long line of green creatures against blue that also are uncounterable. The first one appeared in Homelands in the shape of Willow Priestess and you had to pay 2G to give any green creature protection. It seems that Faeries also have something against blue as Scryb Ranger is also protected.
Scragnoth is the leader of the uncounterable and pro-blue group, followed by Great Stable Stag which also had protection from black. More recent examples only have protection from blue like Skylasher from Dragon’s Maze and Misscutter Hydra from Theros.
Enemy Color Hosers
Creatures aren't the only hosers in Core Set 2020 though. It has a instant/sorcery cycle as well. One for each color that counters both enemy colors. Without further ado:
This is the only sorcery in the group and it's a straight call-back to Celestial Purge, which was originally printed in Conflux and then became a regular in core sets (2010-2011-2012). The main downside is obviously being a sorcery, which lacks some flexibility, but the upside is that you get a free scry 1.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that Devout Decree only targets creatures or planeswalkers which, while not a problem in Standard, where these are the permanents in need of killing, does make the card significantly less flexible in other formats. Overall, I would have rather had Purge than this, but it's nice to get it either way.
The list of cards it hits is too long to be worth mentioning here, but use your imagination. There are a lot of good red and black creatures and planeswalkers – from Phoenixes to Saheelis to Sarkhans. Notably, this card does NOT hit Experimental Frenzy, which might even prevent it from seeing play. It is still strong though, so don't be surprised if it shows up in white sideboards for the foreseeable future.
Looking for some other white hosers, I found another Decree from Alliances – Royal Decree. It deals damage based on the number of red and black permanents they have.
Greater Realm of Preservation is another enchantment, this time from Legends, that basically prevented damage from any red or black source. Finally, Luminescence is a modern variant of these enchantments from Coldsnap which does the same thing, but for only one mana.
This is also a nice hate card, very flexible that combines both Flashfreeze and Mental Lapse that can also bounce permanents already in the battlefield. First, applications may be fewer than its predecessors since we can’t shuffle opponents’ libraries, or can we? Well, Field of Ruin is still legal for a couple of months but in general this card is better suited for tempo plays than trading one-for-one.
I could see Aether Gust in decks like Izzet Phoenix or Azorius Aggro to buy some time against slower strategies, countering expensive walkers like Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales can be huge if we are going to pressure our opponent enough to make that advantage worthwhile. Getting rid of Frenzys, Chandras, and Nicol Bolas can be useful too.
One of the earlier versions of these cards is Tidal Control from Homelands. A three mana enchantment with cumulative upkeep that allows any player to counter red or green spells paying two generic mana or two life! The art couldn’t be cooler as well.
Noxious Grasp is very similar to Devout Decree, though it’s an instant and you get to gain one life rather than scrying. Both do have the same targets, but Grasp definitely has an edge in standard, as hitting white is much more useful than red and black.
This hits practically every threat in the format – Nissa, Who Shakes The World, Tamiyo, Collector of Tales, Teferis, Lyra Dawnbringer, Bascilica Bell-Haunts and even some non-midrange stuff like Gideon Blackblade and Nulhide Ferox.
To sum up, this card will see play in many sideboards as an all-star hate card, especially as long as Esper is the deck to beat.
Deathmark is the closest card to this, although Noxious Grasp is a strict update to the sorcery from Coldsnap.
Sadly, my favorite character from Futurama is not a new card from Core Set 2020 (but give Wizards some time…). This card shouts Combust but carries the massive upside of hitting walkers as well.
After Fall rotation, we'll still have 36 new walkers from War of the Spark in the format. This card, therefore, has a lot of potential. It kills pretty much everything relevant, planeswalker wise, except for Nissa and Liliana. It's got an advantage of Noxious Grasp as well – it can't be countered (suck it, Dovin’s Veto!).
Combust saw a lot of play in Standard back in its days, also in Modern when Splinter Twin was legal and this new Fry is the perfect tool for both Mono Red Aggro and U/R Phoenix for killing Narsets, Lyras, Tamiyos, Teferis, and most everything else white that you might care about (with the except of Adanto Vanguard).
Needless to say, it will see tons of play before and after rotation but it's not the only card that's fought red's enemies.
Evaporate from Homelands was the first, then we had Reign of Chaos, a 2RR sorcery that destroyed a white creature plus a plains or an island and a blue creature. Other modern effects are Ignite Disorder from Conflux and then reprinted in Magic 2010 that deals 3 damage divided as you choose between blue and white creatures. Finally, Rending Volley, which is a cheaper Combust for only one mana that deals four damage has seen some sideboard play to fight against Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror in Modern.
The list ends up here with Veil of Summer, which resembles like Autumn’s Veil from Magic 2011. Since green typically doesn’t destroy creatures so easily, they had to come up with something different and this cards it’s an instant trick that allows you to safely dodge counter magic, discard spells, or targeted removal from either a blue or a black spell.
The fact that it also cycles itself if you play it correctly makes it much more appealing than its predecessor, but even with that upside, I am unsure if it will see competitive play. These type of effects haven't been all that effective in the past, and the fact that you have to time it to your opponents' spells may be difficult for a color that frequently taps out. Green still gets Shifting Ceratops either way, so they're doing okay when it comes to hate cards.
Anyways, lets head back to Alliances where I found Nature’s Wrath, a 4GG enchantment that makes opponents sacrifices swamps or black permanents when they play one and also the same with blue and islands.
The other noteworthy card similar to this is Display of Dominance form Khans of Tarkir that either protects your permanents from blue and black or lets you destroy any permanent from those colors (Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Liliana of the Veil are good targets), but it was too narrow to see competitive play (at the time).
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this article as usual. As I mentioned earlier, I'm quite happy to have this hate cards back in Standard since they are the perfect tools to balance the powerful creatures and especially planeswalkers currently in Standard.
As usual, please leave me any comments or questions below or you might as well hit me on my shared Twitter account.
Enjoy your pre-release weekend and until next time!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.
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