Five Ways Assassin's Trophy Will Change Modern
Hans is just as hyped as everyone else when it comes to Guilds of Ravnica's most exciting card, Assassin's Trophy. There's no doubt the card will be a format changer – the question is, "How?" Read this week's article to find out!
GP Hong Kong and GP Stockholm this past weekend was a curtain call of sorts, as Assassin's Trophy will change the landscape of the Modern metagame once Guilds of Ravnica is released. I've outlined the five ways in which Assassin's Trophy will have an impact on the format, and we're talking about major shakeups in both archetype representation and play patterns!
The Return of BGx Midrange
The most obvious upheaval in the metagame will be the return of BGx Midrange to tier 1 – and I'm not even talking about whether the archetype will be the most powerful or not. Similar to how the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf drove large numbers players to pick up decks that used those cards, the introduction of Assassin's Trophy will catapult the number of GBx decks being played in the metagame.
Assassin's Trophy revolutionizes BGx decks in several ways, both obvious and subtle. The immediate impact of Trophy will be how the spell gives BGx Midrange decks an answer to cards they previously could not deal with efficiently and in game 1s. Trophy not only importantly hits Tron lands, Eldrazi Temples, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, but it also destroys Leyline of Sanctity, Krark-Clain Ironworks, and Blood Moon. Planeswalkers no longer require a Dreadbore, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria can be brought down in response to the untap trigger.
The subtler aspect of Trophy's impact will be seen in the composition of the decklists of BGx Midrange decks. Previously, these decks had to devote large chunks of their sideboard to fighting backbreaking cards, such as Blood Moon and Tron lands. Assassin's Trophy frees up slots that were occupied by Fulminator Mage and Stone Rain for utility cards in other matchups. For example, expect the number of Kitchen Finks and planeswalkers to see an uptick to shore up the matchup against Burn and control.
Mardu Knocked Down a Peg
A big part of Mardu Pyromancer's strength comes from its removal suit and the ability for the deck to deal with the format's most problematic non-land permanents. This is also why the deck is such an underdog against Tron – Mardu is a slow midrange deck that incrementally builds up card advantage. Its cards need to line up perfectly to deal with the threats that a big mana deck like Tron deploys turn after turn. Assassin's Trophy changes the calculus, however; it has a big leg up over Dreadbore while simultaneously dealing with the format's most problematic non-basic lands. As mentioned in the previous section, Trophy also frees up sideboard slots that were devoted to Tron-hate, a luxury that Mardu will not have access to. Bedlam Reveler and Faithless Looting are powerful cards, but I see people jumping ship when they see the writing on the wall on which is the better midrange deck.
Hard Times for Tron or Business as Usual?
Wizards of the Coast has been aggressive in their recent sets when it comes to Tron hate, from the format staple Field of Ruin to sideboard all-star Damping Sphere. Assassin's Trophy gives all BG decks a maindeck way of dealing with those troublesome Tron lands, which could spell doom for the format's big-mana boogeyman – or will it?
As with Blood Moon and Damping Sphere, hate cards oftentimes trick players into making bad decisions when it comes to their hand. Undoubtedly, there will be many players who will keep threat-empty hands full of Assassin's Trophy then will end up learning that blowing up a few Tron lands won't mean a thing without a clock to back it up. While being able to deal with any permanent is a powerful effect, Assassin's Trophy also gives the opponent a basic land. While Tron might not be able to ramp up to seven mana in three turns, ramping up to seven in five turns is also dangerous if the Tron player isn't pressured. My bet is that the death of Tron will be largely exaggerated, and the deck will continue to exist as a foil for the plethora of midrange decks that will enter the metagame.
Back to (More) Basics
Speaking of basic lands, expect decks to adjust their mana bases to include more basic lands. Mana bases are going to be taxed with the combination of Assassin's Trophy and Field of Ruin, and that's not even including Path to Exile. This will be particularly challenging for some of the greedier decks of the format, such as the three-color midrange decks and decks that utilize colorless mana, such as Eldrazi and Taxes or Bant Eldrazi. In terms of how play patterns will be affected, decks will most likely fetch and shock aggressively to compensate in order to conserve basic lands. This brings us to my final point…
Burn, Baby, Burn
Burn will be in a great spot in the new metagame, as players will be testing out their various three-color midrange brews and fetching shocklands to play around Assassin's Trophy. The removal-heavy suite of these decks will line up poorly against Burn whose only intentions are to sling Lightning Bolts and count to twenty. I'm sure that players will adjust accordingly by building their decks in such a way that will shore up the Burn-matchup, but the number of Kitchen Finks will not nearly be enough in the opening weeks to accommodate the barrage of Lava Spikes being flung at players' faces.
That's it for this week. Let me know in the comments below if you expect Assassin's Trophy to have any other effects on the format!
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