Let me start with a disclaimer: this is by no mean definitive, finished, Word of God list. We are 2 weeks in the format and I’m the first person to tell you that whatever i will write below, it might be totally incorrect just few weeks in the future. I’ve tried to pick most popular cards based on decklists i’ve seen among MTGO 5-0 lists, Online PTQ, and SCG Events last weekend. It does not mean there is no personal bias involved; for that i could just list all cards that were played and leave it for your interpretation. Instead, i’ll try to give them context and what can only be called educated guess on how good they will be in next few months. Again, this is still very much in flux and if you think I forgot about something, or am just flat out wrong about card, I’m happy to see your insight in comment section.
With that in mind I present you my Top 20 cards to spend your rare Wildcards on – the most popular and powerful cards that you will see in Competitive Standard decks. I believe they will give you good starting point, and even if their current shell become less popular they should find home somewhere else. There is also extensive list of Honorable mentions, cards that are more narrow, sometimes sideboard material, sometimes just without good deck yet.
Opening in white, we kick in with premium mass removal available. It’s been staple in UWx control shells since introduction, and currently also shows up in sideboards of midrange white decks like Boros and Selesnya to swipe more aggressive opponents.
Freshly from Guilds of Ravnica, the convoke Elephant proved to be great addition to aggressive white strategies. In mid game offers 6-7 P/T for just 2-3 mana – that’s great value that will often be a nail to your opponent’s coffin.
Honorable mentions:Cleansing Nova is alternative or extra copies of Settle with benefit of answering artifacts and enchantments. Benalish Marshall and Legion’s Landing are important pieces of White Weenie decks, currently just slightly less popular Radiant Destiny shows here and there in various Tribal decks (Knights? Vampires? Goblins? Angels?) and Dawn of Hope is interesting sideboard option for token decks (and not only) mainly to grind out control decks.
Another control pieces that provide important card advantage in late game, usually paired with Teferi in various UWx control and Nexus of Fate decks. Since it’s Legendary, often only seen in 2-3 copies.
Ok, blue rares are not… amazing. What makes me put Djinn slightly higher over the rest is pretty popular and cheap Mono Blue Curious Obsessiondeck including him as only rare. Many people praise it as a great budget deck to grind wins on Arena.
Honorable mentions: Warkite Marauder goes into the same Mono Blue deck but it’s less important, Nezahal, Primal Tide could be finisher for control mirrors, River’s Rebukesometimes see sideboard play from more midrangy blue decks and The Mirari Conjecture is a spicy tech for card advantage and pyromaniacs that like pointing double kicked Fight with Fire at opponent’s face. I feel like i’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel here and wouldn’t recommend spending many WC on blue rares.
Contempt is pretty much standard removal spell for black. It deals with pesky stuff like Rekindling Phoenix by exiling it, as well as Planeswalkers at instant speed. 3-4 in every black midrange/control, and still option for black aggro if any reaches the surface.
I want to highlight new black boardwipe as important tool against aggressive meta on Arena. I believe a lot of UBx decks will relay on it to clear early aggression and it will be important part of sideboards.
Honorable mentions: Arguel’s Blood Fast was and will stay important draw engine, Death Baron is powerful lord of Tribal Zombies, Dread Shade and Cabal Stronghold are foundations of Mono Black decks, Isareth the Awakener pops up here and there in various midrange decks as both roadblock and value engine.
There was a lot of talk about Chainwhirler’s impact on standard and I was among people that were predicting death of Mono Red post rotation… Boy was I wrong. New toys make Red as sexy as before and your favourite RRR Goblin leads the charge. A+ tier staple.
One of the aforementioned new toys gives proactive red decks insane card advantage. It can easily provide 2-3 cards per turn on top of what you draw, and later you can just get rid of it to unlock your hand and finish opponent with overwhelming amount of creatures and burn.
Honorable mentions: Banefire pushes damage through counters and can be finisher in ramp decks. Risk Factor gives option to opponent: either they take damage, or you draw more burn spells. Twice. Runaway Steam-Kin slots very nicely into aggro decks providing reasonable body and burst of mana to pair with Frenzy or Fight with Fire. Legion Warboss is fragile but can steal the game unanswered, and Dire Fleet Daredevil is a reminder from me, that the card is still there and can turn opponent’s spells against them.
I’ve covered all 5 rare MMM creatures from Dominaria’s cycle. Champion is frontrunner of Stompy decks that want to put pressure casting it turn 2 of Llanowar Elves. Green stompy is not really my wheelhouse, but there are plenty of people trying to build around it, so this is your best shot.
This is Champion’s second BFF. Green decks were starved for another 1 drop and this one seems to slot perfectly into the aggressive versions. Trigger on death is very interesting and make it lesser liability in late game. There were also Elf tribal decks popping out, sooo…
Honorable mentions:Deathgorge Scavenger is fine options if you need some graveyard hate, Ghalta, Primal Hunger will probably still be part of Green Stompy, Jadelight Ranger and Thorn Lieutenant both been showing in various midrange decks mostly as curve fillers and I’m not convinced how popular they will be in upcoming months.
I mostly thought about this card as a sideboard option cause the floor of 4/3 wasn’t particularly exciting, but the more Experimental Frenzy, Conclave Tribunal, and even History of Benalia and The Eldest Reborn i see, the more fond to the Knight i’m becoming. Some GB decks seems to even splash for it and i predict it being import hate tool.
In limited, i’m very happy to play Shalai in any white deck. In constructed however, it’s very unlikely to show in the deck that won’t activate her, unless we talk Boros Angels, so I have put her here as gold card. Favourite Angel of MagicArena moderators team show in tons of decks, providing decent body, protection to other creatures and your face, and pump to multitude of tokens GW decks put on board.
Without a doubt the hottest card of Guilds of Ravnica. Being able to answer anything for 2 mana is huge, but the drawback can be definitely felt in midrange mirrors. Regardless, it’s powerful, universal, and shows in many decks, often even on splash.
Find allows me to put 2 creature cards from my graveyard into my hand. Greed is go… Khm. Anyway, you can rebuy a ton of powerful creatures in GB, and left half is playable even in mono green or mono black. Wipe on second half is also not a bad backup plan.
Control decks don’t care much about randomly shocking opponent, but they love single blue in mana cost so Jeskai decks often split Sabotages with Ionize. Where Ionize shines however, are UR Tempoish- Burnish- decks that pressure opponents with cheap creatures and burn. It’s unlikely for Ionize to be format all-star, but it seems to have a good niche.
Not sure how R&D ended with this card, but 3 damage to everything is important enough. We saw a lot of Boros midrange decks using Clarion to slow down aggro decks and finish them with bunch of Angels. It’s also valuable sideboard card for control.
There is a lot of talk about Tajic and how he positions against removal, but at the end of the day, it’s hasty 3/2, that can be pain to block because of First Strike, pumps your other creatures and protects them from burn. It might not be top tier deck, but i would guess there will be solid deck to put Tajic in.
Map was bit overlooked in high power level standard of Kaladesh, but it’s versatility, combined with cheap card advantage and ramp make it important addition to many lists. It looks especially interesting in combination with Experimental Frenzy.
Spyglass is a card that won’t show in many main decks, but is extremely popular in sideboards. Most commonly it’s used to stop Planeswalkers but can also name fliplands (just remember to pick correct side).
There isn’t much to say about those. If able, play 8 in your two color dec. If your shocks are not available yet, you better have good reason to push it anyway. 3 color decks just can’t expect to cast stuff on curve without rare lands so expect to spend minor pile of WC for that privilege.
Honorable Mentions: Connive // Concoct is interesting value play on both halves; Hostage Takeroffers very powerful effect if you can untap with it. Izoni, Thousand-Eyed was tested in multiple self-mill decks. Expansion // Explosion can turn late game in your favour and left half has some sweet applications including counter-counterspell. Swiftblade Vindicator often shows up with Tajicbecause +1/+1 counters love Double Strike. Emmara, Soul of the Accord is great for token strategies with Convoke subtheme. Gilded Lotus, Chromatic Lantern and Dragon’s Hoard provide ramp in all colors – i don’t know what you want to do with all those mana, but you better crush your opponent when you get there.
Well, that was a lot of cards. I’m sure there are 20 more rares I forgot to cover and comments will remind me about them 😛 But the goal wasn’t to cover everything, but provide a list of cards that are more than less safe to craft because of their application in competitive play. I hope that list helps people get a look on current metagame in more comprehensible way than just pure decklists. If there is enough interest i will follow-up with similar list on Mythics, and maybe update after the Pro Tour. Enjoy.