At long last, Omens of the Past is finally here! With the first tournament just on the horizon, I wanted to start predicting what new cards will have the most impact on the metagame. Originally, this started as an article about only my top 10 cards for constructed from the set. After some excitement and banter from the team, it quickly turned into a full-team activity where every member made a list.
Here was what we did: each member (minus trippedoutfish) sent me their list of the top 10 cards from Omens of the Past. To be clear with our terms, “top cards” in this context meant “most influential”: cards that would have the strongest impact on the format, not necessarily the best cards (though naturally there is quite a bit of overlap between these two categories.) The most influential cards are ones that will completely alter how decks are made and games are played out, as they need to consider those cards and the archetypes they may create due to their power level and options they add to the playing field.
Here was our list. All of them are ranked in order of predicted power (#1 being the most influential), with the exception of two players, Brianorwhatever and Smj1360, who opted to not have their list be in 1-10 order. Many of them also included reasoning for their card choices that I’ll be discussing here—some players, such as Bradykin, writing at lengths that might even test the boundaries for what is considered a short novel.
Let’s start talking about some cards and what players had to say, starting with the only card that appeared on everyone’s list: Kothon, the Far-Watcher.
It’s clear that Kothon is incredibly powerful. Several players described Kothon, the Far-Watcher as one of the most powerful cards from Omens of the Past, with HiThar even going as far as to call him the best card in the set. Acting as a “baby Siraf”, Kothon functions great at almost any stage in the game and works as a slow-yet-steady win condition by himself should he get to activate his ultimate. Endurance allows Kothon to be a great option for holding weapons or function as a strong Mentor target. Perhaps most importantly, Kothon offers all of this while also having the ever important 2 strength, allowing him to be targeted by Crystalline Chalice.
Kothon’s strength lies in his blatant efficiency rather than creating a powerful new strategy or presenting a new answer to the format. He’s an easy inclusion into most decks that include the factions, from aggressive to control archetypes, and ensures your deck has more ways to end the game via the ever-popular “death by owls” strategy.
Despite all the praise, many players—myself included—were not entirely sold that he will warp the metagame in the way other cards will. Several team members, including KampfKrote and TheSkeeJay, thought Kothon may even be slightly overhyped despite his power level. I’m of the opinion that, while he’s incredibly powerful, he will define more of how players using the Hooru factions will build their decks rather than how opponents will because of Kothon’s existence. That didn’t stop every one of us from putting him in our top 10, however.
The next most popular card, at nine votes, was Ayan, the Abductor:
This card seemed to fly under the radar for the first few days of the Omens release before players began to catch on. Ayan is arguably the best Ambush unit currently in the game besides Desert Marshal (though, to be honest, Desert Marshal often acts more like a Deathstrike than a unit.) Perhaps more importantly, Ayan is one of the strongest Lifesteal units among a small pool of options. Putting both of these roles into one card allows Ayan to fill multiple needs in many different decks. Even with just the first line of text, Ayan would be playable, but he also gets a nifty ultimate that adds some reach should you get to very late in the game. Much like Kothon, Ayan is less of a “build around” and more of a flexible all-star that can lend a hand to many different decks.
Ayan brought out a lot of excitement in several players on Team SPG. “Ayan is the card of these three that most resembles the set 1 gold standard of Siraf in terms of her consistent usefulness and how ubiquitous I’m expecting him to be among Xenan decks,” Bradykin noted. “He’s not Siraf’s power level, not quite; he would need a 4th toughness for that. But he’s very, very close.” KampfKrote believes Ayan is the best lifesteal card in set two, which was enough to put Ayan in the #1 spot for him. Of the nine players that put Ayan in their top 10, six of them placed Ayan within the top 5. It will be exciting to see if Ayan lives up to the hype as the metagame begins to form.
Up next are two cards that will likely appear together in every deck they are placed in. Every player had at least one of these cards on their list. Presenting: Champion of Fury and Vadius, Clan Father.
Champion of Fury is the most aggressive two-drop in the game. Without much difficulty, Champion of Fury will often come down as a 3/2 with Charge, and in some cases, a 4/2 with Charge and Overwhelm on turn two. That fills aggro players like myself with joy and gives most non-aggro players a lump in their throat. Without an answer, Champion of Fury threatens a lot of damage and will put players within reach of death by burn spells.
Calimdir was confident enough in the power of Champion of Fury to put it at #1 on his list. “My number one pick for the most meta-shaping card is Champion of Fury,” he commented. “This is a bit of a catch all for the new Skycrag archetype as a whole. Vadius is arguably the most powerful tool Skycrag received from Omens, but turn 1 Oni ronin into turn 2 activated Champion is what really pushes the deck into levels of aggression most builds of Stonescar only ever dreamed about.”
Vadius doesn’t deal as much damage as Champion of Fury but makes up for it with Quickdraw, Aegis to make him harder to remove, and a fantastic ultimate that provides a lot of reach to end games (as well as making use of a cool card from The Empty Throne that just wasn’t quite fast enough to see play.) Having 3 strength and Quickdraw allows Vadius to swing past many defensive threats, such as the aforementioned Ayan and Kothon, and many other cards that would otherwise threaten to trade with him, such as Dawnwalker, Amber Acolyte, and Copperhall Bailiff. Thanks to his battle skills, the Clan Father is also an excellent weapon user, making even cards like Morningstar see play. Champion of Fury gets the game rolling in your favor while Vadius makes sure the game ends in your victory. Most players on SPG see promise in Skycrag Aggro becoming a top deck, with Smj1360 and TheSkeeJay holding that it will become a tier one deck on the back of these two units.
Next, another card that made 9 out of 11 players lists, yet was still quite controversial: Heart of the Vault.
Heart of the Vault (HotV) is a value machine and perhaps the single scariest unit from Omens of the Past. Just dropping HotV gains you some card advantage by drawing you a card (with a cost reduction no less) and potentially kills a unit, or at worst breaks an Aegis. With Warp, HotV effectively draws you another card if you play him off the top of your deck. Lastly, at 6/6 for 6, it’s often the biggest unit on the board when it comes into play. Most people who have played HotV or had it played against them have likely seen its ability to completely swing games in favor of the person playing it.
All of this didn’t stop HotV from being one of the most contentious cards from the new set. Most players, while acknowledging it’s power, were skeptical of the rest of Praxis to come together into a tier one deck. Citing its lack of removal, among other things, players don’t think Praxis has what it takes to be a metagame powerhouse. Other players, such as myself, see Heart of the Vault the powerhouse card that Praxis needed to become a deck. I believe HotV will set the bar for other midrange decks, as it is clearly the largest and most swingy mid-game threat that other decks cannot keep up with.
Our next contender is the first spell on the list: Slay.
Slay is arguably the best single-target removal spell in the game. This elegant card offers something any deck playing Justice and Shadow, and even gives a strong incentive to splash one of these factions—Feln control decks will likely be quite happy to add a few pieces of Justice influence to cast this card. While Deathstrike has been in the game, is a Shadow only card, and is fast speed, the one power difference in cost on Slay is huge, freeing up power to play other cards.
Another Argenport card that was much more disputed was Bartholo, the Seducer:
Bartholo is arguably the first playable card with Unblockable, which is quite a big deal considering he’s also in the faction known for its weapons and ability to grow units. What really puts Bartholo over the top is Aegis, making him particularly threatening to midrange decks and anything else that can’t find an answer fast enough. Bartholo will often get to act as a second Silverwing Familiar, being suited up into a large, evasive monstrosity that takes the game by itself. Many players, such as Bradykin, think that Bartholo will enable Argenport aggro decks, though others were skeptical that the deck was going to do a better job than Rakano. Regardless, his presence will be powerful: he threatens to take down games by himself. If Bartholo decks ever get too popular, it will likely have the adverse effect of seducing armory-style decks to the field as well. Any card that can have such a strong impact on a metagame merits a place on these lists.
The last Argenport card that made many lists was Inquisitor Makto:
A 5/5 Flying for 5 is quite playable on its own, and Inquisitor Makto’s ability to always come back against any deck without silence creates inevitability that decks will have to be prepared for. TheSkeeJay was happy to put Makto at #2, noting these strengths as all Makto will need to be a relevant threat. However, his original hype has died down a bit after people started to see him in action. Several people in Team SPG were hesitant about Makto’s long-term power, citing how easily he is shut down and how unfavorably he matches up against a lot of common cards. Smj1360’s comment on Makto summed up most players thoughts:
I’m very torn on Makto. On the one hand, he’s a great costed and recurring threat that requires very specific cards to remove. On the other hand, he gets blocked by Sandstorm Titan and looks pretty bad against a Steward of the Past. Both of these cards come down before Makto and prevent him from doing much of anything in a midrange/control matchup. Against any midrange/control deck not playing those cards he’s an excellent threat that generates a huge advantage both against and with sweepers and against single target removal as well. Whether or not he impacts the format really depends on whether or not cards like Steward and Titan start seeing play again as they have fallen out of favor as of late with decks like Chalice and more aggressive decks being prominent in the tournament scene.
After Makto, opinions start to vary even more. One card that showed up in half the lists (as well as many honorable mention lists) was Waystone Infuser:
Waystone Infuser has a lot going for her. She combos very well with a lot of cards, such as Mystic Ascendant and Marshall Ironthorn. She can draw several cards if she gets to stick around and even sports the ability to Warp in herself. The only thing that might be stopping this value engine from making a big splash is her cost: five is a lot to pay. Waystone Infuser also competes with many other cards such as the aforementioned Marshall Ironthorn (who sports a stat line that is often much preferred to the meddling 2/6.) Despite the uncertainty surrounding Waystone Infuser, her ability is far too strong to ignore, which is likely why players were happy to put her in their top 10.
At this point, many players had very differing thoughts, which resulted in a lot of cards with only a few votes. Groundbreaker earned four votes, Eilyn’s Choice and Banish each earned three, Rockslide and Spellshield Architect each earned two, and a whole slew of cards earned just a single place. Initially, I thought there would be a lot more agreement among cards, but I was very pleasantly surprised at just how much the team disagreed both on the placement of cards on their lists and whether or not cards even deserved a place on the list.
It will be very exciting to see just how the metagame shapes up over the next several weeks. I, personally, could not be more excited for the ETS tournament this weekend. It’s a great time to be an Eternal player.