One of our writers fell down a hole (he's okay), but that meant the awesome preview article we had planned by this anonymous writer didn't happen. Instead, let's play a game.
There are some cards that almost design themselves by playing on some of the great Magic tropes and then updating them for the set's mechanics. Birds of Paradise/Elvish Mystic becomes Noble Hierarch in a world where being Bant matters and exalted is a mechanic. Final Judgment becomes Descend Upon the Sinful when we care about delirium. Squire becomes Stoneforge Mystic when you care about Equipment (bad example).
And the hasty but delicate red creature lives on in many forms on many planes. Not sure what I'm talking about?
It all started here.
Since then, we've had a number of variants on the fragile-but-fast red creature that acts somewhat like a burn spell, somewhat like a creature.
These creatures vary in power level. Ball Lightning was one of the most feared cards in early burn decks. Giant Solifuge left its mark on tournaments, as did Blistering Firecat and Hell's Thunder. Impetuous Devils and Viashino Sandstalker? Less so.
The latest entry into this exalted lineage combines the hasty red creature trope with this set's new, awesome mechanic—energy. Introducing Lathnu Hellion.
On its own, the Hellion comes out of nowhere and hits for 4 damage on an empty board for just three mana. That's not a bad rate, as far as burn decks are concerned (at least in Standard). You lose the flexibility of a Flame Javelin or an Exquisite Firecraft, but what you gain is the opportunity to hit for more.
First of all, the Hellion generates its own energy, meaning it gets to stick around at least one turn if you like. If you have other ways to generate energy (or already have some sitting around), then the Hellion can continue to be a menace for several turns. And, given red burn decks' propensity for ending the game quickly, it won't take much energy to make that possible.
The hidden bonus is that you can, if the mood strikes you, just let Lathnu Hellion die after one attack. Then you've essentially cast a 4-damage burn spell that generated two energy. I can promise you there will be ways to use that energy to deal damage in this set.
So will Lathnu Hellion be more Ball Lightning and Giant Solifuge, or more Viashino Sandstalker? Watch previews over the next two weeks to see how the energy generated by this Hellion might tip it either way.