Top Oath Cards for Standard

Posted in Top Decks on January 15, 2016

By Melissa DeTora

Melissa is a former Magic pro player and strategy writer who is now working in R&D on the Play Design team.

With the Oath of the Gatewatch Prerelease right around the corner (tomorrow!), today I'm going to go over the cards that you should be trading for this weekend or hoping to open if you're looking to improve your Standard decks. There's a lot to go over, so let's get started!

Colorless Eldrazi

Colorless-mana-matters is one of the main themes in Oath of the Gatewatch, and there are quite a few rare cards that are good starting points for a colorless disruptive aggro deck. Disruptive aggro is a deck archetype that looks to deploy threats early and then protect them with either countermagic or discard, so that the opponent can never really get their game plan going (think Faeries or Delver of Secrets decks).

The creature that we are looking to play early is Eldrazi Mimic. While a 2/1 for two mana isn't really impressive on its own, our later plays can make this creature hit quite hard. The three-drop slot consists of Matter Reshaper. This little Eldrazi is perfect in a disruptive aggro deck. A 3/2 for three is a decent body on its own, but it also replaces itself when it dies, allowing you to draw into larger threats or even ramp into your bigger spells.

The Eldrazi curve of your opponents' nightmares.

Next up we have Thought-Knot Seer at four mana. This is where the "disruptive" part of disruptive aggro comes in. First, this card allows you to look at your opponent's hand, giving you valuable information in order to plan out your next few turns. If that wasn't good enough, you also get to select your opponent's best card and exile it. Talk about value! While the opponent does get to draw a card when Thought-Knot Seer leaves the battlefield, a 4/4 body isn't the easiest thing to deal with and you'll likely have access to the uncommon Warping Wail to counter any sorcery-speed removal spell thrown your way. Speaking of Warping Wail, this card is great for the colorless aggro decks. It has so much versatility, being able to kill creatures like Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or counter important spells like Languish. Sometimes you just need a creature to beat down with, and Warping Wail does that too.

The top of the curve is the powerful Reality Smasher. It's difficult to remove, and even if your opponent does find a way to deal with it, they'll be forced to discard a card first, netting you some card advantage...just what a disruptive aggro deck wants!

Green-White Tokens

Green-White Tokens was a popular archetype after Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, but it has fallen out of favor recently. I think it is sure to make a comeback with Oath of the Gatewatch, given the new tools we have access to. The first card I'd like to discuss is Oath of Gideon. While it may look like a weak Raise the Alarm, keep in mind that it curves nicely into Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. A turn-three Oath followed by a turn-four Gideon lets you create an emblem while keeping Gideon around for later.

Gideon helps those who need help. Gideon needs help. Ergo, Gideon helps Gideon.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is another powerful card that will fit well in a token-based strategy. It's not every day we see a planeswalker cost only three mana. Historically, any planeswalker that cost three saw lots of Standard play, such as Domri Rade and Jace Beleren. I think that Nissa is even stronger than those format-defining planeswalkers due to the fact that it protects itself the turn it enters the battlefield. If your opponent only has one creature on the battlefield and you plus your Nissa, you have provided yourself with a chump blocker that lets you keep Nissa around for another turn. If you already have an army of creatures, using Nissa's -2 ability gives you a permanent Glorious Anthem effect while Nissa still gets to stick around.

Sylvan Advocate, while not a card specifically for a token deck, is still quite strong and is a card that every green deck wants. It plays both offense and defense very well, and late in the game it gets more powerful whereas most early creatures tend to get outclassed the longer the game goes. Sylvan Advocate has great synergy with awaken and creature lands.

If red is your thing, then Oath of the Gatewatch has plenty of cards for you. Oath of Chandra is a card I really like a lot and, although on the surface it looks like a rare burn spell that only hits creatures, it actually does so much more than that. The most obvious synergy it has is with Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh from Magic Origins. Together they can deal 7 damage to the opponent in a single turn.

Chandra burns things that need burning. All of the things need burning. Ergo, Chandra burns all of the things.

Control

There are plenty of cards from Oath of the Gatewatch that will make control decks stronger. Flaying Tendrils is a card that will have a huge impact, as it shuts down so many strategies. Rally the Ancestors and decks that rely on sacrifice triggers with Zulaport Cutthroat and Catacomb Sifter are the biggest strategies that this card hits, but it's also great against aggro decks like Atarka Red that are trying to overwhelm you with small creatures. Grasp of Darkness and Immolating Glare are some other uncommons to be on the lookout for. Both are two-mana instant-speed removal spells that are sure fit into plenty of Standard decks.

Another card that should heavily influence Standard is Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Like Flaying Tendrils, this creature shuts down graveyard strategies—but it also gives you a crazy amount of card advantage with its token production, which is exactly what control decks want.

Think about it: if you have a Kalitas in play and use a removal spell on your opponent's creature, you get a 2/2 Zombie. If your opponent plays a Fleshbag Marauder, they lose a creature and you get a 2/2 Zombie. If you cast a Languish, you get a 2/2 Zombie for each of your opponent's creatures that die. Kalitas is a nightmare against decks that play creatures.

I get a Zombie! And I get a Zombie. And I get a Zombie! And I get a Zombie!

Now let's get to my vote for the strongest card in Oath of the Gatewatch: Chandra, Flamecaller. While many players will feel uneasy playing a six-mana planeswalker that doesn't protect itself the turn you cast it, the versatility of this card cannot be overlooked. It can clear the board, give you a new hand, and even directly attack the opponent. I believe that the first ability of Chandra is the strongest. Attacking for 6 every turn is no joke, and it's great at killing opposing planeswalkers. I would bet that red control decks like Grixis and blue-red will emerge thanks to this card.

Lands

This set has more utility lands than any set in recent memory. The new creature lands speak for themselves. Hissing Quagmire and Wandering Fumarole round out the cycle of creature lands and are sure to be staples in the Standard format.

The mythic rare land in the set, Mirrorpool, is another land I really like for Standard. You can definitely do some crazy things with this card. One of my favorite plays is to copy your creature in response to your opponent trying to destroy it, giving you a backup copy, but it's mostly going to be useful in cloning creatures with strong enters-the-battlefield abilities. Another great play is to cast a spell with delve for minimal mana, such as Dig Through Time or Temporal Trespass, and then copy that spell with the extra mana you saved.

I mean, it's no Library of Alexandria.

The last card I'd like to mention today is a land that is great for aggressive decks: Sea Gate Wreckage. Aggro decks tend to play cheap spells and creatures and empty their hand pretty early. Having a card like this in play will give you that extra reach you may need to close out a game.

Wrap-Up

Oath of the Gatewatch looks to be an exciting set for Standard, and this article only barely scratches the surface. There are so many cards that just beg players to brew new decks! I'm really looking forward to seeing how the set plays out. Enjoy your Prerelease, and I hope you open some great cards!

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