Welcome back to our Gladiator Jumpstart: Historic Horizons set review! There are a lot of cards to cover in gold, so let’s get started!
This two drop gains you life, blocks flyers, can grow itself and your entire board? Sign me up! Lifelink is extremely good considering the current strength of Aggro decks, and it becomes even better with +1/+1 counters. Reach allows blocking pesky flying tokens, Brazen Borrower, Nimble Obstructionist and Phoenixes, and if equipped or grown with enough +1/+1 counters, it can protect you from Dragons and Angels. Outlast can be somewhat awkward, given that you need to pay mana and tap your creatures on your turn, but the flexible cheap cost, potential of increasing the stats of multiple creatures, and interacting well with vigilance, makes it feasible and worthwhile. The Acolyte fits nicely into decks that care about +1/+1 counters, and can be a reasonable addition to Selesnya creature decks in general.
Chainer, Nightmare Adept
This card has powerful text, providing not only a free discard outlet, but the ability to recur creatures from your graveyard with haste (including the card you discarded). But ultimately the four mana cost, bad statline, lack of keywords, and absent immediate ETB value can push him out of decks other than Midrange with a desire for the game to go long.
Cloudshredder Sliver, Lavabelly Sliver, and The First Sliver
With Jumpstart: Historic Horizons, a number of Slivers will be introduced into the format, and their tribal characteristics revolve around helping other Slivers, stacking up abilities in multiple bodies that requires different colors of mana to be cast. For these reasons, a proper Sliver tribal list is difficult to take form here, since it requires not only a solid multi color mana base for a low to the ground creature deck, but also a huge density of Slivers themselves. Unfortunately, it will be hard to build a Slivers deck without sacrificing a lot of card quality. With that being said, ignoring competitive viability, the creatures with Changeling we have available and the new Slivers from Jumpstart could assemble together into some sort of list, supported by cards like Sliver Hive, Ancient Ziggurat and Unclaimed Territory in the manabase.
Two out of the three Multicolor Slivers we are getting are Boros creatures: Cloudshredder Sliver costs two mana and grants first strike and haste to all Slivers you control, two very good keywords to give your board and future creatures; and Lavabelly, a three mana 2/2 that gives your Slivers an enter the battlefield trigger that drains your opponent’s life total, increasing your pressure and helping racing. Both of them would be good in a Slivers list, but individually they don’t stand out enough, since Boros lists have better options at two and three mana.
The third one is The First Sliver: costing one mana of each color, it’s a 7/7 that not only does it have the great ability of Cascade, guaranteeing a free spell of mana value four or less, but also gives your other Sliver spells the aforementioned ability. Ignoring the tribal implications, there are decks in the format, like five color Niv-Mizzet Reborn Midrange, that already plan to assemble a multi color mana base and cast value cards. The First Sliver – a huge five color creature that casts a free four drop with the Cascade ability – now exists as a top end option for those lists.
Etchings of the Chosen
We are getting a new “choose your tribe” anthem akin to Radiant Destiny and Icon of Ancestry, and this one comes with a sacrifice outlet and targeted protection! Etchings of the Chosen isn’t as easy to cast, and it doesn’t have the card draw ability of Icon of Ancestry, but it brings a relevant activated ability. This anthem lets you sacrifice tokens or other expendable creatures to save your lords and key threats from removal, be it spot removal or board wipes. Although it is hard to find an obvious home for this card, the go-wide and Aristocrats elements of on-color tribes – Humans, Clerics and Vampires, for example – can take advantage of this three mana enchantment.
Aside from being a 2/2, this Goblin’s spell cost reduction makes it a consideration for two kinds of decks: Goblin Tribal and Storm decks. Making your Goblins cheaper and accelerating to Krenko, Mob Boss and Muxus, Goblin Grandee is a good effect for a deck that looks to swarm the board, especially when stapled to an on-rate and on-tribe body. The question to ask is: does green provide enough for a splash in Goblin decks? Grumgully, the Generous and Realmwalker are other good reasons for a green splash, and certainly there’s room for experimentation with Gruul and Jund Goblin lists; but how those compare to Mono-Red and Rakdos is something to be considered. Outside of its tribal applications, Anarchomancer can see play in combo lists that want to chain multiple red and green spells: it makes your Birgi, God of Storytelling, Grinning Ignus, Chatterstorm and Regrowth cheaper. This Goblin doesn’t reduce the cost on Blue and Black spells, and for that reason it will not slot that easily on traditional Storm lists that play Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer, but it can surely do work on non-blue Storm decks, such as Jund Storm.
Similar effects at this mana value have seen play in our format – namely from cards like Grumgully, the Generous and Boreal Outrider – and this one isn’t limited to certain types, nontoken creatures, or attached to types of mana used to cast them. With that being said, the fragility of the Unicorn’s body and the overall quality of three drops available to us makes it a contender only to the most dedicated +1/+1 counters lists and decks that look to utilize it for the interaction with Persist – Putrid Goblin, a sacrifice outlet and Good-Fortune Unicorn provide infinite death and enter the battlefield triggers.
Four mana is a lot, but the two mana Ninjutsu cost of Ingenious Infiltrator really makes it appealing. Drawing an extra card every turn while attacking and interacting with your opponent is a way to snowball to victory, and the Ninja’s colors support that game plan with hard removal, hand attack and counterspells. The few reasonable Ninjas we received can help Dimir Tempo in its competitive playability, since they synergize with the overall configuration of its suite of threats. Ninjutsu works very well with Adventure creatures, enter the battlefield effects, and cheap, evasive threats – Brazen Borrower, Murderous Rider, Order of Midnight and Sea Gate Stormcaller are examples of creatures that play out very well with the Ninjutsu ability. A final aspect worth discussing about Ingenious Infiltrator is its three toughness, which lets it dodge two damage removal.
This card is a great option for value and Combo decks that look to play a lot of creatures (and maybe blink them), being a cheap engine that creates Clues, with two relevant lines of text in its types: Legendary and Elf. Lonis’ effect doesn’t immediately draw cards, but it gives you the option to spend those Clues for a powerful activated ability. When sacrificing Clues to draw cards is too mana intensive, using them to get an opponent’s nonland permanent from their deck can be a great deal. A wide spectrum of decks can be reasonable shells for Lonis: Blink, Elves and Paradorks (Captain Sisay-Paradox Engine Combo decks) are examples of lists that look for Beast Whisperer-like effects, and Lonis is now an option at two mana. Another aspect to keep in mind is that Clues are artifacts, so if a particular deck is interested in creating artifacts, and has enough creature density, that list might be interested in giving Lonis a shot.
Goblin players rejoice! This two mana 1/1 with flash deals damage to a creature or planeswalker equal to the number of Goblins you control when it enters the battlefield, essentially being a removal spell with a relevant creature type. Got a wide board stalled by a single Elder Gargaroth? No problem! Go get this fella with Goblin Matron and clear the way for your Goblin friends. Previously, most Goblin decks were built as Mono-Red, but Munitions Expert is now one of the reasons to dip into black for that tribe. Jumpstart: Historic Horizons is also bringing Sling-Gang Lieutenant and Putrid Goblin for a Rakdos (or Jund) Goblins build, that will also be interested in playing powerful cards we already have access to such as Demonic Tutor and Judith, the Scourge Diva.
Priest of Fell Rites
A bunch of value stapled on a cheap body for a color combination that wants exactly that: recursion and low cost creatures. Being a Human and recurrable with Lurrus of the Dream-Den are also relevant aspects of this card. It’s worth noting that Priest is our cheapest reanimation effect to date, but considering its restrictions (needing to survive a turn cycle) we’ll see it in action more as a value piece in creature decks, than an all-in reanimation tool. Orzhov Midrange builds welcome this card with open arms, as well as other creature decks that can cast it. Nevertheless, the fact that, if put into the graveyard, it functions like an Unburial Rites, makes it also a good addition to dedicated Reanimator lists. With all that upside covered, the additional cost of paying 3 life is undeniably painful in the Aggro matchups, so having incidental lifegain or choosing very impactful reanimation targets will be important in order to offset that downside – if not, of course, simply blocking with it and trading in the early game, which still gives you value later with the Unearth ability.
A 3/3 for two mana that enters the battlefield ready to rumble is a great addition for Rakdos decks, even if it requires you to discard a card the turn after you play it. Decks that want this kind of card, like Rakdos Aggro, have plenty of ways to soften or even take advantage of the Echo cost – cards like Skyclave Shade, Gutterbones, Ebondeath, Dracolich or the new Madness cards we are receiving, get value off being discarded into your graveyard. What’s even better than a 3/3 haster on turn two? Following that up with an Asylum Visitor cast with Madness, or pitching that Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger to its rightful place, the graveyard. If you can’t capitalize on its Echo cost, that’s fine too, because you will be killing your opponent very quickly – discarding a dead card in the matchup or an extra land can be negligible compared to the amount of early pressure this cheap Devil brings to the table.
An extremely cheap and easy to cast creature with a mana sink, this Squirrel could see play in Sacrifice and Aristocrats decks of different color combinations – Golgari, Jund, Four-Color, and even those without green, like Rakdos and Mardu. This Squirrel can grow a lot in those decks with its ability, triggered by your sacrifice outlets and other effects such as Food from Gilded Goose or Treasures from Shambling Ghast and Kalain, Reclusive Painter. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up not making the cut, given that it does not provide extra bodies, a Blood Artist effect, a free sacrifice ability or powerful extra utility. The sacrifice ability is useful, but also mana intensive. Sacrifice lists often look for cards that are either more impactful or easier to take advantage of, but more one drops are always welcome, especially one that is very flexible in its casting cost and has the potential of becoming a huge threat.
A growing threat that can be played on your opponent’s turn? What more could a Simic beatdown deck ask for? This is a cheap creature that can get out of hand and doesn’t require you to tap out on your turn to deploy. However, it lacks evasion and, depending on the list’s threat density, can be somewhat difficult to turn into a game winning threat stats wise. Simic Tempo’s game plan usually revolves around developing a threat and following it up with cheap spells like cantrips, protection and interaction – and unlike cards such as Dragonsguard Elite and Quirion Dryad, Shambleshark doesn’t grow during that play pattern, requiring multiple creatures for that endeavor. With that being said, these types of lists often run Wildborn Preserver, and although the Shark is much weaker, it provides a similar effect, putting it as an option for the suite of two drop creatures – or even for a more creature dense build that looks to jam multiple flash threats.
This card easily slots into Blink lists with white and blue, and it’s an incentive to other Blink decks to dip in either of these colors. Soul Herder is at the same time an engine that re-buys your enter the battlefield triggers and a potential threat that can spiral out of control, closing the game quickly or being a huge roadblock.
A new addition to Enchantress-style archetypes; it’s everything the decks look to do – a cheap enchantment that provides protection to your other enchantments, and can be cashed in to tutor any enchantment you need on the top of your library. Giving shroud to enchantments negates the downside of Banishing Light effects, protecting them from Gemrazer and Knight of Autumn, and ensure you continuous card draw from engines like Enchantress’s Presence and Whirlwind of Thought. Protecting your Destiny Spinner against a control opponent is extremely valuable as well. Being a tutor, this card increases the toolbox element of enchantment decks, letting you search for removal (for example, Binding the Old Gods), board wipe (Battle of Frost and Fire), something to finish the game (Outlaws’ Merriment), or any other type of card that the situation calls for. Unlike other tutors commonly played along enchantments (Idyllic Tutor and Search for Glory), Sterling Grove triggers relevant effects that care about enchantments being cast or entering the battlefield: for example, drawing a card with the next card we’ll be discussing, Sythis, Harvest’s Hand.
Sythis, Harvest’s Hand
Another card for Enchantress, this time an “enchantress” herself – an engine that draws cards as you play enchantments. Sythis draws cards and gains life, is also an enchantment, and a legendary – i.e. can be found with Search for Glory. The enchantresses we have in our format are Enchantress’s Presence, Setessan Champion and Satyr Enchanter; Sythis joins these ranks, being the most vulnerable but cheapest of the bunch, and triggering on cast – relevant when you are facing counterspells. She doesn’t give as much board presence as Setessan Champion, but its cost and life gain offset that difference. Consider playing Sythis if you plan to cast several enchantments each game.
Not reliably a two mana 4/4 or 5/5 in our format, this Kavu will usually be a 1/1 or 2/2. Regardless of its stats, it provides value on attack, either churning through unnecessary cards in your hand to find more action, or cleaning your opponent’s graveyard, dealing with problematic cards and Escape fuel. The Kavu could be a reasonable addition to Midrange and aggressive Gruul decks, and it gets better the more land types you have available in your mana base, provided by shock lands, triomes, bicycle lands and snow tapped duals – and that is realistic given that even two color decks currently play triomes or make light splashes with shock lands (Gruul Aggro running Blood Crypt and Overgrown Tomb for Scrapheap Scrounger’s activation, and Ketria Triome as a green and red source is an example).