Daniel Grundy | 9th October 2018
So as you know, the newest magic set ‘Guilds of Ravnica’ has finally arrived and people seem pretty happy with it. However, one card since spoiler season has been the talk of the town.. Assassin’s Trophy! Ever since this card was seen during the spoilers, people have had a lot of discussion on whether the card is playable, too powerful or just bad. Just in case you haven’t seen/read the card, here it is.
As you know, removal spells are an important part of Magic games. Being able to remove certain aspects of your opponents deck is vital to overcome a victory. Pesky Tarmogoyf beating you down? Fatal push. That Liliana of the Veil giving you a hard time? Celestial purge. How about that tron land? Field of ruin. There are a number of different cards in games that you need to be able to deal with and having the right removal spells can be the difference between winning that game, and losing it. First of we need to talk about what makes a good removal spell? Flexibility and a low cost are key factors. lets take a look at a few examples. Also i am going to focus a lot of this on the modern format.
One mana removal spells are always the best type you could hope for, as being able to get rid of your opponents creature and still have mana left over to cast your own can feel pretty good. Also getting rid of mana dorks like Birds of paradise, Noble Hierarch or even a Elvish Mystic on turn one can be crucial to slow down your opponents deck. The downside to this card being it becomes worse late game when the big boys start hitting the table (by this I mean creatures abouve 4cmc) even though this card hits most creatures in the modern format. But there still might be one or two that can avoid being hit by this card.
Another good one mana spell is Path to Exile. Unlike Fatal push this card can remove any creature you want, regardless of size or mana cost. The difference being this card doesn’t just destroy that creature, it also gets exiled which can be a big hit against cards that have a ‘when this creature is sent to the graveyard’ or cards that can be brought back. It also gives your opponent a basic land tapped in return for there next turn which could be a reason to think about casting this turn one. Getting rid of that Noble Hierarch turn one doesn’t feel as good when they just replace it with a land and stay on curve. Also sometimes you could be giving them access to a colour they didn’t have at that current time. However this spell can be just as good in the late game when land isn’t as important.
So before we get to Assassin’s Trophy lets talk about its original Ravnica sibling. Sometimes its more than a creature you need to get rid of and that is where spells like this come into play. Removing nonland permanents such as artifacts, enchantments or planeswalkers are important too so we need to make sure we have the right balance between creature hate and ways hit other permanents. Abrupt Decay has the advantage against control decks with that little ‘Can’t be countered’ part. However, similar to Path to Exile, this has its little clause too where it can only hit nonland permanents with Converted mana cost 3 or less, which again in the modern format is easy to come by.
So after comparing this card to the three I have just talked about, you can clearly see that it is a really powerful card. Being able to destroy literally anything in any deck is not easy to come by, especially at 2 mana and at instant speed. You could see why this card has been talked about a lot. But to put this to the test I have been running three copies in my Jund deck over the past few days on MTGO. So how good is it? Well I can honestly say that Jund has a new best friend when it comes to removal, this card bailed me out of more situations that I realized it would. The fact that it gave my opponent an untapped basic land didn’t really take me out of the drivers seat in any games. The main deck I came up against a lot was the infamous U/W control. Now in Jund I already find this a well balanced match up, but with Assassin’s Trophy I think we might have the leverage now. Being able to take out things like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Celestial Colonnade with as single card slot is so powerful. Granted the spell can still be countered but played cautiously like you would trying to avoid any counter spell and this can turn the game around for you. However, ideally this isn’t the removal spell you want to be casting turn two. The fact that it gives your opponent a land can still be a problem for some decks. Like I said earlier you don’t want to have to use this spell turn two for mana dorks as it doesn’t really achieve anything. But personally it all depends on what deck you are running. For me, in Jund that is the reason I run cards like Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push and I will save cards like this and Maelstrom Pulse for the more tricky threats. I think this card will see a lot of play in Modern for B/G/X decks whether it be in the mainboard or the sideboard. So far I have been running 3 copies in my deck, replacing Dreadbore, Terminate and Abrupt Decay and I think Assassin’s Trophy will even be a consideration to run 4. For now I will continue to test it and find a configuration I am happy with. Personally I feel this is one of the best removal spells the format has ever seen and i’m so glad its accessible to my colours, but enough from the perspective of a biased Jund player! what do you think of the card? do you think its too powerful? overrated? Let me know!