MTG: Standard Cards I Can’t Make Work

Standard right now is weird. I don’t mean the bannings.

What I mean is there are cards that feel like they belong in 60-card formats that I just cannot make work.

Sometimes cards are reactive and it doesn’t matter if they don’t work because they’re there to do something if someone else is doing something. Things like Authority of the Consuls, or Crafty Cutpurse, these are cards that exist to respond to things other people are doing. There’s an assortment of aggro creature swarm cards that are for more casual play and usually for limited, which is also fair. But that’s not everything going on.

Here are some cards I really wish I could make work in Standard.

Dusk // Dawn

What kind of decks want to blow up the world? Control decks! What kind of decks want to pick up a lot of creatures? Decks that lose all their creatures! These two ideas work kind of at odds with one another.

The best shell I could find for Dusk/Dawn is sort of a human enter-the-battlefield deck, with Fabricators that let you go wide to avoid a Dusk or stand tall before one to hold the ground better. Mana gets tricky for this design. Also, one of the best cards to work with it, Angel of Invention, makes all your 2-power creatures die to Dusk which is just annoying.

The other problem is it costs five. Being able to go one drop, two drop, three drop, something, wipe board to get rid of your opponent’s stuff, leave my stuff intact is kinda appealing, but in the cases that will win you the game it is also almost always the same as if you could cast a removal spell on your opponent’s blocker.

It’s a nice grindy spell for longer, slower games so controlling Commander decks will love it.

Kefnet the Mindful

A three mana 5/5 is desireable if you’re aggressive, and an indestructable blocker is desireable if you’re midrange. Kefnet would have been really good back in Ravnica Standard for mid-range decks, as a sort of Simic deck aggressor, someone who can stand in front of 3/4s and 3/3s is pretty good.

Kefnet is however, much more of a Kamigawa card. We had the Wisdom mechanic back then, and that mechanic – get seven in the hand or your creature will be bad – and I tried to make it work, but oh god it did not work.

Kefnet doesn’t give you enough early, can’t hold the ground in the early game almost by definition, and the activated ability is cute but also mana hungry. Still, a handy 3-mana enchantment that draws cards better than Treasure Trove.

Trial of Ambition

Ughhhh I wanted this to be good! I wanted this to work!

Okay, so like, card draw is this thing we venerate in Magic. Just drawing more cards is almost seen as a good thing. But what if you had a card draw spell that guaranteed you could draw Cruel Edict in a removal deck? And sometimes it can draw you two or three Cruel Edicts?

The problem is there’s no good Cartouche to line up with this Trial. I’d want one of the cheaper ones so you can have a turn that goes Cartouche-Trial or Trial-Cartouche-Trial without it being unreasonable. The cartouche best suited for a control deck is the white one, which also gives you a creature to drop it on, but you still need something to sit on the board and survive. Now don’t get me wrong there’s kinda a sick one-two punch of dropping a creature, forcing your opponent to extend more threats around it, that means you can go Trial, Cartouche, Trial back to back and that’s kinda cool?

But what kinda creature are you going to Cartouche to start with? What benefits from it? What is safe enough you don’t have to worry about it dying on the way? You could maybe go blue and hexproof up a token or two? But those permanents aren’t super reliable either!

It’s just a bit too bad. You don’t want to play Trial of Ambition in a deck that can’t rebuy it, because then it’s just Diabolic Edict which is a bit Not Good Enough but it’s really just, at best, Wildly Okay with one cartouche in a threat deck. It’s not even generally disruptive enough to support a midrange deck.

On the other hand, it is a pretty sweet card to include in a UB Cloudstone Curio deck with Reality Acid? 3BU to blow up two permanents is pretty cool.

Scrapper Champion

One of the things I like about Energy is it lets cards affect the board with a sort of pseudo-haste, which means at any given point in time, a creature’s behaviour could fuel itself, or fuel something else. With the hit Temur Energy took a few months back, most of what kinda makes this deck fade isn’t so strong any more, but I like this card as a top-end beater for an Energy deck.

Part of what keeps it from really singing though is that Green and Red aren’t bleeding aggressive things that gain energy making its Energy supply more of a burst. Rogue Refiner, for example is a good card but in the wrong colours, and while there are some nice Green cards that Just Get Energy and aren’t bad, they’re mostly overshadowed by the better cards that Temur would run. Even Aetherstorm Roc is kinda just a better version of the Champion – less explosive, but better able to control itself and able to generate more Energy after its single burst.

I think there still might be some skin there – particularly with Decoction Module and Fabrication Module – to feed into creatures like Longtusk Cub, Voltaic Brawler and the top end of the Scrapper Champion, but then you’re back looking at Bristling Hydra and Aetherstorm Roc and wondering if they’re not just better?

Deeproot Champion

I’ve played with Quirion Dryad, and I’ve played with Vinelasher Kudzu and really, if you print a 2-mana creature that can get more counters on it I’ll try it. Deeproot Champion is a sort of awkward creature in that it isn’t really strong enough to support a deck on its own but it’s also not really got any complementary threats. Prowess creatures want you to play in a big burst of spells, and don’t like it you play them off-turn, but the Champion lets you play a sort of aggro-control game.

Turn two champion, attack turn three with mana up to protect it or mess with your opponent’s plan is pretty sweet, but it’s not enough to build a deck around and it’s not like the rest of the merfolk’s tribe actually supports it in this plan. You want cantrips and free spells to really make this sing and, well, there just isn’t that support either. The best card to go with it is Opt, and the pool dries right up after that.

You can try and add to it with token threats and sort of mix up a big beef/go wide combo strategy, with cards like Queen’s Comission and Legion’s Landing, but that feels a bit weedy. If you’re trying to plant outsized threats and ride them in a ramshackle way to the finish line you probably want bigger threats for the price. If this card’s going anyplace it’s going there in modern – and you can’t really make a deck out of it in commander.


And finally, Panharmonicon. If you set it up so it does something the turn it comes down you’re sort of locked into an artifacts-matter shell, which can do some kinda neat things but they’re not quite strong enough. If you try to make it so it benefits creatures with ETB and live the dream with Cloudblazer, you’ll find you don’t really have enough creatures to support a deck that can live long enough to play Panharmonicon.

Interestingly, my first attempts at this deck used Dusk/Dawn.

We’ll see if the coming weeks bring to light some tech I haven’t heard of. Maybe not. Maybe the flush of attention to Modern will have some sort of interesting development. Either way, here’s a salute to things that Don’t Seem To Work (Yet?).

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