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The Top 10 Sleepers of M14
Feature Article from Frank Lepore
Frank Lepore
7/19/2013 12:01:00 PM
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As per every new set release I like to list ten of the cards I don't think are getting enough attention, but that I think should be. Sometimes I'm way off and sometimes I'm right on the nose, but either way, the thing I try hardest to accomplish is to provide you guys with a perspective on some cards that you might not have initially had. Maybe you'll see a card in a new light, or discover an application you might not have thought of, and if so, then I consider my work a success.

If you're looking for simply a list of the Top 10 M14 cards you're in the wrong place. You will find no Archangel of Thune, Kalonian Hydra, or Garruk, Caller of Beasts here. Only some of the unsung heroes of the set that I would personally like to brew with based on the merit I see them possessing.

Without further ado...let's begin!

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 Awaken the Ancient
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10. Awaken the Ancient

This card seems to be the next in a line of red land animator...things. Genju of the Spires is the card that immediately comes to mind, but the Genju was a little more resilient than this one, in that if the Mountain was destroyed, you'd get to keep the Genju. You did however have to pay mana every time you wanted to activate the Genju. This doesn't invalidate Awaken the Ancient however. The worst thing this card has going for it is that, if you want to attack with the Mountain the turn you play it, this essentially costs five mana, which is pricey for a red deck. But what you get for that five mana is pretty potent. A hasty 7/7 has the potential to come out of nowhere and win the game, especially in a red deck. Keep in mind that seven damage is like 2.5 red cards.

Another option we have available to us is to play it on a Stomping Ground, and get in the red zone a turn earlier with Arbor Elf. Yes, the potential for getting two-for-oned is pretty sizeable with this card, but if we're able to sneak it in onto a tapped out board the seven damage could make all the difference.

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 Grim Return
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9. Grim Return

I love Grim Return for its potential. Sure it's a reanimation spell, but it's also a combat trick. The only problem with Grim Return is that it's a horrible top deck onto an empty board, but for three mana, at instant speed, maybe we can work around that. Simply put a well-timed Doom Blade, Tragic Slip, or Searing Spear places us firmly in the driver's seat, especially during combat. I mean, we're going to be playing removal anyway. I don't see a reason why we don't exploit that fact and use this as a complete blow out. I would love to kill a Thundermaw Hellkite, or a Huntmaster of the Fells, or an Olivia Voldaren, then Reanimate those dudes for blocks. That seems like a good time for me. The one hindrance I see with Grim Return is that the creature has to go to the graveyard from the battlefield that turn in order to be a target. While I wish it could simply be put into the graveyard from anywhere, ala milling, I guess that's the restriction we have to work with.

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 Ring of Three Wishes
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8. Ring of Three Wishes

Ah, this is what's known as a “bulk mythic.” But truth be told, this is a rather powerful ability. Diabolic Tutor has seen play before and so has Increasing Ambition. Those are both sorceries as well. This guy, however, just sits on the board and allows you to use it not once, not twice, but three times (a lady...!). This is pretty huge, especially since you're able to use the ability at instant speed. No sorcery speed restrictions here. You make a one time commitment of five mana during your main phase, then any time after that you can end-of-turn tutor up any card your heart desires.

Yes, the caveat is that you have to spend a turn - and five mana - “doing nothing,” but that's the Price of Progress. In a control deck this card could really shine. Assemble eight mana somehow, play the Ring with Counterspell backup (or not), and for the rest of the game you have a pretty efficient way to tutor up your deck's best threats. The format is probably too quick for the Ring right now, but if it happens to slow down when Theros rotates in, it might be a great one or two of in control decks looking for silver bullets.

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 Windreader Sphinx
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7. Windreader Sphinx

This is a card that everyone seems to be pretty low on. And for good reason. The closest things to compare it to is Consecrated Sphinx. Both creatures attempt to draw us cards and both have a combined power and toughness of ten. But just because what we have to work with isn't as good as what we used to have, doesn't mean it isn't good at all. This just requires a little more set up.

Of course I envision scenarios where I cast the Sphinx then attack with four Lingering Souls tokens, prompting me to draw four cards. Is this ideal? Yes, but only barely. Having one or two fliers on the board when this guy lands isn't some impossible feat, which kind of puts him on par with Consecrated Sphinx in that respect at least. If I had to compare this guy to anyone, it would be a combination of Consecrated Sphinx and Drogskol Reaver. While it dies to a good amount of removal, the right deck could really propel this guy to all-star territory. Also worth noting you draw the cards when any flier attacks, not just your own.

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 Liliana's Reaver
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6. Liliana's Reaver

While I love that Searing Spear wasn't reprinted in the core set, I have to assume that some three damage burn spell will make an appearance in Theros. Nonetheless, if we didn't play creatures that could be killed by removal, well, we wouldn't play creatures. The fact is, for the cost and size of this guy, you're getting quite an ability. Playing black? Of course you are. So clear the path for this guy with Doom Blades and Abrupt Decays, deal four damage, get a free 2/2 and make your opponent discard a card. The only disadvantage this guy has going for him is the fact that he has three toughness. That's it. If he was a 4/4 for four with these abilities, I don't think we'd be giving a second thought about playing him. So once we can get past that fact, we have quite a powerful package. The fact that he's also a zombie is really just icing on the cake. The only thing he's missing is the fact that he doesn't have an “enters the battlefield” ability, but hey, you can't win ‘em all.

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 Ajani's Chosen
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5. Ajani's Chosen

I mean, how bad can these guys be...Ajani chose them! Again, this is a card that, if anything, suffers from three toughness syndrome, so let's try to get past that and see what we're working with. What's one of the worst parts of playing auras? That's right: the fear of getting two-for-oned. Well, Ajani's Chosen had the idea to turn all of your auras into Living Weapons! You know, with Germ Tokens and what not. Only instead of germ tokens, we're making 2/2s, which is better. And the funny thing is you don't even have to equip the token. Have a 5/5 you want to slap a Rancor on? Go for it, but you're still getting a free 2/2 anyway. Using an Oblivion Ring on an opponent's creature? Have another 2/2! Heck, you're just casting an Intangible Virtue? Have a 3/3 instead! The fact that the Chosen still triggers off of any enchantment is pretty sweet. I really like this card, and there seem to be enough great enchantments in print right now to really make it shine. Heck, Ajani's Chosen into Abundant Growth, into Unflinching Courage...that seems okay with me.

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 Shadowborn Demon
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4. Shadowborn Demon

This guy just wants a little planning. Cards like the Demon have always seen play. Shriekmaw, Flametongue Kavu, Nekrataal, you name it. They were all playable in their times, and I think this guy is no different. He has five power which means that uncontested he can win in four turns. He can block a Thundermaw Hellkite, and he's pretty sweet to blink with a Restoration Angel. The only caveat to this guy - and it's a decent one - is that you have to have six creatures in your graveyard for him to be at his prime. But one thing that really sells me here is that we still have things like Avacyn's Pilgrim (to sacrifice) and Forbidden Alchemy (to get dudes into the graveyard) in the format. What I mean is that when we're playing decks with things like Mulch, Grisly Salvage, and mana dorks, it should be easy to either fill our graveyard with six creatures or have a few worthless ones to sacrifice for a couple turns. And in the control decks, Forbidden Alchemy is a great way to dump things into our yard. While this requires us to play a more creature-heavy version of the archetype, I think the Demon might be worth that, especially if we're combining him with something like Unburial Rites and getting a ton of 187 triggers.

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 Primeval Bounty
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3. Primeval Bounty

Primeval Bounty kind of does it all. While everyone has been complaining that it doesn't do anything when it comes into play, it actually does everything once it's in play. I would not be surprised if this card won the game every time you untapped with it in play. It gives every card in your deck an “enters the battlefield” ability. It turns every creature into a Blade Splicer. It turns every spell into a reinforced Hunting Triad. Every land is a Cathedral Sanctifier. These abilities are nothing to sneeze at, and if you're able to ramp into this card with a full grip, the advantage is very likely to be overwhelming as every one of your cards is going to be better than your opponent's, including your lands. Making those top decked Llanowar Elves into Ambassador Oaks seems pretty huge. I think people would do well to ignore this casting cost, and focus on how each of these abilities will affect the game in your favor in a profound way.

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 Path of Bravery
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2. Path of Bravery

This card has been hard to evaluate for a lot of people. They think it's only a situational anthem effect that costs three mana, but it's so much more. In a deck like Aristocrats, where you have a high density of small creatures, you're often going to be gaining a ton of life and turning on the +1/+1 bonus in the process. The fact that this card will gain you a life for every attacker, every time they attack, without having to Deal Damage or be unblocked or whatever, is like this sub-ability that a lot of people are looking at as if it were a drawback that tries to fulfill the quota to get the bonus. This card allows our Blood Artists to attack and gain us a life, putting us one step closer to getting +1/+1. I think this card is the real deal, and in the right deck, it can be a real threat, especially because the life gain never shuts off. Aside from the fact that playing a Thragtusk might immediately turn it on, attacking with two creatures a turn and simply gaining two life a turn can add up fast. I almost want to compare it to Sun Droplet in some ways, and that was a card that saw play in sideboards against the aggro decks; this just seems miles better.

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 Ogre Battledriver
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1. Ogre Battledriver

Another three toughness creature for four mana. Man, these guys are coming out of the woodwork now that they took Searing Spear out of the set. Could it be intentional? Nevertheless, the ability on the Ogre is just huge. There are so many potential blows outs with this card, from casting a Krenko's Command and making two 3/1 haste creatures, to the interactions with something like Young Pyromancer, to simply having multiple copies in play. Can you imagine playing this guy on turn four, then casting a Lingering Souls with flashback on turn five? Well, take 15 in the air! We need to get past the “dies to removal” argument to really see the power level of a lot of these creatures, and this guy is actually capable of creating some bonkers pressure. I could definitely see this guy taking over for Hellrider once he rotates. He requires us to play a little slower of a game (what with not having haste, and not affecting the creatures that are already on the board) but the affect he does grant is fairly huge.

And that's it. Another set, another Top 10 Sleepers. M14 seems to have a ton of great creatures whose only mark against them is that they “die to common removal,” and to be honest, I don't know if this bothers me that much. I know some of you are going to assuredly disagree with me, and maybe some of you are going think some of my choices aren't sleepers. After all, we can't always agree, and if we did, what would the point of trying to provide new information? I would never be able to convince you of something since we would already be predisposed to agreeing with one another! But that's a discussion for another time...

Anyway, I hope I've given you some things to think about and maybe you've seen some of these cards in a new light. Maybe comparing them to older cards might have helped, and maybe you think they‘re all junk! Either way, thanks for reading and hopefully we can discuss some things in the comment section! Make sure and check back on Monday for some new videos!

Frank Lepore
@FrankLepore on Twitter
FrankLepore on TwitchTV



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