Feature Article from Seth Manfield

TCGplayer Exclusive Preview: Sphinx of Foresight

Seth Manfield

1/2/2019 11:03:00 AM

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With Ravnica Allegiance on our doorstep, I have a very special card to present today, straight from Wizards of the Coast: Sphinx of Foresight. Blue looks to be getting a significant boost in Ravnica Allegiance and Sphinx of Foresight is certainly a part of that. I want to talk about the design of this card as it is extremely interesting to me. With Guilds of Ravnica, we have become so used to surveil being the mechanic of choice on these types of cards, but now we are back to scry.

It has been a while since we have seen cards that significantly benefit from being in your opening hand. Leylines are a pretty extreme example of cards that absolutely need to be in your opening hand. The difference between having Leyline of the Void in your opening hand or not against a deck like Dredge is often going to be the difference in a game. In the case of Leyline of the Void, I'm willing to mulligan to specifically find it, though I would not recommend going to those extremes with Sphinx of Foresight.

For new and hard-to-evaluate cards, it can be helpful to try to compare it to cards that were printed previously. Another set of cards that benefited from being in your opening hand were the Chancellors. Chancellor of the Annex still sees play in Legacy, and I think Sphinx of Foresight is more like those than Leylines. Still, what sets Sphinx of Foresight apart from these examples is it is actually a good card on its own, even without getting to immediately scry 3.

As a baseline, a four-mana, four-power flyer lines up in terms of the rate of a Constructed staple. Certainly, Sphinx of Foresight already enters the territory of a Limited bomb with those stats alone. The fact that once you get it in play you can scry every single upkeep is pretty great. This is very much like Search for Azcanta, and that card has been very dominant.

If Sphinx of Foresight were “just” a big flyer that allowed you to scry each turn, it would still be good. It would be debatable if it would see much Standard play, but the additional benefit if it is in your opening hand puts it over the edge. I believe we will see plenty of this card in Standard – it is hard to measure exactly how good being able to immediately scry three is, but I think it is similar in power to being able to draw a single card, and in many cases I would rather have the ability to scry in order to dig deep into my deck.

There will be some situations where you already have a great hand – and scrying may not be as important then – but oftentimes that means you are winning anyway. It is actually very reasonable to keep sketchy hands with Sphinx of Foresight in them, which is huge. A one-land hand with a Sphinx in it means you can very likely find at least your second land, whereas otherwise a hand like that would be a mulligan. This card has a very high power level, though it also doesn't have a specific deck archetype it synergizes with.

So where does Sphinx of Foresight fit? Will it be a control card, midrange, or does it have a home in Mono-Blue Aggro decks? These are the questions we should ask ourselves after realizing that this is a card we want to play. It is possible that Sphinx of Foresight is good enough that it could find a home in any of these decks. There aren't really many midrange blue decks in Standard right now outside of Izzet Arclight, which is more combo-oriented. For this reason, I'm going to talk about where it could go in control.

Control decks can use Sphinx of Foresight as a win condition. Blue-Red decks have access to Niv-Mizzet, Parun, but what about White-Blue Control? We are seeing some key tools Azorius will have access to once Ravnica Allegiance enters the format, and I am personally very excited to see what version of Azorius Control ends up seeing play because I guarantee it will now that Hallowed Fountain is being printed. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is still one of the best cards in the format, and Hallowed Fountain looks like it could be a key missing piece of this archetype.

This is a starting point, but keep in mind we are still waiting on a large portion of Ravnica Allegiance, and there may be more cards worth adding.

In this deck, Sphinx of Foresight is doing a lot. It can play the role of a card like Opt to set up your draws and provides a way to win that Azorius otherwise doesn't have access to; relying on tucking your own Teferi, Hero of Dominaria back into your deck as the only way you can actually close out a game isn't the greatest idea. This is my own rough draft of the deck, it is possible there is a card I have overlooked, but this list has every tool a control deck needs.

 Settle the Wreckage
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Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Settle the Wreckage Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Settle the Wreckage is the best sweeper in the format, as dealing with Carnage Tyrant is extremely important. The tricky part of playing with Sphinx of Foresight in a deck like this is evaluating it in terms of whether it is real card advantage compared to a card like Chemister's Insight, where you know exactly what you are getting.

The four-mana slot is a bit congested in a deck like this. The key is being able to find the right time to actually get the Sphinx of Foresight onto the battlefield and then untap with it in play so you can find the countermagic needed to protect yourself. If players continue to gravitate towards a removal-heavy deck like Golgari, it is possible that Sphinx of Foresight is better as a sideboard card.

I definitely like Absorb and Hallowed Fountain a lot here. Hallowed Fountain is obvious as a necessary mana source, but it could be argued that Absorb is also an easy inclusion. The card is fantastic against aggressive decks as the three-life boost is in fact very nice and makes up for potentially taking some damage off shock lands and early creatures. I think that gaining three life is stronger than getting to surveil one overall, which is why it gets the nod over Sinister Sabotage.

This is one possible direction control decks can take, but it is hard to know exactly where it fits. Its best home is probably in a midrange deck, though blue isn't exactly known for that. A midrange deck with more creatures also could be a nice home for Sphinx of Foresight.

This deck is full of threats, and many of them fly. I believe that in a deck like this that Sphinx of Foresight fits better than Shalai, Voice of Plenty. Having the Sphinx of Foresight at the top of the curve after playing other creatures is pretty nice, and scrying three to start the game makes it that much more likely the deck will be able to curve out and play its threats on time.

There has been a lot of hype around the more controlling versions, and decks like this are currently under the radar. Some of the choices – especially at the two-drop slot – will be very metagame dependent. It has the same feel as something like Boros Angels, but this deck may actually be much more consistent because of Sphinx of Foresight.

I'm looking forward to playing with Sphinx of Foresight, and I have a feeling that scrying three before even playing your first land will feel pretty absurd.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield