The New Power Nine
So, like any format, Standard has its own power hierarchy, and right now, certain cards really stand out as dominant forces in the metagame and in the format in general. These cards are notable for their high power levels and for the frequency that they serve as cornerstones of the most powerful decks in the format. These are the New Power Nine. Understanding what these cards have in common and what makes them so special can help us recognize what cards will be powerful in new sets and can help us design stronger decks using the current sets.
Where You Find It: Not only does every deck that has green mana and regularly makes it to 5 mana usually run it, but many decks add green specifically to give them access to this game changer. Half the Top 8 at Pro Tour: Gatecrash main-decked at least one Thragtusk, and half of the Top 8 at Grand Prix: Quebec City also included them. Naya midrange, Jund midrange/control, Bant control, and more recently Junk midrange are among the popular decks featuring it currently.
What It Goes With: Thragtusk has many friends. Best known for comboing with Restoration Angel, it also works well with Orzhov Charm and the little-used Conjurer's Closet. Thraggy also goes well with mass removal such as Supreme Verdict—when you gain 5 life and put a 5/3 into play, your opponent is forced to up his commitment to the board, which sets up your mass removal. When the dust settles, you still have a 3/3.
Where You Find It: At 4 mana, the Angel fits in all deck types—as the top of the curve of an aggressive deck or in the middle of the curve for a midrange or control deck. Five of the Top 8 PT decks ran Restoration Angel. Esper control, R/W/U control, The Aristocrats, Bant control, Naya midrange, Selesnya aggro/midrange, and various Junk decks all use this beauty.
What It Goes With: The power level of Restoration Angel goes way down if you don’t have other creatures in play for it to protect or reset with its exile ability. Its power level goes way up when the rest of your deck includes many powerful 187 creatures, such as Thragtusk, Snapcaster Mage, Huntmaster of the Fells, Augur of Bolas, Centaur Healer, and Borderland Ranger. It’s also useful for resetting the pairings of soulbond creatures such as Silverblade Paladin.
Where You Find It: Not surprisingly, three-color decks are hot right now. Any midrange or control deck with more than one color that features green runs this card. You’ll see it in Jund, in Bant, in Naya, and in four-color Reanimator decks. It showed up in three of the Top 8 decks from the PT and four of the Top 8 at the GP.
What It Goes With: Green mana. If you’re playing with enough green mana to cast it on turn two and you can afford to spend turn two playing it from a tempo perspective, this card might belong in your deck. If those things apply and you’re playing three or more colors, Farseek definitely goes with your deck. It’s nice with mass removal because it helps ramp you to the mana to cast your mass-removal spell without putting a creature into play and without making your opponent suspicious because you didn’t play a creature that turn.
Where You Find It: Huntmaster was in two of the PT Top 8 decks and five of the GP Top 8 decks. A staple in Jund midrange/control, it also appears in Naya midrange, Naya Humans, and Human Reanimator.
What It Goes With: It combines nicely with anything that likes Humans, tokens, Werewolves or Wolves, and/or 187 creatures. Consider trying it with Champion of the Parish, Mayor of Avabruck, Angel of Glory's Rise, Intangible Virtue, Immerwolf, and/ or Restoration Angel.
Where You Find It: If you have blue mana, it’s really just about how many instants and/or sorceries you’re playing. He was included in three of the Top 8 decks at PT: Gatecrash. He’s most commonly found in Esper control and R/W/U control. Thanks to changes in development at Wizards, creatures are becoming better than spells in most cases (as evidenced by comparing this list to the original Power Nine), so most decks aren’t running enough noncreature spells to make him worthwhile despite his extremely high power level.
Where You Find It: Like Snapcaster Mage, his power level can vary widely depending on the rest of the cards in your deck, so he appears in fewer archetypes, but he makes up for it by being the star of those decks. He was arguably the best card in the deck that won the PT, and he appeared in three of the Top 8 decks from the GP. He’s featured in Zoo, The Aristocrats, Naya Humans, and mono-white Humans.
Where You Find It: Given the power level and specific (and fairly unique in Standard) function of this card, it pretty much only appears in decks that are designed around it. This basically means any of the various Reanimator decks. Reanimator decks finished fifth and ninth at the GP.
What It Goes With: The Rites work with expensive creatures and ways to put them into your graveyard quickly. Unburial Rites is often found in collaboration with Faithless Looting, Grisly Salvage, Mulch, Angel of Glory's Rise, Craterhoof Behemoth, and/or Angel of Serenity.
Where You Find It: Any deck that’s planning on making it to more than 4 mana and uses both white and blue mana. This includes Esper control, R/W/U control, and Bant control. Half of the Top 8 decks at PT: Gatecrash were running it.
What It Goes With: Cards that help you stall the game—if you can stay alive long enough to launch one of these for 4 or 5, you’re probably going to win almost any matchup. It goes especially well with instants and flash creatures because you can sit back and see if you need to cast another instant on a given turn or if the tempo of the game gives you an opening to launch a Revelation. It’s also nice to be playing mass removal—you can say “go” without adding anything to the board, and if your opponent adds pressure, you gain life and draw into mass removal. If your opponent doesn’t add pressure, you gain life and draw cards, and he’s even further behind. Plus, Revelation helps you reload your hand after wiping out the creatures that were on the board.
Where You Find It: The Emissary was in three of the Top 8 decks from the GP. It’s used in red aggro, Gruul aggro, Jund aggro, Human Reanimator, Zoo, and Naya Humans.
What It Goes With: It combos nicely with Champion of the Parish, Lightning Mauler, Angel of Glory's Rise, Restoration Angel, and just about anything you can cast for a
As you can see, the new power in Magic has shifted from artifacts, instants, and sorceries to mainly creatures, and that’s the way Wizards likes it. Your challenge is to find ways to synergize these cards and stuff as many of them as possible into a deck. Alternatively, you can take the even harder challenge to try to find an overlooked card that, when used properly, can rival these cards in power. The biggest difference between these cards and the Vintage power cards is that Vintage power is good in any deck, and these cards need you to support them with other cards that specifically synergize with them. We used to build fifty-one card decks and then add the Power Nine. Now we just build decks.