I am currently working on doing a very thorough review of the Jeskai Tempo deck running around standard right now and as spoilers for next week let me tell you that I have had amazing results with this deck. I have been trying things out with a few different spells to see how it works and that lead me to today’s column and talking about draw spells.
It is no secret that the ability to get card advantage over your opponent is a key to victory in every match. Part of card advantage is being able to play efficient cards that either eat opponents spells or provide solid cantrips for your own deck, but the most basic card advantage is exactly that; having more cards. Aggressive decks have always had the issues of running out of cards far too quickly, but that is slowly changing. Green is getting efficient creatures and cantrip spells that provide card draw, white is getting pump and removal spells that cantrip, blue has always been a card drawing powerhouse, black continues to produce draw spells for life, and red limps in with creatures, enchantments, or draw spells that target your own hand with discard.
But it really got me thinking and asking myself, what are the good draw spells in standard right now and where can they be used? We no longer have our Ponders or our cards like Sphinx’s Revelation, instead we are seeing draw spells that cause more careful planning in a deck. Today I am only going to look at spells that I deem playable enough in some way and I am focusing on instant and sorcery’s and also choosing to leave out any of the Charms.
So let’s take a look shall we?
Sign in Blood
This card has become the staple of black draw spells and has only missed one Coreset printing since M10. Sign in Blood is unique because it targets a player which actually makes it a deck out or burn finisher target as well as a way to put two cards into your hand. Sign in Blood is a proven player in the game and if cards like Underworld Connection and Phyrexian Arena have taught us anything, paying one life to draw a card is well worth the cost for black. The biggest draw backs Sign in Blood faces are the double black mana cost, its competition of Read the Bones, and a currently painful manabase. Regardless of the drawbacks if the deck can support double black then Sign in Blood is a very efficient draw spell and in standard should be a consideration for Esper Control and Madru Midrange decks. (Note Abzan Charm has the Sign in Blood ability and thus makes it a terrible option in comparison)
Read the Bones
Theros provided black with a new and very interesting draw spell in Read the Bones. Scry 2, then draw two cards. You lose 2 life. Monoblack devotion and Jund Planeswalkers proved that this card could certainly challenge Sign in Blood even if it did cost one more mana. You are losing two life and you are draw two cards, it cost one more mana and can only target you, but the advantage you are getting is Scry. This means you have the ability to be going through 2-4 cards in your deck with this spell which provides serious dig power (this debate is now being raised about Dig Through Time vs Treasure Cruise). The mana requirements are also less intense. So is it a better card to play than Sign in Blood, I would argue in certain situations that it is. I would prefer to play Read the Bones over Sign in Blood in control based decks where I have the ability to dig for an answer and I know the game is going long anyway. I find it a more natural fit for Esper Control than I find Sign in Blood. In terms of speed however, Read the Bones is slower and the overall mana cost can be prohibitive to an aggressive style, and can’t act as an aggressor itself. Esper Control and possibly Sultai based decks may look to take advantage of this card.
I am going to go on record as saying this is probably the most underutilized and under-appreciated card that was released in Khans of Tarkir and it is a very efficient draw spell. Two mana, you pitch a card and you draw two, overall you are only gaining card filtering out of the deal but odds are it is a card you can live without and furthermore it is great fuel for dredge. Red very rarely has card draw and can often run out of steam or find themselves sitting on excess land making this an efficient card, the big draw back that people point out is that you have to pitch a card first as opposed to after drawing. Either way there are a few decks I believe this can be a very solid draw spell in, Mardu Decks running Murderous Cut or Bloodsoaked Champions, Jeskai Tempo/Burn, Rabble Red, and Boros Burn. Now this card unlike others I don’t believe should ever warrant a full playset, I’d probably only run a two of if it made the cut but it is certainly a strong enough card to be considering.
Blue will be a long and more exhaustive list and we start with a familiar card we have all come to either know and love or know and hate. Easy as the come, pay three mana draw two cards. It is a clean and simple card that control decks love, but beyond control decks not much else loves it and it is not well positioned in current standard. With Treasure Cruise also now seeing much more prominence Divination could find itself not even being played in the traditional control deck and I would agree that at this time, perhaps Divination has just become of limited use. Still give it a look and a test in your Esper Control build, but I wouldn’t expect it to do all that much.
Some good old instant speed draw, Jace’s Ingenuity has been kicking around for a bit and saw itself become a major component in Revelation Decks during the last cycle. 5 mana seems steep, but three cards can often be game changing and it is easy for control decks in today’s standard to push the game to that point. It can be crippling to the moral watching a player on the other side of the table resolve an Ingenuity and draw three cards into their hand, more so when they can do it at the end of your turn. Once again though this card is only really a serious contender for a controlling deck like Esper Midrange which has not been performing well and is again outshone by cards like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise. A home might still be found for Ingenuity and I’ve even considering giving it a go over Steam Augury to see how it performs but overall it again doesn’t stand up to the test of current standard.
Dig Through Time
In the battle of current standard draw spells with the emergence of Jeskai; Dig Through Time is proving to be an all-star. Consistently cast for only two or three mana thanks to the Delve mechanic you get to look at 7 cards, pick two, put the rest on the bottom of your library all at instant speed. Dig has even broken into legacy already and there is no doubt it is a good card. I am not on the band wagon of it being a stronger card than Treasure Cruise but the evidence would be against me. This is great for digging, getting answers, and getting what you need. At the same time Delve does make it prohibitive in being a cheap spell by allowing graveyard hate to target it and for the first time hating a graveyard could really be a viable option to stop a draw spell. Cleary this card is strongest in Jeskai based burn or tempo decks and also in Esper Control based decks. The double blue cost makes it a lot harder to splash for.
Meet the draw spell that is changing the way legacy looks, that I am sure will be quickly banned in Modern, but somehow has yet to make a significant impact on standard. Well I promise you that will change as this might be the most powerful draw spell in the format as it has a very real opportunity to provide you with a 1-3 mana cast to get three cards into your hand. It has the same pitfalls as Dig Through Time when it comes to delve, but it is less mana restrictive and provides more cards into your hand. I won’t apologize for liking the idea of draw three cards and for being able to run this card in a wider range of decks. But Delve in standard unless running something Sultai based makes it hard to fill your graveyard and makes it hard to commit to running a full playset. I personally love this card and it has rekindled my love for legacy and I intend to play it over dig. Consider this in any deck that has access to blue and runs lots of spells.
Well that is my peak at draw spells in standard. It is obvious that draw isn’t as prominent as it once was and shockingly right now, black is the premier draw color which sees Sign in Blood and Abzan Charm and if they wanted, also Sultai Charm in certain decks. Makes me excited to see if I can pull off the Stockpile deck with Cruise, Sultai Charm, Sign in Blood, and Murderous Cut making the features!
See you next time!