MtG Top 8: Powerful Standard Cards Without A Shell

Posted November 11, 2015 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Nerdy Bits

Currently, we’re about a month into the new Standard format of Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged, Dragons of Tarkir, Origins, and Battle for Zendikar. At this point, we have a good idea of what the format is going to look like, and we know which cards are playable, and which aren’t, at least until Oath of the Gatewatch comes out in January. The problem is, there are some highly playable cards that just… don’t have a shell right now. Because I like to brew, these are the cards that have grabbed my attention, at least for the time being. As a result, I decided to compile a list of the eight cards that I think deserve are powerful enough to see play in Standard – but don’t necessarily have a good shell to surround them. That shell could exist, and just hasn’t been found yet, or these cards could just never see Standard play. anyways, without further ado, here’s the list.

Oh! But first, a joke!

What do Meandering Towershell and Wandering Tombshell have that these cards don’t?

A shell! Get it? Because Meandering Towershell and Wandering Tombshell are turtles so they have shells? And these eight cards don’t see play because there’s no deck (or shell) that they would fit in? Aren’t I funny? No? Yeah, you’re right.

Greenwarden of Murasa


I get the feeling that Greenwarden of Murasa suffers from the “only good in EDH syndrome.” Lots of players view this as a card designed solely for EDH, Highlander, and other casual formats. The thing is, it has the potential to be a real powerhouse in Standard. It’s basically Eternal Witness on an even bigger stick – 5/4 is nothing to scoff at, plus you can get whatever card from your graveyard you want back. Obviously, Den Protector does what Greenwarden does – but it does it for exactly the same cost, but you get to pay on an installment plan. I’m not advocating for Greenwarden to replace Den Protector, but there has to be a shell where he shines. Plus, he has the added value of getting back another card when he dies. Again, the potency of this is mitigated by cards like Utter End, Stasis Snare, and Anafenza, that prevent Greenwarden from “dying.” Post-rotation, however, the raw power that this guy provides may make him a solid addition to most Green decks, which I think he already is right now.

Kiora, Master of Depths


Kiora, Master of Depths has fallen to the wayside – much like Kiora, the Crashing Wave did, despite the cards being powerful Planeswalkers that should be seeing consistent Standard play. The problem with this particular iteration of Kiora is that there really isn’t a deck running both Blue and Green (barring Abzan Blue and Bant Megamorph, neither of which have significant Blue splashes, and neither of which would take full advantage of the card). Her ultimate basically guarantees a win, serving as a pseudo-board wipe and a way to generate massive creatures. On the way there, she provides card advantage and allows her controller to ramp or attack with creatures that would otherwise have to play defense. The amount of incremental advantage she offers is insane, and comes from so many different angles that I still find it hard to believe that she’s seeing almost zero play right now.

Disciple of the Ring


Disciple of the Ring is a card I was really looking forward to playing with as soon as it was spoiled, just because it looked like a lot of fun. Aside from that, it’s super powerful, especially in Control decks with a lot of Instants and Sorceries to populate the graveyard. Of course, she’s competing with powerful Delve spells like Dig Through Time, Murderous Cut, and Tasigur for the time being – which is the reason that shell that really wants her doesn’t yet exist. It definitely could post rotation. She has the capability to close out games really quickly, and when the graveyard isn’t being used for other purposes, this card turns it into a resource at the disposal of the control player. Plus, the ability to Spell Pierce does more than just protect Disciple – it prevents players from getting burned out and can prevent problematic Planeswalkers from hitting the board. Disciple may be a depowered AEtherling, but AEtherling was ridiculous when he was in Standard, so even a less powerful version has lots of potential.

Brutal Hordechief


Four mana for a 3/3 may not be super appealing, however, the drain ability alone pushes this card into the “playable” range, and the activated ability makes it pretty insane. The thing is, he’s fighting for the four drop slot in Abzan Aggro with Siege Rhino, and that hasn’t ended well for any creature spell. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t need to be in Abzan Aggro. Rakdos, Orzhov, or even Mardu Aggro decks could leverage Hordechief to do insane things. He even excels in midrange decks, perhaps even more so than in linear aggressive decks. the ability to line up your opponent’s blocks may come up rarely, but the threat of activation means that they can’t flood the board with creatures that lose in a fight. Now, I already mentioned the drain ability in brief, but it is actually a super important part of this card. It allows you to get ahead in terms of life, while ensuring that your opponent remains on the back foot.

Butcher of the Horde


Butcher had a lot of hype when he was first spoiled, but this rapidly died down. There was a Mardu Midrange/Control deck in the previous Standard, but it was the talk of the week for a hot minute before Abzan Midrange took over once again. The card is undeniably powerful – a 5/4 for four with Flying that has upside makes it one of, if not the, most mana efficient creatures in the game. Plus, it’s a free sacrifice outlet. I’ve seen Mardu and 4c Aristocrats lists running around with Butcher, but as good as these decks are, they aren’t necessarily tier one. There has to be a solid Mardu list out there, and Butcher would fit right in it. I even find it surprising that he doesn’t get jammed into Dark Jeskai (or, as I like to call it, White Grixmas), considering they have access to so much recursion. It would be a true shame if this card’s entire time in Standard went by without him ever seeing significant play for a considerable amount of time.

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant


Remember when Sidisi was in the name of a top tier deck in Standard that resulted in everyone having to mainboard answers to Whip of Erebos? Me too. Those were good days. Sidisi Whip was a super synergistic deck that was a lot of fun to play. But, with the release of Dromoka’s Command, and then with rotation, that deck died. However, lots of the pieces are still around – sure, there’s no Whip or Hornet Queen, but Sidisi is still a powerful card. Sure, there isn’t a shell for her – but that’s kind of the point of this article. I guess I’ve included her on this list because I just want to mope about how a deck as rad as Sidisi Whip is just kind of gone forever. Regardless of my personal thoughts on the card, it’s undeniably powerful. Getting to put cards in the graveyard can be amazing in the right deck, and getting random upside from that makes it even more desirable.

Woodland Wanderer


A 6/6, with both Trample and Vigilance, for only four mana, with actually no drawbacks, is an insane deal. Worst case scenario you get a 3/3 with Trample and Vigilance for four mana, which isn’t even that bad. Its problem is that it has steep competition in the four drop slot – namely coming in the form of Siege Rhino. This is another one to watch post-rotation, when its competition is largely going to evaporate. Even then it may not quite break into the format, since the mana will definitely get worse without the Allied fetchlands, it remains a card with a very high ceiling and a relatively low floor. It may be relegated to casual play, but as I said about Butcher of the Horde, that will be a massive bummer

Drana, Liberator of Malakir


HOW HAS THIS CARD NOT ALREADY SEEN EXTENSIVE PLAY? I’m really confused as to how Drana wasn’t an instant addition to the Abzan Aggro lists. Abzan Aggro got worse, and Anafenza got better, making Drana harder to justify but man, this card is so powerful. It’s base stats are good enough on their own, plus it anthems your team every turn it connects, which isn’t that difficult to do, considering it gets in under most counter magic and removal spells in the format. This one was actually iffy for me to include on this list, because I truly believe that there is a perfectly good shell for Drana – people just aren’t running her. Then again, I’m not a professional Magic player, so who am I to tell them how to play, even if I personally think it should show up in Abzan Aggro, and even certain builds of Abzan Midrange.

About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.