Assassin's Trophy In All Formats

by Michael Bonde on 29 October 2018, Monday

Michael Bonde

Return to Return to Return to Ravnica (Guilds of Ravnica) has been out for a couple of weeks now, and I have been shifting from playing only Limited to a more Constructed-focused approach due to my participation at Grand Prix Lille and Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica. A card I would like to talk about a bit is the new all-star Assassin's Trophy!

Assassin's Trophy was properly the talk of the town during spoiler season, but since then the enthusiasm has faded a bit. This might be due to the limited impact it has on Standard, the fact that there isn’t a big tournament on the horizon for Eternal and Modern players or just the card not living up to the hype – personally, I don’t believe it's the latter and I’ll try to demonstrate why I think this is the case.

In Standard Golgari Midrange is currently the boogeyman of the format. These decks play a varying amount of Assassin’s Trophy and even though it is a catch-all card in the format, a lot of the other cards are more impactful in either applying pressure, getting more resources or closing the game.

Like in Standard, Assassin’s Trophy has seen some play in Modern. Mostly it has just swapped slots with cards like Terminate, DreadboreMaelstrom Pulse and others in Jund.

On the other hand, in BG Midrange (aka Golgari Midrange or The Rock) it has upgraded the removal suite to really be able to deal with everything without compromising the deck. Playing a deck like The Rock, you try to deplete your opponents resources with planeswalkers, hand disruption and big creatures. The problem occurs when you play against some linear combo strategies or decks that rely on cards that regular removal doesn’t affect, and while we did have Abrupt Decay for ages (a card that also has a lot of utility) it often didn’t catch the cards that were really gamebreaking like Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Jace, the Mind SculptorTeferi, Hero of Dominaria and Karn Liberated). The examples are primarily planeswalkers, since almost everything else isn’t really a big issue, but being able to kill everything while dealing with the planeswalkers is just insane.

Something that is important in Modern (and other formats) that people rarely forget, is the flexibility Assassin’s Trophy in the maindeck gives to the sideboard options. You free up slots for big mana strategies, make the deck way better at dealing with strategies that either revolve around graveyards or other fringe strategies, which is pretty important in the new era of Dredge – which to be honest gives me the Chills! I am probably going to play a fine Golgari list for the next Modern GP – and prior to that I’ll see if I can post some online results, for all of you to follow.

The Legacy format walks and talks like the Ents from Lord of the Rings. It seems like nothing ever happens, it seems stale, and the people who play it are ancient! This is of course true but there is actually something going on, if you scratch a little under the surface. Black and Green aren't really the most popular combination of colors among the majority of Legacy players. People are either psychotic in how overpowered they think Brainstorm is or they just really want to play unfun combo decks. But even though people hate playing these colors, they love exploring possibilities to shape manabases in such a way that the deck gets the weapons from lots of different colors without compromising mana integrity or powerlevel. Abrupt Decay filled this slot for some time, and even though the ability “can’t be countered” is at its best in Legacy, it simply doesn’t kill everything, and in Legacy we have the opportunity to have access to “everything”.

At the moment, the people who want to use the Trophy to obtain trophies, are narrowed down to combo decks – but when moving like a glacier, it takes time for people to get cards and innovate decks, so it will take some time, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we are going to see a Tier 1 Jund, Rock or Abzan midrange list in Legacy again. One of the combo decks that I have played myself is Elves, and in this deck Assassin’s Trophy is just insane. It might look something like this:

While it doesn't seem like this card is better in Legacy than Abrupt Decay, due to most of the cards that are actually worth destroying having a converted mana cost of 3 or less anyway, Legacy is still a format with games that play out in all sorts of different ways. Being at 5 life and getting to kill a Gurmag Angler or being without creatures and getting to kill Jace, the Mind Sculptor, can often be a gamechanger – the latter coming up more often than the Angler kill. It also gives you some minor percentage points against the more combo oriented decks. Being able to kill Griselbrand, Sneak Attack, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, OmniscienceThe Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and lands in general can be the either the winning action or the action that gives you a single out, if everything falls in your direction.

I think that this is just the beginning of the Assassin’s Trophy era – not that it will warp the current meta game, but it will definitely make an impact if a good BG deck gets brewed up, and more people start playing it in their maindeck or sideboard. So stay on the lookout for the trophies, and play basics accordingly!

That was all, I am looking forward to the upcoming tournaments, and you are always welcome to come and say hi or ask me questions about whatever! May the foils forever be in your packs!

This article was written by Michael Bonde in a media collaboration with

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