The Assassin’s Trophy Effect on Modern

 
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The Assassin’s Trophy Effect on Modern

By Osaze Takamatsu

 

My pupils dilated. My pulse quickened. I did a double take.  All this, and more, was my reaction when I laid eyes on the Assassin’s Trophy spoiler from the upcoming Guilds of Ravnica yesterday.

For those who might have missed it, Assassin’s Trophy is a new card that reads:

“BG – Instant – Destroy target permanent an opponent controls. Its controller may search their library for a basic land card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle their library.”

Any permanent? Instant Speed? 2 mana?!  Holy cow! No more will my spirit be crushed by the sight of a turn one Urza land heralding an impending turn 3 Karn; no more will I sigh deeply as my opponent casts a Back to Basics to punish my (greedy) mana; no more will I suffer the inevitability of a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria ticking up turn after turn. I feel elation! I feel freedom!

Assassin’s Trophy will clearly be a format-defining card everywhere it is legal. Today, I am going to focus on the implications of this card in Modern, specifically within the BGx decks.

When one thinks about Assassin’s Trophy in relation to Modern, the most obvious place to slot it will likely be in the Modern classic, Jund.  Jund has always had all the answers, but the real trick has been getting those answers to line up with the board state. Some percent of the time, the Jund pilot will draw the wrong answer at the wrong time and be severely punished for it.  Need Terminate to stop a lethal Reality Smasher, but the only removal spell in hand is Maelstrom Pulse? Too bad, so sad. But not anymore! Another key benefit of Assassin’s Trophy in Jund is that it will never be a blank off of a Bloodbraid Elf cascade.

Upon the release of Guilds of Ravnica, I predict that Jund will cut down on Maelstrom Pulse, Abrupt Decay, and Terminate to make room for the new kill spell of choice.  The Jund pilot must be wary, however, that they don’t fire off too many Assassin’s Trophies too quickly: doing so may result in the opponent being able to cast spells early that may normally have been discarded to a Liliana of the Veil uptick or hand disruption spell.    

Moving forward, I believe that Abzan and straight up GB Rock will want Assassin’s Trophy over Abrupt Decay, Murderous Cut, and some amount of Maelstrom Pulse for the same reasons that Jund wants it.  The card has an inherent downside in effectively Ghost Quartering whatever it hits; this downside may be overloaded in Abzan when combined with Path to Exile, quickly running the opponent out of basics to fetch. This point is also relevant to GB Rock decks, where an opponent is also likely to quickly run out of basics against an onslaught of Assassin’s Trophy, Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin.

The final, and often overlooked, build within the GBx archetype that I think is actually likely to gain the most from Assassin’s Trophy is Sultai.  This particular piece of removal may mitigate the deck’s longstanding issue of not having a hard, low-costed answer to an established threat on the board, one that has somehow managed to sneak past the Sultai player’s hand disruption and counterspells.  With this printing, the floodgates have been thrown open for brewers to finally rethink Sultai, and frankly I couldn’t be happier. Imagine firing off an Assassin’s Trophy only to Snapcaster it back the next turn. Seems juicy, no?

Overall, I predict that BGx decks will gain a bump in meta share off the back of Assassin’s Trophy.  It strengthens their historically catastrophic Tron matchup, as well as provides an instant-speed buffer against other troublesome permanents in decks like KCI and UW Miracles.  Moreover, the card’s utility frees up sideboard slots that were previously delegated to slow cards like Fulminator Mage, thus allowing for further customization to perfectly attack the expected meta.

If you play BGx, there is no doubt in my mind that you are already tuning your lists to accommodate Assassin’s Trophy. If you don’t play the archetype, you should definitely be tuning your lists to prepare for it, because it is the new gold standard of removal.