After reading all fifteen pages of patch notes one thing was abundantly clear, Spellslingers would never be the same. Weak ‘Slingers have almost all been given significant improvements. Strong ‘Slingers have all been hit in one way or another. The results are incredibly hard to predict. Could all ‘Slingers be equally balanced? Could the strong and the weak trade places? Could things remain the same despite these seismic changes?

I’m not going to go over every single change. Instead we’re going to look at each Spellslinger and predict where we think they’ll end up after the dust has settled. We’ll group each ‘Slinger into one of three categories. First will be “Knocking ’em Down” for ‘Slingers who were tuned down for being overpowered. Next will be “Lifting ’em Up” for those who gained some new boon. Last we’ll look at “Leaving ’em Be” for those whose position remains more-or-less unchanged.

Knocking ’em Down


Ashiok is one of the game’s most dominant ‘Slingers but hasn’t yet been subject to direct intervention by the game developers. That is no longer the case as Ashiok was hit hard by the latest changes. First, Ashiok’s nightmares now get inserted into the top 15 cards of your opponents deck instead of the top 10. This is a massive change which should allow aggressive decks a better shot at racing Ashiok and closing out early victories before all of those nightmare drains save Ashiok. Second, Extract Fear had its cost changed from 1 to 2, also slowing down the rate at which Ashiok can inject nightmares. Lastly, Scour the Void was increased from 5 to 6 mana, delaying by a turn when this devastating spell can be played and inject four nightmares into your opponent’s deck.

These are some pretty hard hits, which I expect to definitely bring Ashiok down a notch. However, Ashiok still has access to tools like Infest to combat the sort of aggressive builds that may pose more of a threat now. Also, Ashiok is still undeniably the strongest late-game option, meaning their place in the top tiers is still going to be relatively secure.


This change to Domri is so subtle but actual will make a fairly significant impact. Being able to play (and re-play) War Boar for zero-cost made it difficult for mid-range/control decks to keep Domri from overwhelming them with board position. On the other hand, the improvements to the Barbarian class could make it possible for Domri to remain relatively unchanged in tier lists.

Domri’s ability to go-wide is definitely hindered slightly, but the Gruul Zoo deck’s position in the meta should be secure.


Because Drizzt hasn’t suffered enough they decided to reduce his starting life by one. I guess this will help the pure burn decks like Chandra and Angrath win more games against Drizzt, but don’t expect a significant impact otherwise.


The developer notes on this change are spot-on: Vivien can quickly end games when she hits evasive upgrades, making the game feel non-interactive. Lowering the charges here makes it harder to roll sneak and/or flying in order to close out matches.

Vivien isn’t exactly a top-tier ‘Slinger, but this isn’t going to knock her down that much either. It should bring mid-to-late-game match-ups more in-line with each other.


The main hit to Vraska decks was the change to make Sinister Southpaw cost one more mana, though also gave it one more power. This creature creates absurd power swings in Vraska decks by facilitating a double-finale trigger while also removing a huge threat. It’s not surprising to see it get delayed by a turn, allowing some of the tougher 4 and 5-drop threats to survive a bit longer.

On the other hand, Sadistic Mindflayer is now a 4/4 instead of a 2/3 and could see some more play as another way to enable double-finale triggers. Vraska’s position towards the top of the metagame should be relatively secure since no significant change is being made to the engines that fuel the deck.

Lifting ’em Up

In total seven ‘Slingers got boosts of varying degree. Most of these were minor. Chandra, Gideon, Liliana, Nahiri, and Ral all saw very small tweaks to improve a signature creature or a generic spell. But two ‘Slingers got significant boosts.


Getting boosts to two signature spells is a sure sign that the game developers think you need a lot of help. Angrath needs a lot of help. Shipwrecker goes from 1/2 to 2/2 and Deathraider goes from 4/1 to 4/3. Both of these will help Angrath control the board longer and establish the ability to dominate more of the mid-range/control decks as designed.

Additionally, the Barbarian class got two significant boosts as well, with an extra charge added to Axe of Vengeance and the cost of Indomitable Strength reduced from 6 all the way down to 4. Angrath could make strong use of both of these effects. All-told I’m hopeful that Angrath can become one of the premier aggressive decks in the game, but I’m also expecting to be let down as well.


Teferi on the other hand I expect to jump up to being the best control deck in the game, and possibly being a better deck than Ashiok or Jace overall. The ability to draft any trap off of Teferi’s Staff and the doubling of the cards drawn from every third trap triggered are significant improvements to a deck that really takes some time to gain control of the board state.

Opening up access to traps outside of blue and white will confound enemies and allow the Teferi player to have access to a wider range of lines of play. Also, as many players use the Paladin class with Teferi, reducing the cost of Aura of Courage should also be a boon to the time mage. Expect Teferi to go from bottom-tier to at least mid-tier. At least until Helvault Unsealed.

Leaving ’em Be

The remaining five ‘Slingers who are essentially untouched are Ajani, Jace, Kaya, Kiora, and Nissa. I think an argument could be made that the changes to the Paladin ultimate (reduced from 5 cost to 4) will improve Ajani and Kaya, and that the improvements to the Titans could help Kiora and Nissa, for the most part these ‘Slingers were middle-of-the-pack before and will remain middle-of-the-pack.

What do you think? Will the metagame be flipped upside-down? Which ‘Slingers will end up on top? Does it matter with Helvault Unsealed right around the corner?

Rich Stein (he/him) has been playing Magic since 1995 when he and his brother opened their first packs of Ice Age and thought Jester’s Cap was the coolest thing ever. Since then his greatest accomplishments in Magic have been the one time he beat Darwin Kastle at a Time Spiral sealed Grand Prix and the time Jon Finkel blocked him on Twitter.

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