Whenever a new standard set comes out, its generally rare that there is a card that receives consideration for the main deck of The EPIC Storm (TES). For me, Wishclaw Talisman was one of the cards I've been the most excited for from a standard set. Let's talk about why this card could fit into TES!
Wishclaw Talisman is the newest tutor effect that comes at a Legacy reasonable rate. Itt does have a huge drawback, however, as after tutoring, Wishclaw Talisman gives the opponent a chance to tutor as well. There are a couple of ways that have been talked about for mitigating this drawback: Karn, The Great Creator, Voltaic Key, and most relevant for TES, winning the game before the opponent can use it.
Magic occasionally proves that math does not always work the way one would expect. For Wishclaw Talisman, the two mana casting cost and one mana activation does not quite total three mana. It's a bit closer to two-and-a-half mana. Not being always three mana is a huge benefit and being able to spread the cost over two turns (granted, with some risk) allows for a six mana Ad Nauseam line. The third mana also does not have to come from an initial mana source or even a secondary mana source like a land or a Dark Ritual. Being able to activate Wishclaw Talisman off of mana from Lion's Eye Diamond has led to a couple of really interesting game states. It plays especially well while having other tutors available, effectively being able to "double tutor" in the same combo turn. For example, if there is nine mana available with Wishclaw Talisman already in play, a possible line of play could be playing out all the mana, casting Infernal Tutor for a discard spell, and then activating Wishclaw Talisman for Ad Nauseam. The point here is that the card allows for some extra play and flexibility on combo turns to make opponents run out of good decisions.
Another point in favor of Wishclaw Talisman is that it can be a bait spell with very little commitment. Simply casting it on turn two or three can give a lot of information about what an opponent from how they respond to it. From there, using it to tutor for a discard spell or more mana on the combo turn is pretty easy if another tutor effect is available. This tends to be more relevant with Echo of Eons lines where Wishclaw Talisman can either find Lion's Eye Diamond or sit on the table to guarantee a tutor effect post Echo of Eons.
First off, Wishclaw Talisman is not better than Infernal Tutor or Burning Wish. Costing a total of three mana is a cost, even if it does not seem like a huge difference from two mana. The biggest drawback of Wishclaw Talisman is how poorly it works with the another of TES's win conditions: Empty the Warrens. Making goblins and then letting the opponent tutor for an answer because the opponent now has the Wishclaw Talisman is not good. But, what many people miss is that there is a window for interaction, even if your opponent tutors for an answer to goblins. Most answers to Empty the Warrens cost between two and four mana. If Empty the Warrens is cast early enough in the game, the opponent may not have enough mana to tutor and play their answer in the same turn. Because of this and getting the last activation of Wishclaw Talisman, tutoring for a discard spell for their answer is possible. It is not ideal, but that is an available line.
Another downside of Wishclaw Talisman is that it is easier to interact with for opponents. If played out, it can be answered by Abrupt Decay or Council's Judgment, especially in game one. It also gets shut down by Karn, The Great Creator and other Null Rod effects. Granted, Null Rod is incredibly powerful against TES anyway and having one more card that is shut down by it is not a huge cost.
A place to start for evaluating new cards is by comparing them to older cards. Wishclaw Talisman has a couple of comparison points to cards already in Legacy. Grim Tutor is the most obvious one, given that they are the same amount of mana total and has occasionally seen play in Ad Nauseam Tendrils. Wishclaw Talisman has a couple of advantages for TES that Grim Tutor does not offer. Not actually being a converted mana cost three card, being an artifact and not involving life loss are all advantages for TES.
Infernal Tutor and Burning Wish are both cheaper cards that do not have drawbacks to the scale of Wishclaw Talisman, so it seems unlikely that Wishclaw Talisman would replace copies of either of those cards in TES. Wishclaw Talisman ends up very similar to Burning Wish on a couple of metrics. Wishclaw Talisman leans towards a smaller set of plans than Infernal Tutor, and also has utility in finding discard spells and extra mana. Given the power level of the card, it seems possible that it is deserving of a slot. The question becomes of where exactly does Wishclaw Talisman fit into TES?
When talking about slots in TES, the main deck can roughly be divided into four parts: mana, disruption, cantrips, and business spells. Let's look at a couple of different lists from the past to see how their ratios compare!
Gitaxian Probe Era
Flex Slot Era
Starting with the oldest list (which is no longer Legacy legal!), it has a much higher cantrip count than any of the other lists because of its four copies of Gitaxian Probe. It also has the lowest mana count of any of the lists. This plays into the "xerox" Magic theory where cantrips can allow a deck to have a lower land count by casting spells to find lands. This is likely the most powerful list here and something similar would still be played today if Gitaxian Probe was not banned. In the next list, it floated around with a flex spot for several months, and that slot would be Preordain, Cabal Ritual, Duress, and a couple more cards over the next couple of versions. One of the main issues with that list is that nothing felt good in that slot, suggesting that the ratios of those lists were not quite right. One of the issues with v7.5 and its descendants is occasionally it floods out. Given its 36 mana sources, this makes sense as to why that could be an issue. This leads to v7.5 and the addition of Mox Opal, which has only changed slightly, swapping a Mox Opal for an additional piece of disruption. Assuming that the Gitaxian Probe list is the optimal list, moving towards that would make the most sense. One of the consistent numbers throughout most lists that last a few events are the 10 business spells. This is due to the fact that there were no cards that would compete to increase those slots. Wishclaw Talisman may be the first card to do so. This is the list that I have been testing for the past week or so just to see how Wishclaw Talisman has played. I've been impressed so far and I think most of the slots make sense.
- 4 Burning Wish
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 1 Wishclaw Talisman
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 3 Thoughtseize
- 2 Duress
- 1 Defense Grid
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Ad Nauseam
Wishclaw Talisman does not fundamentally change or break TES. It does not drastically change anything and does not feel overly impressive when casting it, but it's not supposed to. Wishclaw Talisman is a solid role player as the worst tutor in the deck, but even still, I believe it should have a slot somewhere in the deck. On average, adding it increases the chance of having a tutor effect in your hand by about 3-5 percent on each draw step as compared to a list with only eight tutors. This matters more when casting cards like Echo of Eons (and your hand does not need to be empty to activate it!). Overall, I expect to see Wishclaw Talisman float in and out of lists as a one-of from time to time. I plan to keep testing the card until it breaks me.
Until next time, keep on storming!