Each time that a new premier MTG set comes out, there are often a handful of new mechanics introduced to the game. Abilities such as Craft and Descend from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, for instance, add intriguing new elements to Limited and Constructed environments alike. In some cases, though, certain mechanics or cards end up being significantly more powerful than initially thought.
We’ve seen groups of cards such as the original Companions from Ikoria completely warp multiple Constructed formats around them. In Modern, using Cascade cards such as Shardless Agent to reliably cast Suspend cards like Living End or Crashing Footfalls is still a dominant strategy. Well, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has brought a similar mechanic to Pioneer and Historic on MTG Arena, and players are already beginning to heavily exploit it.
Almost immediately after cards from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan became available on Magic Online, Pioneer players began tinkering with a Quintorius Kand shell with the goal of abusing Quintorius’s static and -3 abilities. The idea was to use Quintorius to Discover 4, hitting various ways to copy Quintorius. Each time one of these cards, like Spark Double, was cast from exile, the opponent would lose life. Then, you could use the copies to Discover 4 again, and drain the opponent of all their life by repeating this process. It appears players have already adapted this strategy even further, making it faster and more consistent.
Moving Off of Quintorius
While Quintorius combo had some major upside as a strategy, it suffered from the fact that it was relatively easy to break up. Once you activated Quintorius’s -3 ability, your opponent could simply respond with any burn spell to finish it off. Then, your Clone variants wouldn’t be able to copy Quintorius. Additionally, your opponents could simply counter Quintorius or use Thoughtseize to strip it from your hand.
The new variant of Discover combo has some of the same problems, but it has one major difference: you can win the game a full turn faster. Rather than relying on a five-mana card to start the chain, this new version actually focuses on resolving Geological Appraiser, a four-mana Creature with Discover 3. From there, you will hit one of two cards: either Glasspool Mimic or Eldritch Evolution. If you hit Glasspool Mimic, simply copy Appraiser and Discover again.
If you hit Evolution, you can sacrifice Appraiser and find Trumpeting Carnosaur. Trumpeting Carnosaur has Discover 5, meaning you are now open to hitting Appraiser in addition to Glasspool Mimic or Eldritch Evolution. If you hit Evolution, you can either grab Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant if you have more Creatures in hand or simply search for another copy of Trumpeting Carnosaur.
Assuming you don’t hit all of your copies of Eldritch Evolution back-to-back, which is unlikely, you will end up having a decently large board of Creatures. If this is the case, once you cast your last copy of Eldritch Evolution, you can grab Doomskar Titan, give your team Haste, and attack for the win.
Speeding up the kill condition is a big game changer for a few reasons. First of all, it helps you race opposing combo decks. With decks such as Amalia Benavides Aguirre Explore combo also emerging, this is a huge deal.
Second, this makes your two-mana Treasure makers much better. Both the Quintorius and Geological Appraiser versions of this strategy relied on cards like Magma Opus and Creative Outburst that, despite having high mana costs as to not mess with the Discover gameplan, helped accelerate you towards your combo pieces.
The issue is that Treasures only have a one-time use. If you went for a Quintorius kill and your opponent was able to break up the combo, that mana would not be available for future turns. This isn’t necessarily a big problem, but because all of the cards in the deck cost so much mana, this put extra pressure on you to keep hitting Land drops. By reducing the cost of your kill condition by one mana, not only can you kill a full turn sooner, but you aren’t as reliant on hitting your fourth Land drop on curve.
Furthermore, if you expect interaction, you can more easily save your Treasure tokens for bigger spells. For example, you can spend the first couple turns making some Treasure tokens. Then, cast Appraiser by simply tapping four Lands. If that plan goes awry, you now have Treasures stashed up to help cast Carnosaur on the next turn and try again.
Extra Additions in Historic
As strong as this strategy is in Pioneer, it’s even more reliable in Historic. This is because of the inclusion of one key card that is on Arena but not legal in Pioneer. This card is none other than Pantlaza, Sun-Favored. Pantlaza is a five-mana Creature that lets you Discover 4 when it enters the battlefield. The same strategies associated with Appraiser and Carnosaur apply here.
The addition of Pantlaza helps in a few ways. Right off the bat, it makes your gameplan much more reliable. The Pioneer version only has Appraiser and Carnosaur as combo pieces. By adding another piece, you make it much more likely that you will have a combo card in hand, helping to prevent additional mulligans.
On top of that, if your first crack at the combo doesn’t work (let’s say your Appraiser gets killed or countered), it’s much more likely you will be able to follow up with another must-answer threat. Finally, the addition of a five-drop into the mix makes it much less likely that Trumpeting Carnosaur will repeatedly hit Eldritch Evolution and you will fizzle.
A Problematic Mechanic?
What’s interesting about this whole strategy is that the only reason it’s possible in the first place is because the Discover ability from Appraiser, Carnosaur, and Pantlaza is an enters-the-battlefield trigger. This mechanic was meant to be a fixed version of Cascade. Normally, if you cast a card like Boarding Party with Cascade, even if your opponent counters the original spell, you still get the Cascade trigger. This is because Cascade specifically triggers upon casting Boarding Party, rather than it entering the battlefield. This is part of what makes Mississippi River decks in Legacy so scary.
In theory, having Discover not be a cast trigger would make it less problematic. The issue is that this opens the door for cards like Spark Double and Eldritch Evolution to play big roles. See, if Appraiser had Cascade instead of Discover 3, when you revealed Eldritch Evolution, Appraiser would still be on the stack. With Discover 3, though, Appraiser is already in play, allowing you to execute the Evolution combo like usual.
It’s unclear if any Discover cards will end up being deemed banworthy, but it is definitely something to look out for. The Historic player mentioned in the tweet above managed a rather impressive, yet worrying 14-0 record in the Historic Qualifier Weekend event this weekend, qualifying them for the Pro Tour. Either way, it’s clear this archetype is the real deal, and these are only the first iterations of the deck. Will players be able to adapt accordingly to the Discover menace? Only time will tell.