After riding the nostalgia train in Kamigawa, Magic’s headed to a brand new plane – New Capenna – filled with demons (and angels?) working together in a world of greed, avarice, and underworld politics. Streets of New Capenna will be released on April 29th, with prerelease starting a week earlier on the 22nd.
To get those knuckles cracking, Geek Culture and Tap & Sac are again honoured by Wizards of the Coast to unveil the set’s latest preview card – Aven Heartstabber, a nifty 1/1 Flyer for just 2 Mana.
The artwork by Dan Scott features a killer-looking bird, and rightfully so since it carries the Assassin Creature type.
And while the base stats are average at best, Aven Heartstabber does come with 2 additional abilities that allow it to live up as a rare card.
Its first ability reads: “As long as there are five of more mana values among cards in your Graveyard, Aven Heartstabber gets +2/+2 and has Deathtouch.” Sounds ominous, but is it dangerous enough to shake up the meta?
Enter the Aggressive Self-Mill Decks
Aven Heartstabber’s first ability clearly puts it into the Self-Mill and Reanimation deck archetypes, where the goal is to try to fill your Graveyard with as many powerful cards as possible (using stuff like Sitcher’s Supplier and Corpse Churn) and then bringing them back to life with Reanimate or Animate Dead.
Aven Heartstabber pairs pretty well with Devourer of Memory, another Creature that also costs blue and black, and grows bigger as you dump more cards into the Graveyard.
Devourer of Memory and the abovementioned cards may be out of the beginner-friendly Standard format, but they could synergise well in Historic. Both get bigger and scarier as more cards get thrown into the Graveyard, and Devourer even has an Activated Ability that does just that.
However, to put things with a little more perspective, Historic is a much faster format than Standard, and by the time Aven Heartstabber gets 5 cards of different Mana Values in the bin, the opponent could already be running away with the game.
As Lands are considered to have 0 Mana Value, that would mean you’d need a Land plus 4 other cards, all with different costs, before Aven Heartstabber becomes a 3/3 Flyer with Deathtouch. Not easy to achieve, and for that reason we don’t see Aven Heartstabber as a game-winner on its own.
Aven Heartstabber does remind us of Dimir Spybug though, another card with very similar costs, stats and potential. Instead of putting cards in your Graveyard, it gets a permanent +1/+1 counter for each time you Surveil (looking at the top card of your Library, and leaving it on top or putting it into the Graveyard).
While Surveil decks were fun and highly flavourful, it didn’t breach into the list of meta decks, and soon the Spybug also retreated back into the shadows.
That doesn’t mean Aven Heartstabber will follow the same path, as it does have one Triggered Ability that is valued across all formats in Magic – drawing cards.
Saved by the Draw
Aven Heartstabber’s last ability reads: “When Aven Heartstabber dies, Mill two cards, then draw a card.”
So not only do you get to draw a card, it even helps to live up to the deck’s Self-Mill objective by helping to fuel your Graveyard and pumping any of your other Aven Heartstabbers on the Battlefield.
This card-drawing ability brings back memories of Baleful Strix, a popular card in the Modern format because its controller gets to draw a card immediately as it enters the Battlefield.
You don’t get that instant benefit with Aven Heartstabber, but having the ability to replace a card lost (when it dies) is of great value. It also has the potential to grow to a potent 3/3 attacker in the air, while Baleful Strix serves as a better defender and deterrent.
Aven Heartstabber will surely inspire a few jank builds for Self-Mill decks, but it’s still unlikely to help break it into the top decklist.
Just look at Skull Skaab and Bladestiched Skaab, two value-stacked Zombie Creatures for also 2 Mana, and they were barely able to push Zombie tribal decks into the mid-tier.
If Self-Mill can get the same kind of support in Streets of New Capenna that Zombies got from Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow, then we could see Aven Heartstabber show itself for a nice, long time in Standard.
Do check out our guide on the various available bundles to kickstart the next expansion’s collection.