What has been once seen cannot be unseen so today I'll speak about New Phyrexia. This article falls in two parts: I will begin with my thoughts about a well-cooked and delicious piece of aggression which I expect to be powerful enough to resist Jace's dominance in Standard; and second I'll extract a hidden relic from the new set unveiling a blue deck that has been underrated up till now.
I really grieve over the recent leak of the full spoiler of New Phyrexia because on the one hand it's bad for the game and on the other I feel robbed because… just because they've stolen three weeks of my rightful fun! I hope that doesn't ever happen again but now we find ourselves in a position where everybody has to react so an avalanche of articles about the spoilers has started earlier than usual. I also would like to give my respect to R&D's Force of Will—they spoiled the full set immediately after the leak and still managed to dig out some topics for Mothership's articles. Thank you guys—you saved some fun for me.
The only actual reason for me to look into this leak is for my friends who are preparing to go to Pro Tour Nagoya; however Standard has room for innovation still—the third set may change the format from head to tail. It has new answers to some questions and brings the block mechanics onto the competitive level.
At first glance the set was disappointing: I looked for answers to Jace the Mind Sculptor but… after Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease they said that Mortarpod is a balanced analogue of Skullclamp. A green (Beast Within pretty stupid) and a colorless answer first caught my eye Hex Parasite. What? An artifact creature? Spending a lot of mana? Are you kidding me?
Nine mana to deal with Gideon before you're forced to attack him. Hex Parasite is even smaller than Phyrexian Revoker. Smaller than Phyrexian Revoker? Hmm… click! It was a splendid moment when I realized that Hex Parasite is a solid improvement over Vector Asp. Aggressive strategies are always popular in the new formats so at this point I knew what I wanted to try.
A release of a new set is always the appropriate and strategically justified moment to reanimate previously popular aggressive decks buried under the unbearable burden of metagame hate. Initially I thought of toying with Kuldotha Red but Hawkward is just better so I switched to it. Why on earth should I play a tiny 1/1 Hawk for two mana if there is a 2/2 Hawk for one mana?
The previous version of the deck is greatly covered in Zvi's and Steve Sadin's reports) so that is a good starting point.
Here is a latest update of Steve's list:
You may remember that they had to play poor Vector Asp—and even worse Ardent Recruit—just because the deck lacked viable one-drops. Now Hex Parasite enters the stage. What's more we obtain Vault Skirge (quite an efficient one-drop). One more noteworthy card is Dispatch which will mainly be used on Large Guys. In Tempered Steel this card performs better than Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares.
I heavily considered a blue splash for Spell Pierce—just can't resist playing Spell Pierce to gain tempo advantage in an aggressive deck. But Mental Misstep does almost everything we'd like it to do—it counters opposing Spell Pierces (we can protect Tempered Steel for free; we don't really care about Mana Leak because if an opponent leaves up Leak mana he probably doesn't have blockers) Condemns and opposing Mental Missteps. Gideon Jura is still a problem but we're either going to win before the powerful planeswalker enters the game or deal with it with Hex Parasite's assistance. Other pros and cons of blue are subjects to consider but if I have to choose a non-Plains land to play I'd prefer Inkmoth Nexus right now.
Some musings and testing resulted in the following decklist:
- 4 Hex Parasite
- 4 Memnite
- 3 Ornithopter
- 3 Phyrexian Revoker
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 2 Vault Skirge
- 3 Glint Hawk
- 3 Myrsmith
The deck itself does what it is expected to do—with an increased expectation in turn 3 and 4 kills. The deck is low on answers to opposing threats but going all-in is the best possible plan. Myrsmith is a kind of an anti–Day of Judgment plan. The first version of the deck used only Glint Hawk Idol but a mix of noncreature cards and creature-based token generators is preferable with Spell Pierce everywhere.
Vault Skirge can help play around Mental Misstep and provide turn 1 metalcraft. Phyrexian Revoker has proven itself to be the trickiest card of the deck. You normally want to name Mortarpod (if an opponent plays it) even before Gideon Jura and Jace the Mind Sculptor; so you must ensure that Mortarpod isn't equipped when you cast the Revoker. Just make the opponent kill everything.
Divine Offering looks a little bit counterintuitive but I expect Batterskull—by the way one of your worst nightmares—to be extremely popular. The Stoneforge Mystic package is here for aggressive decks that would normally beat us using superior creatures. Large amounts of blockers may turn your fast wins into a distant dream so we must ensure the deck is able to show some solid performance in the late game.
Overall the deck's strategy is quite simple: keep a good hand and win. The deck can aggressively mulligan to ensure the opening hand contains your winning plan. It's very unlikely that you'll keep a hand with no Tempered Steel Steel Overseer or Myrsmith; as long as you manage to draw at least one the future is promising. Just sleeve it up and try to prove which Hawk is better!
That's all about aggressive strategies for today; it's time for hidden relics.
New Phyrexia contains a card of ideal design: Darksteel Relic. Seriously. When I saw it for the first time I could not resist the impulse to write about it. I have some stories and things related to this card that I would like to share: from the past present and future of Darksteel Relic.
The story from Relic's past is that this card's design was predicted by your Obedient Servant a few months ago right after its picture was spoiled. It was clear the card was a Darksteel artifact and it looked like some sort of Signet so our ideas evolved around Serum Powder and Pristine Talisman when I supposed:
Okay my sense of humor is similar to R&D's but I never thought that they would actually print a card like this one. The only problem is that to become viable a Shape Anew deck needs something more than a useless Relic. Maybe the second part of the puzzle is still hidden inside the set?
The Present of Darksteel Relic: it's known here in Russia as “Darksteel Hockey Puck” nothing more. Here is a picture from our local forums—with symbols from Metallurg a Russian hockey club but you can easily Photoshop or alter it with an emblem from your own NHL club—would be a good gift.
Story number three is about poor Michael Jacob who fell ill over the course of PT Paris and wrote Trinket Mage instead of Treasure Mage into his Grixis Tezzeret decklist. You can read about it in Patrick Chapin's report but what I'm going to state is that Darksteel Relic is a great target for Trinket Mage and Tezzeret Agent of Bolas. A 5/5 indestructible creature is so sweet and probably much simpler to use than the Mindslaver tactics described in Patrick's article. The second target is still needed but everything has its place so be patient.
Joking aside I have my sight on Chapin's Tezzerator deck. There are many hidden gems that people miss because they lack faith in the deck and don't bother making improvements to it. All raw diamonds need processing if not treatment to become brilliant. Patrick fought the Caw and the Caw won so nobody online updated the deck since the PT. An interesting take can be found in the GP Dallas coverage— Grixis Walkers with Koth of the Hammer—and I want to present another attempt.
The following list is courtesy of a Russian enthusiast of the deck Igor Cherkasov. He qualified with the deck for Nationals and I assisted him in his countless tries to improve the deck. Every option available was tested. Seriously we considered things like Ezuri's Brigade and Carapace Forger! The most successful list looks like this (I hope Patrick will forgive us for barbaric simplification of his 2-2-2-2 package into a bunch of Lightning Bolts):
The Valakut matchup is still unfavorable but far from a nightmare while both Caw-Go and aggro are good enough to try the deck out. Kuldotha Phoenix is awesome and a mostly uncounterable finisher against any type of control. Anticipating questions—no there are no problems in casting Phoenix. Wurmcoil Engine is obviously better against aggressive decks so it found its home in the sideboard.
The deck is a funny type of aggro-control. Two playsets of direct damage spells alongside Tezzeret's ultimate (yes unlike some other attempts all three planeswalkers' abilities are actually and commonly used) allow us to bring an opponent down to surprisingly low life totals all of a sudden—or to blow up all the creatures on the ground. There are no counterspells maindeck—and there were no counterspells in the sideboard in some builds. The deck is inviting to play especially when you as a true agent of Bolas start bluffing: pretending you have a counterspell or that you're in a defensive position when you're actually preparing a deadly counterstrike. Just don't forget that you're not pretending to be winning.
Which new cards could fit into the deck? Darksteel Re—Okay Geth's Verdict maybe Surge Node (cast Tezzeret then ultimate or simply recharge your Tumble Magnets)—it would be enough to improve problematic matchups and to drive this hidden relic to the top. So Surge Node is a potential second target for Trinket Mage the end of Darksteel Relic's joke and the end of the whole article.
A new set release always provokes us to study more. Do not let the caw eat your brain! Fight against them; use the best weapon—innovation and open mind! We Will Endure!