One of the more exciting things in Magic is seeing something familiar. Sure, we love to see a new mechanic, archetype, combo, or strategy, but there is a part of us that's thrilled by the known. We grew up on traditional cards; mechanics and card styles are defined by those classics, even when you refer to new cards (Shriekmaw is a "Dark Banishing on a stick").
Born of the Gods brought us two cards that create tantalizing and powerful effects from some of our favorite cards, one of which was even encased in the original card type as its progenitor. We'll hop in and look at throwback number one.
For those of you unfamiliar with this mechanic, this is Underworld Dreams, which given black devotion's stranglehold on the format would be utterly unfair in any mirror match or control matchup right now. This mechanic has played alongside black's draining personality for the last twenty years, and although we haven't seen it in a bit, its return now in a somewhat bizarre-looking package offers intriguing potential. While Underworld Dreams was both hard to target and hard to cast, Fate Unraveler has neither trait. In a world of efficient creature removal, the ability to easily blast the Unraveler, who itself is an enchantment as well, might be enough to undermine its effectiveness. I don't know though; people still draw a lot of cards.
Although we can rely on most midrange and control decks drawing some number of cards greater than one on any given turn, it's also reasonable to force them to draw. Underworld Dreams has always been particularly devilish as a means to kill an opponent by giving them too much of a good thing. Luckily, a frequent guest in this column provides just the engine we need to burn your opponent each time.
Black and blue together are fine, but there are a lot of holes in this color combination right now, such as speed and the ability to deal with noncreature permanents. Life loss is a problem too; look no further than our pal green and we have a BUG list to get us going. Let's get to dreaming!
- 3 Deathrite Shaman
- 2 Prophet of Kruphix
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Fate Unraveler
- 1 Erebos, God of the Dead
Here we have a comfortable and powerful BUG shell with our Dreamer and Madness in tow. Let's highlight a few of the cards.
Sylvan Caryatid has proven itself as the ramp of choice for midrange; hard to target and kill, this Utopia Tree clobbers other options. You'll notice I included the full set of Unraveler, and I can justify it. First, the Unraveler is pretty important to our win condition. Unlike most BUG decks that ride on the backs of planeswalkers and valuable creatures, this one will slash you to death with your draw step. Not only do we need to hit it, but it's to our benefit to hit the Hag in multiples. It's still easily killed, falling to most single target removal in the format, even enchantment removal. Thus we need a lot of them. Thankfully if you're Whispering enough, you'll be able to cast each one you draw for maximum effect.
Courser of Kruphix has been a hit since day one of Born of the Gods, and it just can't get much better for green midrange decks. Prophet of Kruphix and Deathrite Shaman work together too. Not only do frequently discarded hands provide you plenty of juicy targets to drain, but Prophet allows you to do it twice per turn rotation as well as resolve your Fate Unraveler at your opponent's end step, where it might be a little safer from counterspells or removal. A single Erebos, God of the Dead plays off the not insignificant amount of black devotion you can generate. Two Underworld Connections turns him on, and he offers digging and an alternative win option.
This spell list is fairly standard for black really. Underworld Connections makes sure that every time your Whispering Madness cipher triggers, you have a nice full grip to toss and your opponent draws a bunch and takes a bunch. I especially like the inclusion of Toil // Trouble. With one Fate Unraveler out, Toil by itself deals four damage. If they have, say, two cards in hand prior, Toil // Trouble together deals eight damage. If you've just triggered a Whispering Madness where each player draws four and then you draw and cast this, you're hitting them for fourteen.
Thankfully, you can always point the Toil at yourself for a scry-less Read the Bones. Because your opponent's hand will often be a healthy size, Trouble by itself will rarely be a dead card, either, instead just Sudden Impacting them for a hefty amount. Sylvan Caryatid can provide the red mana you need.
There's nothing to see in the land base. I've focused on black and green to get my heavy black spells and ramp spells online quickly. There is some blue, but I've kept red out; I want to avoid shocking myself too much against aggro decks. It'll be much easier to kill me if I effectively start at twelve.
As usual, the sideboard is a bit of a smattering of problem fixers. Golgari Charm continues to be one of my absolute favorite sideboard cards, and Abrupt Decay is a great one too. It might even see the maindeck over Devour Flesh. Drown in Sorrow, a card I haven't seen too much, is great against the W/x Aggro decks, which are particularly common in my neck of the woods. Dimir Charm, another versatile answer, thwarts Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Mutavault, Thoughtseize, and an effective scry.
Phenax, God of Deception, is a weird singleton that I figured could slide in to effectively mill out a non-sweeper opponent in a jiffy. With Prophet of Kruphix and an active Phenax, I'm milling twenty per turn rotation! Lots of casuals and even a few pros have tinkered with the U/B God, and I figured his usefulness might come in handy in a grindy match. I added a pair of Horizon Chimera as a last thought; they negate the expense of an Underworld Connections, and you can gain a large amount of life when you fire off Whispering Madness (and the flying and trample make this an attractive cipher target too). It lives in the sideboard thanks to its glaring vulnerabilities and is best brought in during aggressive low-removal matchups.
Next up is another creature with the same stats and the same enchantment "condition." Perhaps most reminiscent of spells like Heat Shimmer, Splinter Twin, and Mimic Vat, this enchantment creature relies heavily on the inspired mechanic from Born of the Gods to work its magic.
I've heard of folks coming up with infinite combos outside of Standard for this Minotaur, but I want to give him a chance within the confines of 2012-2014. Figuring out ways to tap and untap it for maximum copy potential is a good start, and there are several tools in Standard that can help us get there.
- 1 Arbiter of the Ideal
- 3 Breaching Hippocamp
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Felhide Spiritbinder
- 4 Kiora's Follower
- 1 Molten Primordial
- 3 Prophet of Kruphix
- 1 Sylvan Primordial
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
- 2 Purphoros, God of the Forge
Each card has its place here. Let's partition it a little.
Right off the bat you'll notice a couple of really key players, namely Burning-Tree Emissary and Kiora's Follower. The Emissary when copied pays for itself! Bear in mind that the mana provided needs to be used right away, so if you get it during your untap phase it won't be nearly as useful. Kiora's Follower gives you both tapping and untapping on command. How does it provide tapping? Why, target a Springleaf Drum instead and then tap the creature you need. No haste required to get that inspired creature sideways! Like with the deck above, four of the lynchpin is necessary for consistency and removal reasons. This deck also features several Prophet of Kruphix and Courser of Kruphix for the same reason. Sure, the Courser will rarely get targeted for a copy, but it's just that good.
Breaching Hippocamp provides a free instant untap when you need it that your opponent will never see coming. I'm sure I'm missing some sweet combo with Breaching Hippocamp (it is another target for Splinter Twin I suppose) but it's a solid instant untapper that can trade for a three-toughness creature. Purphoros, God of the Forge, gives you a surprisingly powerful level of reach, and the extra mana you create with your shenanigans can be poured into Purphoros for an extra healthy smash.
The singletons provide late game conditions. There is enough ramp via Kiora's Follower and Springleaf Drum that these can be cast and then copied. I like Molten Primordial particularly because it will net you three creatures in one. You get the Primordial, the stolen creature, and they lose a potential blocker! Sylvan Primordial is also a nice copy target, letting you slim down a land or enchantment every turn and thin your deck of lands. Arbiter of the Ideal has the potential in a permanent-centric deck to provide a ton of value every time you untap it.
Starring in the spell suite is Domri Rade, who comes dashing in as a trio. The deck lacks hard removal, and Domri functions as a removal spell as well as a draw engine. The deck isn't brimming with powerful or numerous creatures (30+), so three seems plenty. A playset of Springleaf Drum fills a very specific set of roles. First, it adds color fixing and ramp, but it's a way to net mana and tap an inspired creature. As stated above, you can cast Felhide Spiritbinder and immediately tap it so it'll be online the following turn.
A pair of Cyclonic Rift act as the deck's Overrun. When the time is right, leverage your ramp and creature presence to Evacuation their board and then bash with a bunch of happy copies. Finally, a singleton Ral Zarek gives me the untap/tap flexibility I need free each turn. Although the ultimate rarely ever will happen, the amount of combat protection you can afford Ral with your untapped armies might prove sufficient in the right match.
Nothing special in the land category; I emphasized green mana, but besides that anyone can make this mana base. In the sideboard you'll notice the creature-heavy set of pounders. Fanatic of Mogis seems like a great choice when you are either unable to break through or need a high-damage finish against a deck that gains life, like B/W Midrange or Esper Control. If you copy it, Fanatic will hit for three (the Spiritbinder, the original Fanatic, plus the copy), and every Burning-Tree Emissary; Domri Rade; and Purphoros, God of the Forge you have helps improve the count. Casting one after the other is a surefire way to blast even the hardiest defenses.
Nessian Demolok is either an undercosted Mold Shambler or an undercosted 6/6. If you copy it, you're opponent will have to deal with a surprise 6/6 or losing a noncreature permanent every turn. Not too bad if you ask me.
Skylasher sits in for Mistcutter Hydra; funny thing about Mistcutter, but if you try to copy it, the copy will be a pointless 0/0. Skylasher gives me that crucial pro blue effect without the ol' +1/+1 counter problem issue. Mizzium Mortars will come out and surprise the swarm deck, and you can often hit it pretty early on. Kiora's Follower and Burning-Tree Emissary can both help stretch you to that vicious three-red cost. I packed an extra of each Primordial. Sylvan might be better against control, and Molten Primordial might be just the ticket for a midrange deck; steal that Blood Baron of Vizkopa and get in the paint!
Either deck provides a baseline for something fun that you can create too! I know I'm not the only one that's given these 3/4s a glance. Where have you taken this Hag or that Minotaur? You all bring the most exciting and interesting brews yourselves! We're now getting our first glance at Journey into Nyx, and the third season of brewing has begun.