How about Journey into Nyx y'all? I have to say this set has really gotten the gears turning, and like many others here on StarCityGames.com, I want to spend some virtual ink sharing my thoughts on some of the cards that have caught my attention and get some conversation going in the comments below!
I talked briefly about a few of the cards last week when I went over my RUG Courser of Kruphix deck, and I am still very high on Keranos, God of Storms in that deck. Getting a free Lightning Bolt nearly every turn thanks to Courser of Kruphix is going to be quite powerful, especially in conjunction with the maindeck copies of Turn // Burn and the increased number of Izzet Staticaster I've added to the maindeck since last week. And the few awkward times when you play a land from the top of your deck only to reveal another land is totally smoothed out by Keranos' extra draw power. I really can't wait to get my hands on two copies of him to slip into the deck in the coming weeks.
Since I started off by talking about Keranos, let's go ahead and discuss the other demigods. As a guy who likes to play larger creatures to stall an aggressive deck's creature swarm, Iroas, God of Victory scares the crap out of me. I don't personally see myself playing him too much, but I'm worried about having to face him down, especially since the only way to deal with him are with sideboard cards that are otherwise going to be useless against most all the other cards in the red and/or white aggro decks he'll go in. What happens when they never draw Iroas and you choke on multiple copies of Unravel the Aether while they crush you with Boros Reckoner?
I know there seems to be some buzz on Kruphix, God of Horizons, but I think he's very clearly designed as a Commander card and seriously doubt he's going to make any sort of splash in good competitive decks. I do think he's very cleverly designed by having the replacement for the mana pool emptying by making all the mana colorless, which makes the bookkeeping of the various colors of mana much easier turn after turn. Imagine a five-color deck with Kruphix, God of Horizons and Seedborn Muse in play and trying to keep track of the different colors mana you have hanging around each turn!
I find Athreos, God of Passage interesting mostly as Supreme Verdict insurance in aggressive decks. Once you've dished out enough early beatdown damage, removal starts hurting your opponent quite badly. It's balanced though in a neo-punisher/tribute mechanic way—your opponent gets to decide which is better for the,, paying the three life to make sure the creature stays dead or not paying the life and turning their removal into a bounce spell. Also, the creature touches the graveyard before the trigger resolves, so you can nab it with the likes of Scavenging Ooze.
Of course, as the resident representative of the Golgari Swarm here at StarCityGames.com, the God that I felt the most anticipation toward was Pharika, God of Affliction, and I was really hoping for something sweet to play in Standard now that I've also got my B/G Temple. When I took my first glimpse, I got quite excited—just three mana for an indestructible 5/5? That's Thassa, God of the Sea good! Well, not quite . . .
Obviously it's a little bit harder to turn Pharika on with devotion, and her activated ability is considerably less scary. At first glance I had a RTFC moment when I thought you could chew through your opponent's dead creatures and make Snakes, which made me feel okay about her, but then later I realized that whoever owns the graveyard where you're removing the dead creatures gets the Snakes. So basically you've got to stock your own graveyard with creatures to feed her ability, with the occasional upside of stopping some problem creature from coming out of your opponent's graveyard that will be worse than a 1/1 Snake token with deathtouch.
So Bennie, what's wrong with that? Isn't Golgari all about stocking up the graveyard anyway? Well yeah, but her ability works at cross-purposes with many of the best cards for that strategy. Nighthowler, Nemesis of Mortals—these cards want to stock the graveyard with creatures and keep them there. I can see being torn between exiling a card for the deathtouch chump blocker and keeping the creature in the graveyard to make sure your Nighthowler remains a certain size or you can go monstrous with Nemesis of Mortals on time.
I was pretty much set on dismissing Pharika for Standard when it occurred to me that she might demand a totally different sort of Golgari deck, one that uses the same tools that we use for Nighthowler and Nemesis of Mortals but with different end goals. The key I think is to look closely at those Snakes she's making . . .
Those 1/1 black and green Snake enchantment creature tokens with deathtouch. Each time you make one of them, it sets off constellation triggers, and I think an enchantment-heavy Golgari deck is where Pharika might shine.
Consider for a moment Deadbridge Chant. This is an obviously powerful card that has yet to make a splash in good Constructed decks. It's an enchantment, so we're still firmly in constellation territory. I've tried playing it, and the main stumbling block with this card is the random nature of the upkeep trigger. Sometimes you're putting a Sylvan Primordial into play for free; sometimes you're putting yet another Sylvan Caryatid into play when you need action. Deadbridge Chant is an expensive investment card that you need to pay off relatively quickly, but if it's just giving you back low-impact cards, you can quickly fall too far behind for it to make any difference.
Now you can mitigate some of that with graveyard management cards like Scavenging Ooze, but Scavenging Ooze usually has a pretty hot target on it. You can't really bank on it sticking around through a Deadbridge Chant cast and then a whole turn until you get to untap and get to work.
Pharika, God of Affliction though . . . she ain't going anywhere, and while she can't provide total graveyard management like Scavenging Ooze, she can make sure any creatures that get picked by Deadbridge Chant count. She can even make sure excess copies of Pharika get turned into Snakes.
So what else? Naturally my new favorite card, Courser of Kruphix, can go right in since it's an enchantment creature. The next one to catch my eye is Doomwake Giant, which does a nice job of sweeping away opposing little creatures or not so little ones if you've got enough enchantments hitting the board in the same turn, say from multiple Pharika activations?
What about Kruphix's Insight, which can do some crazy work digging for enchantment cards? Sadly, I think the casting cost hurts a bit since at three mana we'll already want four copies of Courser and some number of Pharika, God of Affliction. How about something like this?
- 4 Desecration Demon
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Chromanticore
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Doomwake Giant
- 4 Eidolon of Blossoms
- 3 Pharika, God of Affliction
I'm not sure if it's worth the strain to the mana base to go five colors for Chromanticore, but the dude does go a long way toward turning games around if it sticks and plays right into the constellation game plan. Between Courser of Kruphix, Eidolon of Blossoms, the Temples, and Deadbridge Chant, we'll be able to see an awful lot of lands. That's why I decided against Reaper of Wilds at four mana—the scry is nice, but I thought we might do better with Desecration Demon in the air, especially since Doomwake Giant's constellation should keep random sacrificial fodder off the board. It's also possible that Primeval Bounty might be better than Deadbridge Chant.
Another card that piqued my interest is Sage of Hours. There are a lot of ways to put +1/+1 counters on creatures outside of its heroic trigger, but in Standard I don't think it's worth all the trouble to try to do that. However, if we dip into Modern, there's an old friend of mine who's grinning from ear to . . . well, whatever passes for an ear:
Longtime readers know that I was pretty crazy about Necrotic Ooze while it was in Standard, and the most successful version of the deck I put together utilized the activated abilities of Bloodline Keeper and Grimgrin, Corpse-Born to put an arbitrarily large number of +1/+1 counters on Necrotic Ooze. Of course, the problem came when I needed to punch the damage through chump blockers, so I'd need the help of yet another creature's activated ability to give it trample (Thornling, I choose you!). Yeah, the deck could win in spectacular fashion, and even the pieces were decent enough to win without Necrotic Ooze. But sometimes the deck was rather clunky.
Time Walk is one of the most powerful effects in the history of the game, so I naturally want to bring Sage of Hours to the Necrotic Ooze party. I've been thinking about it all week, and I think the best way to utilize Sage of Hours in Modern is to have Necrotic Ooze play Sage of Hours copies five through eight, especially since Sage of Hours is so fragile. Here's what I'm thinking:
Yep, time to break out the Death's Shadow plus Varolz, the Scar-Striped combo! Adding thirteen +1/+1 counters to something—say, a Sage of Hours —for one black mana sounds like fun times to me, and if your opponent wants to spoil the fun, you can cash them in for a Time Stretch.
What I really like about Necrotic Ooze is how it backs up so much of the deck. Play Sage of Hours; your opponent kills it. Play Fauna Shaman; your opponent kills it. Play Necrotic Ooze, and it gets to be both a Sage of Hours and a Fauna Shaman.
Old favorite Spellskite protections your combo creatures while also providing resistance to Splinter Twin (and if they kill it, Necrotic Ooze takes over). At the top end of the curve, Thornling provides a Swiss Army knife of activated abilities, and Triskelion can take advantage of thirteen extra +1/+1 counters to mow down a bunch of creatures or go to the face.
I definitely can't wait to get my hands on Journey into Nyx. What do you think of these decks? What other new cards have you excited? Let me know in the comments below!
Before you go, though, on NPR recently they had a segment on the near complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton that's going to go on display at the Smithsonian this year, and it got me thinking about the fact that I haven't visited those museums in decades. I've decided to rectify that in the near future and take my kids along for an all-day stroll through one or two of the museums, maybe in late spring or during the summer, but I also know getting around the city is a royal pain. So I'm reaching out to any Washington, D.C. natives or folks who've recently visited the Smithsonian for tips on planning the trip—any thoughts you can send my way would be awesome!
Facebook = Bennie Smith, Writer
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Complete Commander website = completecommander.com
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New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)
- Child of Alara (Land Ho!)
- Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)
- Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)
- Marath, Will of the Wild (Wild About +1/+1 Counters)
- Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge (Suspension of Disbelief)
- Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)
- Roon of the Hidden Realm (Strolling Through Value Town)
- Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)
- Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)
- Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)
- Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)
- Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
- Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
- Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
- Marath, Will of the Wild (Juicing up the Naya Precon)
- Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)
- Nylea, God of the Hunt (Devoted to Green)
- Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)
- Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker (Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling)
- Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)
- Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)
- Aurelia, the Warleader (plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Yeva, Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)