The much anticipated finale to the flavor-filled Theros block is about to be released. As far as a combination of flavor and card design, Theros block has definitely been one of my favorites.
I mean, come on—Xenagos, a planeswalker (which is already pretty damn cool) hates the gods because he feels that they are stingy and won't share their power and becomes a god himself to try to take revenge on them and ends up being consumed by his own power. Then we have Elspeth, who is depicted on a card literally driving a spear through his heart. Yeah, she's the friggin Sun's Champion all right.
I really enjoy blocks like this where there are very powerful cards with plenty of cycle design like the Gods, Temples, and Dictates, but that's not what you're here for. You don't want to listen to me geek out about how cool the storyline is. You want tech.
Hot steamy tech for Monsters, right?
Sadly, there really isn't much. Mana Confluence will help a little bit with the mana, but it was already pretty good to begin with. And as much as I love the art on Gluttonous Ogre, I don't think there is really any monstrous creature that's going to be dethroning big papa Poly-K and Stormbreath "Kent Ketter" Dragon. There really is only one card that I'm pretty excited about:
Tactics is going to be a pretty awesome tool for all flavors of Monsters, giving us access to the two (or more)-for-one that we've always been looking for. It has the blowout potential of Mizzium Mortars but is at instant speed and can give us insane value much earlier. Being able to hit a Sylvan Caryatid and a Courser of Kruphix and kill a Nightveil Specter and a Master of Waves is pretty sexy if you ask me. I think I want to start out with Setessan Tactics as a one- or two-of in the sideboard, but it honestly could earn a maindeck slot.
At its worst, it's a pump spell.
There are actually two cards in this set that I think are going to have a pretty big impact on Standard as we move forward and Journey into Nyx becomes legal. The first is Banishing Light. Oblivion Ring has gotten the Banisher Priest text update, and I couldn't be more excited. We already have an effect like this in the current format in Detention Sphere, but now that we have Banishing Light everything is going to change.
In the control mirror you can't Detention Sphere another Detention Sphere, so once you get the edge with a Jace, Architect of Thought or an Elspeth, Sun's Champion a Sphere can bring you back to parity with your opponent. Now with Banishing Light the planeswalker/permanent subgame will be a bit more dynamic. In addition to taking care of planeswalkers and Detention Spheres in the mirror,
Banishing Light also gives control decks another out to an early Domri Rade. I've played me a lot of Domri Rade against Sphinx's Revelation decks, and you get to ultimate him a surprising amount of the time. With only four copies of Detention Sphere in their deck, they were hard pressed to find one in their first four or five draw steps, and sometimes it just didn't happen. Now they can run upward of six Oblivion Ring effects and feel pretty comfortable about it.
Banishing Light also has applications in nonblue decks. There's a Junk Midrange deck going around that's been championed by Reid Duke and Gerard Fabiano lately, and Banishing Light seems like a perfect card there. We could also see Banishing Light in aggressive white decks, and it fits right into R/W Burn as well as an answer to troublesome permanents. Don't forget that BBD has been working on a Junk Reanimator deck that could probably benefit from the neo Oblivion Ring.
The next card that I think is going to have an impact is Temple of Malady. G/B Midrange decks have always had an abundance of awesome threats and support spells, but the simple fact that Golgari has lacked a Temple has kept the strategy from keeping up with the rest of the field. With Sphinx's Revelation decks being able to play upward of twelve Temples, it didn't matter if we could strip their hand quickly. They could just scry to a Revelation and get right back in the game. Temple of Malady now gives these strategies the ability to scry themselves and search for cards that will just end the game before the control player can get back in it.
Mono-Black Devotion ended up morphing into a version that splashed green right before Born of the Gods came out for access to cards like Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm. Abrupt Decay answered a lot of the problems that the deck had and was very good in the mirror since it killed Pack Rat, Nightveil Specter, and Underworld Connections. That deck saw a moderate level of success and played Golgari Guildgate.
With access to Temple of Malady, I definitely expect to see B/G Devotion make a resurgence, especially now that we have Mana Confluence to help fix the mana even more. Abrupt Decay even hits Banishing Light!
There are so many powerful cards in the G/B shell that now with Temple of Malady and Mana Confluence, I wouldn't be surprised to see other decks emerge. I know that Gerrard Fabiano has been having some success with a BUG Devotion deck, and with Gray Merchant of Asphodel to recoup the life lost from using Mana Confluence I can definitely see the mana getting much better.
The problem with trying to come up with a Golgari shell is that even with access to awesome cards like Courser of Kruphix and Scavenging Ooze, the amazing synergy gained from being black devotion based is too powerful to pass up. Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Erebos, God of the Dead are so absurd that it's hard to play a deck that can use them without them. Cards like Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Obzedat, Ghost Council have been enticing enough to keep the control elements and cut the devotion elements, but I'm not sure if green offers cards like that.
Last week I wrote about how I thought Mana Confluence was going to help push Naya Hexproof to the forefront of the metagame. After going through a lot of the feedback from everyone (thank you very much!), I realized that I overvalued some cards and undervalued others.
Also, another cheap playable hexproof creature is being printed and basically changes everything. Bassara Tower Archer isn't flashy. It's not big and powerful. In fact, it even has a keyword on it that's pretty much never going to be used in reach. All I care about is that it costs two mana and has the least interactive keyword in all of Magic: hexproof.
Here is my second take at a Naya Hexproof deck.
I'm not quite sure how I want to build the sideboard, but I know that I want some number of Mizzium Mortars and some number of Fiendslayer Paladin. We also probably want some copies of Banishing Light as an answer to troublesome permanents and potentially Aegis of the Gods. Mono-Black Devotion tends to cut some of their targeted removal since it's mostly dead, and giving us hexproof will help protect us from Devour Flesh.
After chatting with some people who offered their feedback on my last article, I realized that I greatly undervalued Selesnya Charm and greatly overvalued Fleecemane Lion. Thankfully the latter is remedied by our new two-mana hexproof friend, and the former is remedied by just jamming Selesnya Charm in the deck.
Now that we have twelve hexproof creatures, we can build the deck with the intent to lean on that strategy more. Previously we were okay with just trying to grind people out with cards like Fleecemane Lion and Voice of Resurgence, but now that we have the final piece of the puzzle and a land that fixes all of our mana we can go all in on Voltroning up something and trying to do as much damage as possible.
It could be that we want 23 lands since we will have some three-mana spells and potentially Mistcutter Hydra in the sideboard, but I'm not really sure what I'd cut to make room. I feel like this is probably the right track to be on for this type of deck and look forward to hearing even more feedback this week.
I've had a W/B Humans deck rattling around in my head ever since Brian Braun-Duin Brimazed the crap out of me last week in our Versus video. I really liked the direction he took the deck but thought that we could also go in a direction with Xathrid Necromancer, and I think that Cartel Aristocrat with Athreos, God of Passage seems pretty sweet. The only problem with this type of deck is that I want to play the Necromancer; Athreos; Ajani, Caller of the Pride; and Spear of Heliod. That's a whole lot of three-mana spells, and we definitely can't afford to play all of them. Not to mention that we have a whole lot of Humans available to us:
That's a lot of awesome Humans, and we can also play Brimaz, King of Oreskos, who isn't quite a Human but is just too good to not play.
We also have a slew of support spells available to us:
It's pretty tough to narrow everything down into a deck, but I know that I want 22 lands and we can really only play between nine and eleven noncreature spells. Let's start with the land base.
This is a good start, but we have to decide if we want to play any Swamps. I know that I basically want every non Mutavault land able to cast Precinct Captain and Brimaz, King of Oreskos, so I don't think we can afford to play any. That leaves us with six Plains.
As for noncreature spells, I think that Spear of Heliod is going to be much better for us than Ajani, Caller of the Pride, so I'm going to go with that. We have to make room for Athreos, God of Passage somehow, and I think that's the most likely candidate.
With ten spells and 22 lands, that leaves us room for 28 creatures, which I think is where we want to be.
I think this gives us a pretty good mix of creatures. Underworld Coinsmith might be better than Daring Skyjek or Imposing Sovereign, but I doubt it. Let's take a look at everything together in an official decklist!
- 2 Banisher Priest
- 4 Boros Elite
- 3 Cartel Aristocrat
- 3 Daring Skyjek
- 2 Imposing Sovereign
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 4 Xathrid Necromancer
- 2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 2 Athreos, God of Passage
With a build like this, we can lean on our sideboard to shore up most matchups. We get some pretty powerful spells like Thoughtseize and Sin Collector against the control decks, which will already be having fits with Athreos, God of Passage and Xathrid Necromancer. We also get some more removal for other creature decks and can bring in something like Profit // Loss as a trump card against green decks and the mirror. It's pretty sweet to Profit in response to a Polukranos, World Eater's monstrosity trigger.
Save my team and kill your creature seems like a winning play, does it not?
All in all, I'm very excited for Journey into Nyx and plan on kicking my testing into high gear after this weekend. It's been a couple weeks since I've been able to play in a SCG Open Series, and stalwarts like Joe Lossett, Gerrard Fabiano, and Eric Rill are hot on my tail in the Season Two race to the SCG Players' Championship.
See everyone in Cincinnati next weekend!