Last week I talked about how I thought Mana Confluence was going to be the most important card in Journey into Nyx. Well, since then the entire set has been revealed, and my opinion hasn't changed. Not because there aren't other exciting cards, mind you, but because the shift from the mediocre mana for two-color aggressive decks that exists right now to a world in which Mana Confluence exists is huge.
But enough about Mana Confluence. I want to talk about the other cards in the set that have me excited about their potential. It seems crazy that all of these cards are in Journey into Nyx rather than Born of the Gods because Standard has felt really stale for a long time and many of these cards feel like they might have been able to shake things up. I'm actually really disappointed that I won't be playing in a single Standard Grand Prix in the new format until M15 because there is only one in the US and it's the same weekend that I'll be in Las Vegas for EDC.
Anyway, on to the cards! There are actually so many cards that I want to mention that I'm going to go color by color, which is something I almost never do.
This card is actually much more exciting for Standard than it first looks. We saw the same design in True Believer many years ago, and it was randomly valuable against some combo decks but never a major player. In Standard right now, though, giving yourself hexproof—in particular on a white creature with a passable body—is actually pretty powerful. Both Thoughtseize and Lifebane Zombie are targeted effects, and being able to proactively deploy a cheap creature that your opponent has to remove before they can go after your hand has the potential to have a meaningful impact. I would not be surprised to see this card show up in aggressive white decks.
This is kind of like a Gods Willing that can't force your creatures past blockers but can save them from Supreme Verdict instead, with the bonus that if you have a bunch of mana you can potentially protect your entire team. Tricks like this are always, well, tricky because you can't play too many or else you run the risk of drawing a hand full of them and no real action, but I think this one has the chops to be worth the risk.
One of the big draws to playing Boros in the current Standard has always been Boros Charm for the indestructible effect, and this is a monocolored version that costs more to protect your entire team but can shield a single creature for less. In a deck that lives and dies by its mana efficiency, that's even potentially an upgrade. It doesn't hurt that you can use it as a combat trick to take down something like a blocking Sylvan Caryatid for just one mana either.
Oblivion Ring is back, and it's more contextually relevant than ever since being an enchantment is suddenly a big deal. Unfortunately, that actually probably makes Banishing Light worse than Oblivion Ring ever was because with Gods and enchantment creatures running around, we're more likely to see maindeck enchantment removal than we have been in a long time. That said, it's still a nice catchall card for a lot of decks that can't play Detention Sphere. I'm actually curious to see if the possibility of playing eight exile enchantment effects encourages people to play more Ephara, God of the Polis or Heliod, God of the Sun since they're durable ways to gain reliable devotion. We shall see!
As I mentioned on Twitter this week, this card makes me feel a lot better about the first release of Ascension having the word "Godslayer" on the box. The "exile all gods" clause on this is pretty cute, though my impression is that it's more there for flavor than function. Sure, it might come up now and then, but the bigger deal is that this is an instant version of Revoke Existence, which has already seen a reasonable amount of play.
Granted, you can't kill artifacts, but other than Pithing Needle the only artifacts that really see much play these days are also enchantments anyway, so it doesn't seem terribly likely that would come back to haunt you. In a world full of Underworld Connections; Thassa, God of the Sea; Detention Sphere; Courser of Kruphix; and bestow creatures, I would not be surprised to see this card show up in maindecks in Standard.
This is an interesting card, mostly because it offers such a powerful bonus to your team. Collective Blessing saw some fringe play back when tokens were more of a thing, but I'm not holding my breath that this will—at least not anytime soon. More than likely it's going to be resigned to the role of the biggest blowout in the world in Limited because it's the combat trick that never goes away.
Now this is my kind of card. This is basically a Rule of Law that can attack, be revealed with Domri, and put into play with Aether Vial. I don't see this card doing much in Standard, but I think it may replace Rule of Law in decks that want the effect. As a 1/4, it's pretty much immune to the commonly played removal in Modern—Lightning Bolt doesn't kill it, and no one's going to get a big enough Grapeshot to get rid of it. It is possible for an Ad Nauseam deck to Slaughter Pact it, which makes it somewhat more vulnerable than Rule of Law, but for the most part it isn't going anywhere. It's also theoretically something that you could play against Snapcaster Mage decks since many of them are highly reliant on Lightning Bolt for removal and the body is relevant because it beats Mage in a fight.
This card is shockingly pricey for an Equipment that doesn't put the game away on the spot if you connect. The best Equipment in Magic have been those that generate an advantage that is difficult for your opponent to surmount if you get in a hit or two, like the Swords, Umezawa's Jitte, and Batterskull. If you pay the six mana to play and equip Godsend and attack, your opponent takes three additional damage, and you are no further ahead at all. The card is more impressive on defense because your opponent pretty much can't attack into it, but we're living in a world in which removal and evasion are both plentiful. I don't expect this card to be a major player at all.
Speaking of tokens for Dictate of Heliod, I don't think this quite cuts it. If we had something like Spectral Procession or Lingering Souls or maybe even Raise the Alarm, then this might be interesting, but right now the best token generator option is Brimaz, King of Oreskos, which doesn't come online until turn 4 and is vulnerable to removal. Something to keep an eye on for future sets, but not something I'd look to build around right away.
Patrick Sullivan, eat your heart out. This is one of the scariest cards any burn deck that's looking to get damage through with creatures can see across the table from them. If R/W Burn remains popular (and I think it will in reaction to Mana Confluence decks cropping up if nothing else), this card will see play in sideboards.
This card would be more likely to have an impact without Banishing Light as a catch-all removal card in the same set. I played this back in the day when it was first printed in Alliances. That makes me feel old.
This is a pretty crazy card. On the surface it looks like just some wacky combo card, but it's actually a Goblin Electromancer for targeted spells that also happens to be able to protect itself—oh, and it has the potential to go crazy with multi-target spells. I haven't dug deeply enough to explore all of the possibilities, but I have to imagine there's some kind of ludicrous heroic deck with this guy and a bunch of cheap strive cards or even some crazy combo deck with Hidden Strings to really go nuts. The fact that it's a 2/1 body to begin with means that you can play it even just as an honest creature and get value from the mana reduction effect on all kinds of non-combo effects too. I can't say that this guy will be a major player in Standard, but I'm certainly interested in seeing what it can do.
Howling Mine effects are always interesting, and flash means you can get around the major drawback of your opponent always drawing first. This has the potential to be the key card in some kind of new Turbo Fog deck or even a component in a creature-light devotion deck since it costs double blue mana. Being able to fuel Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx while drawing extra cards to cast with it is pretty exciting, and being able to turn on Thassa, God of the Sea without opening yourself up to Supreme Verdict has the potential to be powerful.
Speaking of safe devotion cards, I find the Fonts to be an interesting cycle because they dovetail nicely between the constellation and devotion mechanics. This one is basically an enchantment version of Conjurer's Capsule from Shards of Alara block, which actually saw play here and there since you could split the mana investment in the card draw effect across multiple turns. This is more likely to see play due to synergies, like the safe devotion it offers with the ability to cash it in for cards when you want.
This is a possible candidate to replace Judge's Familiar in Mono-Blue Devotion since it's a one-drop that offers significant potential upside in the late game and perhaps will be motivation to put Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx back in that deck.
I played a lot of Mesmeric Fiend back in the day, and it was great. Creatures have gotten a lot more prevalent, not to mention a lot more powerful, but disruption that comes with a body attached is still really attractive. This is particularly compelling for a graveyard-based strategy that wants some kind of disruption but also relies on keeping its creature count high.
Grave Pact was a really powerful card, and this is too assuming there's an appropriate home for it. Five mana is a lot more than four, and with how many powerful removal spells there are in black right now anyway, this probably won't see much play. But it's something worth keeping in mind.
This is likely to be a powerful tool for any kind of constellation deck against other midrange creature decks like G/R and Jund Monsters. The ability to essentially Plague Wind your opponent for six mana is pretty incredible, making this one of the most compelling reasons to explore that strategy. I know I'll be looking into it.
Black aggro now has twelve two-power one-drops in Standard, which is the level it was at when Vampires was a popular and powerful deck. There's no Kalastria Highborn these days, but there are other powerful tools like Agent of Fates and Mogis's Marauder that reward you for playing bestow creatures and cheap black aggressive creatures. This happens to be both of those. The ability to bestow the Scarhide on your opponent's creature to push through damage late in the game is one that can't be ignored too. Black aggro was already on the cusp of being a strong deck—this might help push it over the edge.
This guy is another powerful black aggro card, albeit a dangerous one. I know that I wouldn't want to play against this guy with any kind of green creature deck since it's huge and evasive, making it a big headache for any deck without removal. This guy certainly doesn't go in a deck like Mono-Black Devotion that's based on attrition and winning via Underworld Connections advantage, but it could have a home in the same deck as Gnarled Scarhide. Extra cards don't do anything if you're dead!
Woohoo, more unconditional black removal, hooray! That's what we really need more of in Standard—ways for black to indiscriminately kill things. This card is at least pretty cool and raises the question of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in Mono-Black Devotion again because hitting multiple creatures with it is just gross.
People have said that this card is great in aggressive decks in the current Standard, and that seems kind of strange to me. Most decks in which you'd want to play this are going to be chock full of cheap spells themselves, and this guy gets really easily stopped or outclassed by something as simple as a Sylvan Caryatid or Courser of Kruphix. This card definitely seems like a powerful option in Modern and Legacy where creatures are smaller and less plentiful and everyone is casting a lot of cheap stuff, but it seems to be much less powerful in a world where four-mana spells show up in most decks out there.
Voice of Resurgence drops yet another notch on the totem pole, though it remains at the top of the "most expensive cards that see the least play" list.
This guy is hard to evaluate because it seems to pull a deck in a lot of different directions. Do you play with pump spells to get it through blockers? Do you play with burn spells to clear blockers out of the way? My inclination is this card is at its best in a deck with burn and bloodrush cards because you can use the latter to get it through and still get some value if you hit them off of its trigger since you can actually play them as creatures post-combat. And burn because, well, you can always get your opponent dead with it if there's nothing left in the way.
It's unclear if the extra mana is worth either the strive ability or losing the ability to kill Gods compared to Unravel the Aether, but it remains to be seen how many constellation decks show up. My guess is no.
This card has been getting a lot of hype as a new Enchantress, but I'm not sure we live in the kind of world where this sort of incremental advantage is good enough. Paying four mana for a 2/2 creature—even one that replaces itself—is a lot to ask. I'd definitely like to see this card make a splash because it's interesting and good in attrition fights. It's certainly not what I want to have in my hand when I'm facing down a Pack Rat or Desecration Demon or whatever, and drawing an extra card from my enchantments doesn't go that far against cards like Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Sphinx's Revelation either. I'm not convinced.
This card has flown mostly under the radar, but it is a big deal. This is effectively a Rampant Growth if you play untapped lands for the first two turns. Granted that might be asking too much since most decks that want Rampant Growth rather than Elvish Mystic are multicolored and want access to Temples, but the fact that there is now noncreature mana acceleration that can start on turn 2 is something that should not be overlooked.
I explored this card quite a bit in my first spoiler article and continue to think it's one of the really impactful cards in the set.
For when you want to go really big with your Kalonian Hydra deck.
See my first preview article. Still looks very strong to me.
A lot of people have talked about Athreos as a tool to abuse sacrifice effects, and while that's cool, I don't think it's at all how you want to build a deck around him. To me, Athreos is best used as an insurance policy in an aggressive deck to protect your creatures from removal. The best way to ensure that your opponent isn't in the position to pay life to keep your creatures in the graveyard is to pressure their life total as quickly and as aggressively as possible. I see Athreos having a home in something like the W/B Aggro deck that Ben Stark and Pat Cox were playing earlier in the season to give the deck some midgame power and an answer to removal-heavy decks. Sure, you can loop Festering Newt with Cartel Aristocrat, but there's no need to get that fancy. Just kill people.
Both of the effects on Iroas are powerful, but I'm not sure how well they mesh with the cards that help enable him. The best Boros devotion card is Boros Reckoner, and it certainly doesn't want damage prevented to it while it's attacking. If you're playing a heavy white deck, you'd probably rather play Brave the Elements as a way to break through opposing blockers. I'm just not sure he has a home.
This guy is cool, but five mana is a lot to pay for something that has no immediate impact on the board when you play it. He's going to be hard to beat if he stays in play for long, but you have to be able to stay alive when you're tapping out to do nothing on a critical turn of the game. He certainly doesn't trump Elspeth, Sun's Champion or Sphinx's Revelation in control mirrors and still gets removed by Detention Sphere, often before he does anything at all. I'm not buying it.
Well, this is what my Splinterfright deck really wanted all along. This guy is sure to show up in the current graveyard decks to help fuel Nemesis of Mortals and friends. The ability to regrow anything from your graveyard is particularly interesting, offering some incentives for those decks to actually diversify somewhat for pseudo-tutoring through self-mill. Sadly, I expect this card's existence to increase the popularity of the deck and thus of Scavenging Ooze, which may in turn ultimately make the deck worse overall.
I'm just going to pretend they didn't print a G/B God and hope there's one in the next set.
Athreos comes with friends right away! Provides two devotion for two mana? Check. Has an enters the battlefield ability to make it better if you return it? Check. Has an ability that pressures your opponent's life total to make it more difficult for your opponent to pay life to keep it dead? Check, check, check. Oh, and it also is a Human to synergize with Xathrid Necromancer, one of the clear potential all-stars of a B/W deck. Sold!
It's about damn time.
Anyway, that's it for this week. What do you think are the standout cards from Journey into Nyx? How do you think Standard will shape up in the first few weeks with the new set?