Your life matters. Don't waste it.
Mana Confluence is the most overrated card in the set. People are spoiled on their already great mana. Back in my day, we ran Coastal Tower and were grateful to have it. I remember Tarnished Citadel being the only option for U/G Madness decks. We would've killed for a Simic Guildgate.
For the longest time, your starting twenty-point life total was regarded as an unimportantly expendable resource. Casual players were mocked for favoring any form of lifegain. Healing Salve was the embarrassing cousin to Ancestral Recall. Lifegain was unplayable without being stapled onto a sturdy body like Kitchen Finks or a super-efficient burn spell like Lightning Helix.
Mana Confluence is not a freeroll four-of in every multicolor deck. After the release of Journey into Nyx, people now have shocklands and Temples of every combination. City of Brass wasn't that great when it was in Standard many moons ago. The life that you're losing will lose you games. Aggro decks will take advantage of people thinking that the life loss is trivial. Giving up one life a turn isn't free. You will lose more games to exposing yourself to a faster clock than you will win by having a gratuitously good mana base.
Mana Confluence is a credit card that you pay off later. The bill is you losing games that you shouldn't. You don't think that 2-4 life will matter until that Desecration Demon puts you on a 2-3-turn clock where it would've otherwise have been less or that R/W Burn player pumps the fist as you make their life easier as you essentially cast a Lightning Bolt on yourself over three turns.
In Standard, no two-color deck needs Mana Confluence. Between Temples and shocklands you have eight sources for your splash color whether it be for Abrupt Decay or Boros Charm. It's been established that those eight sources are enough thus far. Guildgates are too inefficient and it will soon be realized that Mana Confluence is as inefficient for equally important reasons. Two-color decks that are more split on their colors need to figure out which is the dominant color and adjust their builds accordingly. I have little pity for a deck that cuts four basic lands for four copies of Mana Confluence then gets run over by an aggro deck that somehow hits them for "exacties" on turn 4.
There are no three-color combinations that benefit enough from their synergies. Hyper-aggressive decks like Naya have their mouths watering at the sight of a card that can enable a curve like Soldier of the Pantheon, into Voice of Resurgence, into Brimaz, into Ghor-Clan Rampager plus Boros Charm. Those decks, however, still need to run a significant number of Temples to fill out the holes and to prevent flooding, disabling such Christmas Land curves in most circumstances.
Now for the card I like. Prophetic Flamespeaker is the best spell in Journey into Nyx. It doesn't have a great home, but it will. The card is too inherently powerful. When analyzing the card, never look as its base power and toughness as merely a 1/3. Double strike pushes it to a 2/3 at worst and often much further.
- 1 Akroan Crusader
- 2 Ash Zealot
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 3 Fanatic of Xenagos
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 1 Legion Loyalist
- 3 Prophetic Flamespeaker
- 4 Rakdos Cackler
Prophetic Flamespeaker is at the top of the curve and the possible cards that it can hit have low casting costs. It's a natural fit into a deck that can take advantage of its double strike to threaten lethal damage in one turn. Prophetic Flamespeaker also thrives in a shell that will present several threats beforehand and force the opponent to react to them with removal. A brand of "dies to everything" tends to fall away when the opponent is pressured with one and two drops and the blanket fear of dying to a pump spell combo.
The Open Series heads to Cincinnati is this weekend. I've had success with R/G lately before Journey into Nyx and think an updated list with Prophetic Flamespeaker is great for a tournament full of players trying new and ambitious things. This is still the only deck in the format capable of a turn 3 kill and if you aren't sure what to play yourself and are worried about what others are doing, I recommend just killing them as fast as possible.
Why doesn't this deck run Mana Confluence? Doesn't need it. There's no reason to sacrifice life points unnecessarily. The mana has functioned fine before it and will survive without it. Burning-Tree Emissary acts as the ninth through twelfth green sources a lot of the time. In an expected metagame of decks frivolously pinging themselves, my R/G deck is more than happy to take advantage of lower life totals.
I've gotten a few questions about Boss Sligh and how it should be updated after Journey into Nyx. Satyr Hoplite is a card that seems like a natural fit for the deck. It wanted to run as many one-drops as possible without delving too deeply into inefficient creatures. I think Satyr Hoplite will be worse on average than Foundry Street Denizen without a serious overhaul of the current build regarding the creature count and heroic enablers.
I've been straying away from cards that cost three or more in Mono-Red for a while now. The most common recommendations are Boros Reckoner and Chandra's Phoenix. In such a hyper-aggressive shell, Boros Reckoner didn't pull enough weight and there were never enough burn spells to rebuy Chandra's Phoenix on a regular basis. Haste is great but the evasion is somewhat wasted when it's the only flying creature in the deck. The deck functions well against blockers and often prays for them to choose to block. Prophetic Flamespeaker is strong enough for me to want to explore outside of my no-three-drop rule. Trample is also a form of evasion but falls moreso into what the deck is looking for. Fanatic of Xenagos and Ghor-Clan Rampager are strong splashes because of the added reach of trample and with the printing of Prophetic Flamespeaker there's a great option within Mono-Red for trample.
Let's look at an example list.
- 2 Akroan Crusader
- 2 Ash Zealot
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Firedrinker Satyr
- 4 Foundry Street Denizen
- 2 Gore-House Chainwalker
- 1 Legion Loyalist
- 2 Prophetic Flamespeaker
- 4 Rakdos Cackler
- 2 Eidolon of the Great Revel
Eidolon of the Great Revel is also a sweet one, but I feel like it has a better place in older formats like Modern and Legacy where the converted mana cost of cards is nearly always three or below. Cantrips like Brainstorm and Ponder are rampant and it's not impossible for the shape of Legacy to change if the card becomes popular enough. In Boss Sligh, it seems decent enough to try out. There comes the decision of Titan's Strength or Rubblebelt Maaka with the Maaka having the advantage of dodging the damage of the Eidolon when bloodrush is used. Right now I don't feel like it's better than Ash Zealot in many circumstances but I'm willing to give it a shot.
Overall I think the strongest decks post-Journey into Nyx are still the mono-colored ones that have been dominating since the release of Theros. Devotion was a pushed mechanic and color combinations aren't synergistic enough to warrant the painful mana and inconsistencies. Mono-Black Devotion will touch into green for Abrupt Decay and Vraska the Unseen but I imagine that they'll eventually come back to the tried-and-true straight black.
Be wary. Aggro will be the top dog for the first few weeks that Journey into Nyx is legal because players are foolish enough to kill themselves with their lands. Adjustments will be made and manabases will be fixed. Until then don't fall into the trap of jamming the "free mana fixing" into your deck. Learn to despise the free lunch.
Because nothing worth having comes for free.