Some people really enjoy being scared. I'm not terribly sure why, but there are lots of us who love to frequently experience our most primal emotion, and we have a number of ways of getting our fix: watching scary movies, jumping off tall buildings, walking around your house at night alone. Each leaves us with a prickling sensation on our necks and a wide-eyed expression.
Magic is as much a game of chance and skill as it is of risk and fear; some might even call an important part of the game's skillful presentation is the mitigation of risk. Careful players craft board states that lower their risk of losing the game; they might not play out their entire hand to avoid a sweeper spell, or they may not risk an attack based on the possibility that their opponent might have a combat trick, removal spell, or haste creature that changes the combat math.
In other words, Magic is about control.
Whether you're a ground-pounding aggro deck, or a reactive, lock-out counter deck, you want to establish control of the game and your opponent's life total. The feeling of control makes us feel safe and secure. You build a board state and a hand that you like and you think, "there's no way I can lose, as long as I make the right decisions."
But what happens when you make the wrong decisions? What if your opponent makes you make the wrong decision? What if the opponent played a spell that forcibly made your decisions for you?
For a player who desires control, this is one of their...
Worst Fears is the most underplayed mythic from Journey into Nyx by a long shot. Every other one's gotten some play, or at least some buzz, or at least some speculation targeting (see Sage of Hours' fluctuating price tag.) Worst Fears has sat untouched since it was spoiled, and I mean to stir that frightening pot.
First of all, Worst Fears is a pretty bad card. No, it's okay; it is actually a bad card. A 7B sorcery that doesn't read "you win the game" doesn't get anybody excited, but you have to look at it in context. If you steal your opponent's turn, what does that mean?
1. You effectively cast Time Walk.
You basically get an extra turn, and the second turn will likely feature a much more favorable board state than your first turn. Time Warp and its ilk don't actually change the game by themselves; they require some sort of backup to be effective. Worst Fears, on the other hand, lets you actively change the game.
2. You can unravel your opponent's development and, in many cases, garner significant card advantage.
Putting yourself in the driver's seat for a turn lets you completely undo your opponent's plan. Cast their spells inefficiently! Tap their lands! Make poor combat decisions! Utilize their planeswalker abilities for ill, or not at all! You have perfect control over your opponent.
3. It's fun.
Stealing a turn should not only create an advantageous situation for you, it also allows you to have some honest, sadistic fun, but more on that later...
So how do we cast a black sorcery and not be at one life, zero permanents and zero cards in hand? What supports this kind of deck?
Naturally, a black deck makes sense. Mono-Black Devotion that runs off Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is fairly uncommon. Gray Merchant of Asphodel remains the last devotion card in the list, and shifting it to a suboptimal version to support this plan seems suboptimal and unnecessary. As an instant, maybe it behooves us to look at a Grixis shell? Izzet is known for supporting its instant and sorcery base, and a foreign black spell wouldn't be too hard to shoehorn in there?
No, I think our best plan is to generate lots of mana the old fashion way.
Green seems like the perfect fit. Traditionally troubled by control, green can easily find a mote of black mana as well as the bulk levels of green mana needed to propel this spell from your hand to the stack.
Dictate of Karametra puts this spell into overdrive; as you'll just have one turn to do as much damage as possible, you'll want to spend gobs of mana and cast and/or activate as many spells and abilities as possible. Resolving this at the end of your opponent's turn will let you untap, cast Worst Fears, then commandeer your opponent's turn with a full keel of mana.
Green Nykthos decks have proven effective before, so drawing on that base seems like the next best step. Sprinkle in some additional spells, and you're opponent will never look at a Forest the same way again.
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Kalonian Tusker
- 2 Nylea's Disciple
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Sylvan Primordial
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Borborygmos Enraged
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
- 2 Pharika, God of Affliction
The mana suite should be familiar to anyone playing G/X Monsters, or any green-based midrange deck from the last nine months, for that matter. Four each of Elvish Mystic, Burning-Tree Emissary, Courser of Kruphix, and Sylvan Caryatid contribute almost exclusively as mana producers in their own right and/or their contribution to green devotion. Burning-Tree Emissary, does actually fix a bit; this deck splashes a couple red cards, and the Emissary can sometimes make them happen after a successful cast, either as part of its trigger, or if red is chosen as your Nykthos color.
Polukranos, World Eater is probably my favorite Nykthos mana sink. You can pour double digit mana amounts into Polukranos and end up destroying their board and giving you an enormous bruiser in the meantime. I'm happy to play four; Polukranos is a lightning rod, and it's quite likely that, once my Nykthos is high enough, I can cast another copy and activate it the same turn.
A couple oddbodies show up, too. Pharika, God of Affliction is still criminally underplayed in my opinion, and it won't be long before people realize she's a really decent goddess. She is easily activated in a devotion deck, too. I, admittedly, included a Borborygmos Enraged post-testing (it was already a flexible slot). My thought is, after playing Dictate or a couple top-of-library lands thanks to Courser of Kruphix, I might have some extra lands left over in my hand. Why not turn them into Lightning Bolts?
Golgari Charm comes in as a set, and I know you think it's probably too much. However, let me emphasize to you in the clearest terms that I know now that four copies is absolutely necessary. In no circumstance will this be a dead card given today's metagame. There will always be an enchantment creature to kill, a series of tokens or one-drops to sweep away, and a removal spell is always around the corner to nuke your creatures. This has become my favorite charm from the block, and I don't see it moving before rotation.
On the other side of things, I've included three Worst Fears. Thanks to the excessive mana production and central nature of this card, I wanted to include three. That's a lot for a non-combo way to cast an eight-drop, but I was confident this was correct. They're not awful in multiples, so long as you have the mana to cast them. Dictate of Karametra is fairly extravagant in multiples, however, so I've only included two. This deck produces enough mana that this is just gravy.
There's also a single copy each of Into the Wilds and Bow of Nylea. Into the Wilds, in a deck that likes to utilize Courser of Kruphix and 26 lands, seems like a fairly reasonable choice. It adds a point of devotion, for what that's worth, and it is real card advantage and ramp. Why scry away a land when you can just play it? Bow of Nylea is a good catch-all toolbox, and the two devotion isn't too shabby. Naturally, Polukranos, World Eater and the Bow get along very well.
This deck is primarily a green and black deck, though there is a bit of room for red in some of the Temples. I liked Temples with Into the Wilds; if you play a Temple off the trigger, you can scry before you draw, Thassa-style! Two Stomping Grounds are free inclusions based on the large amount of basic Forests used, and three Nykthos should be plenty thanks to the level of land drawing power I have. I could see including a fourth, especially with Borborygmos Enraged as an outlet for extras.
The sideboard reflects a bit of tweaking, but I was certain I wanted four Kalonian Tuskers. In an aggressive format of 2/X creatures, the X/3 is king. Kalonian Tusker is easy to cast, a powerful contributor to devotion, and an offensive or defensive powerhouse. Abrupt Decay is also a great anti-aggression card, but it does a great job smashing Detention Spheres and midrange threats, too. Slaughter Games gives you another leg up against control and/or against decks that, perhaps in game one or two, showed you a card you can't beat. Sylvan Primordial is another exciting ramp target. Getting an extra land into play triggers your Coursers, too! Nylea's Disciple is an excellent breakwater against aggro, who often opt to disregard removal in favor of evasion or combat tricks. It's easy to gain ten or more life on a Disciple's trigger later in the game.
I was excited enough about this deck I set aside other testing to see if, somehow, this deck could actually work. I committed to doing ten matches, and here are the results.
Vs. UWR Control
Vs. G/B Constellation Dredge
Vs. Maze's End
1-0 (they quit)
Vs. Tom Ross Boss Sligh
1-0 (they quit)
Vs. Junk Constellation
1-0 (single game)
Vs. Black Aggro
Vs. B/W Constellation
Vs. Mono-Blue Devotion
8-1? Really? Really, Worst Fears?
The creature base in this deck was, in many cases, enough to do in a deck all by itself. Polukranos continued to be unstoppable against low-removal decks, and Golgari Charm was an impressive tempo play at nearly every turn.
Worst Fears Highlights:
-Turning an opponent's Vraska (three counters) against his own Scavenging Ooze (Jund)
-Stealing a turn to cast Sphinx's Revelation for 0 (UWR Control)
-Thoughtseizing my opponent with his own Thoughtseize so that he lost two cards and two life (B/W Constellation Dredge)
-Stealing a turn, discarding my opponent's last two creature cards to his Lotleth Troll, then slamming it into my Polukranos (G/B Constellation Dredge)
Every time I cast Worst Fears, I got excited to see what I could do with the time given to me. Even on suboptimal plays (against aggro, for example), I'd still get to tap them out and or slam them into my creatures (or Pharika snake tokens in one case.) It'd obviously come out against aggro, but it wasn't terrible in game one after I'd stabilize.
As you can see my last game included my only match loss. Mono-Blue Devotion was my Achilles' heel. Thanks to an efficient, consistent stream of mostly unblockable creatures, I couldn't undo it in either game, and my opponent defeated me decisively. Even Golgari Charm was often too slow to be impactful, and without an effective sweeper (e.g. Mizzium Mortars), I struggled to keep up on the one-for-one battle. Moreover, in the second game, he resolved three Tidebinder Mages to lock down my own triple Kalonian Tuskers, giving himself the devotion he needed to resolve a particularly terrifying Master of Waves and Hall of Triumph.
Realizing my weakness to this particular deck, I adjusted the sideboard to look like this, without making any adjustments to the maindeck, which I still felt was strong in as many matchups as possible.
Setessan Tactics has been a card I've enjoyed when I've cast it, and it seems right at home in a devotion deck, as does Skyreaping. Although it's not nearly as consistent as Gruul Charm and it is a narrower sorcery, it has the potential to take down much bigger beasts such as Desecration Demon, Stormbreath Dragon, Archangel of Thune, or a 3/4 Cloudfin Raptor.
I couldn't have been more pleased with this deck. I actually felt confident going into each game, instead of dreading a good draw. I had good draws too, thanks to the familiar green Nykthos shell, and Worst Fears was so far out of left field no one would see it coming. Although there were a couple games where the Worst Fears was less than amazing, it was never a bad card or a dead card, for that matter, and the ever-increasing power of midrange decks makes a card like this all the more valuable. The next step is to try it out in a Daily Event environment and see how it does. I didn't have three hours all at once to test it, but I will test this.
This is one of the rare decks that I want to continue playing. I would absolutely recommend taking this to a local tournament and even to an Open Series event. I guarantee you a good pilot with a hint of luck could finish in the money with a list like this, and it can certainly be improved on; there's probably three or four slots worth of wiggle both in the maindeck and the sideboard, and a complete shift in non-Worst Fears spells and creatures might be in order. I'm tellin' you though, don't knock it till you've tried it!
It's safe to say that this was a really fun deck to play for two reasons. First, playing aggressive, on-time creatures is exciting, as is playing with Courser of Kruphix (that card is bananas.) Second, you get to cast really fun, splashy spells that can completely turn the game around. Worst Fears has nearly unlimited potential, in my mind, even if it is little pricey. In the land of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, eight mana ain't too bad.
Start scaring some folks with this and let us know what you think and/or how you do!