Magic's released a lot of oddball cards, cards that seem to be counterintuitive, cards that seem to be doing two things at once or require two different styles of deck to use. Maybe we assume what they do at a glance and then write it off as some kind of bizarre booster draft fodder that'll never see the light of day after it gets tucked into a box of bulk cards at your local shop.
Lots of cards have fit this description, even in recent years. Some have even gone on to be cross-platform performers (see Pack Rat, Squadron Hawk, or Tarmogoyf). Others have, given the chance, become fun, unique, and interactive tools to make a fun deck.
That, my friends, is where we find Strength from the Fallen.
When I first saw this card, I read it. Then I read it again trying to understand what I was looking at. After feeling like I got the gist of what this spell did, I paraphrased it back (probably) to whoever was sitting opposite me at the Journey into Nyx prerelease. With a mumbling of confirmation, I then put the card into my green pile of maybes.
Of course, that was while I thought it was an Aura. The first time I saw it in a game, I asked my opponent to which creature he was attaching the spell. He grinned and passed it to me to read. I looked back at him with a wide expression. As soon as he blasted me to death with a sweet brew built around the graveyard, it was time to build.
In fact, this spell is much better than a simple, one-time Aura. It's a very inexpensive, stackable, repeatable, and cost-free pump spell. Activating is simple; all you need to do is get some creatures in your graveyard, then have an enchantment continually enter play...
Hmm, OK. That is a bit awkward. Although enchantment creatures exist these days, they're a bit limited. What can we do? Quite a lot, it turns out! Before we jump in, though, you gotta close your eyes and believe. It gets weird down here...
The list comes from the idea to focus our triggers on a creature that can deliver pain effectively, which gives us an incentive to protect a single attacking creature. Maybe we should make them removal-proof, and maybe even blocker-proof.[Image: Gladecover Scout and Image: Aqueous Form]
Once we've built our own Invisible Stalker with a random scry trigger, what's next?
- 4 Bassara Tower Archer
- 2 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Gladecover Scout
- 3 Renowned Weaver
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Slitherhead
- 4 Boon Satyr
Eight of the typical twelve hexproof creatures from today's Standard appear in here; I left out Witchstalker because, frankly, it's too expensive. When you're pumping up your creatures regularly, I'm not too worried about how big they start, I just want them out fast. From there, I've included a playset of Satyr Wayfinder, which admittedly might be too much, but it's a creature that can take a Fallen trigger and it makes those triggers bigger while helping me hit land drops. Boon Satyr does everything I need - it's a creature, it's got flash, and it's an enchantment. Naturally a set is expected. Slitherhead is a perfectly fine 1/1 to trade with one of your opponent's 2/1s, and it can count towards your Fallen trigger long enough to count, then scavenge them all at once to go for the kill. Renowned Weaver seems strange, but like Slitherhead, it can chump block and replace itself with something relevant. Bear in mind that, if you have a Strength from the Fallen, you can sacrifice the Weaver and get an instant blocker (with Reach!) that can target itself with the Constellation trigger (it's an enchantment, too!) Deathrite Shaman seemed like a nice addition given all the self-milling. Hit lands to find a blue source, drain one of their creatures to offset your Mana Confluence activations, or use that Confluence to cut them down with their spent instants.
Obviously, we need as many copies of Strength from the Fallen as we can fit. They work awesome in pairs, giving you a pump across two creatures or one huge threat. A set of Aqueous Form is similarly necessary, and “extra” copies still trigger Constellation for just one blue mana. Commune of the Gods acts as redundancy for Satyr Wayfinder's effect. Then, well, you'll find Chronic Flooding; I know, but I love it for this kind of deck. It triggers your Constellation, of course, but it also fuels your graveyard without interfering with your mana. Full disclosure, though; I'm embarrassed to admit how dangerously close I was to including a copy of Urban Burgeoning in this deck. The value! Luckily, I decided to include a Mana Bloom, the more familiar Constellation enabler. Whew, that was a close one!
The lands mostly come into play untapped. Hexproof players know how important it is to be fast! Mutavault is a reserve killer. If the coast is clear, activate it, cast an Aqueous Form on it and swing for lethal... hopefully. The sideboard is designed to deal with the things that scare us most. A set of Rapid Hybridization may seem weird, but we're real scared of Scavenging Ooze, and when it comes up, we need it dead pronto. Skylasher is a great pump target against mono-blue. They can't block it anyway, so it won't matter that you can't enchant it with Aqueous Form. Runner's Bane is a nice, inexpensive way to deal with the weak threats in case you have a race on your hands... plus, it triggers Constellation. Finally, Wild Beastmaster seems like the best plan when evasion is important and removal isn't. Pump Wild Beastmaster with your triggers, then bring the freakin' house!
How'd this one do?
Match 1 – B/W Midrange (1-2)
Match 2 – Mono-Black Devotion (1-2)
Match 3 – Mono-Red Aggro (0-2)
It became pretty clear to me that, despite the deck's potentially failsafe plan (untargetable, unblockable, and repeatable pump), I couldn't put the game-plan into action. This deck sorely relied on Strength from the Fallen, and without it I was swinging with a bunch of puny 1/1s and 1/3s. I had no idea how vicious this dependency would be, but the only two games I won out of eight relied on a bad, five-card mulligan by my first opponent and then an honest activation of the combo in the second match. The level of interaction was laughable and I was never able to put up a fight if things got tough.
The cards I seemed to want in the match were not blue; blue and green by themselves don't generally make for a good aggro pairing, so I think moving the more traditional direction for graveyard usage might create a more favorable situation.
- 4 Bassara Tower Archer
- 2 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Slitherhead
- 3 Boon Satyr
- 4 Brain Maggot
- 3 Nyx Weaver
I switched out the Gladecover Scouts for Brain Maggots to keep with the theme, and Nyx Weaver also reinforced the theme without blindly dedicating myself to it with bad cards. Lotleth Troll allowed me another path to fill the graveyard, even in response to a seemingly-small Strength from the Fallen trigger.
This one had to do better, right?
Match 1 – G/W Aggro (0-2)
Match 2 – Mono-Red (2-1)
Match 3 – Red Devotion (2-1)
Match 4 – G/B Aggro (2-1)
Match 5 – G/W Aggro (1-2)
Match 6 – RUG Midrange (2-0)
It sure did!
This one still maintained the fun level of the blue version (it was still fun, albeit because of neat interactions and not because of match wins). It had trouble against green aggro decks – they just kept it coming and I didn't have the removal or consistently-powerful creatures needed to stop them. Gift of Orzhova was amazing, triggering Strength from the Fallen and providing an enormous life swing. This version is the one to play, and given a bit of tweaking against G/X aggro, I think you might have yourself a nice version of tricky G/B aggro.
In both cases, Strength from the Fallen felt more like an Equipment, making any creature threatening assuming I could reliably resolve the trigger. This was a lot of fun, and chaining them together (or pumping a team with them) still provided a lot of fun.
Although it seems like a pretty straightforward enchantment, there's more to this little 1G spell than meets the eye. As I was brewing with Strength from the Fallen, this interaction came to mind, too.[Image: Dismiss into Dreams]
Take a second to review Strength from the Fallen and see that it targets any creature. So, if you have a Strength from the Fallen and you resolve this seven-mana behemoth, the trigger goes on the stack, and you can target whatever you want. Then that thing dies. Pretty neat, huh? Wait, don't answer that.
If we can slow down the plan a bit, it gives us more power and, potentially, will be a bit sturdier in the long run.
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Boon Satyr
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Eidolon of Blossoms
- 3 Nyx-Fleece Ram
- 1 Kruphix, God of Horizons
- 1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
- 1 Pharika, God of Affliction
This one follows a significantly different game plan. We're moving a bit slower, of course, so we have time for a set of Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix. Moreover, we're also playing a set of Eidolon of Blossoms so we can actually draw our key enchantments. Except for the Caryatid, every single spell in the main is an enchantment, meaning every spell draws you another spell (or a land, I guess). Boon Satyr is still synergetic, but less essential here than before. However, it's much more likely you'll Bestow it in this list. Nyx-Fleece Ram has proven to be a great ally against aggro; in this deck, it's still helpful even if you're fighting another slow, grindy deck. It doesn't have defender, so it can swing just as well as any of them. A couple relevant Gods makes it in, too. I even liked Heliod, God of the Sun, too, but his activation costs might have been too much for the mana to handle. Pharika is easier, and it's an enchantment, too, though it will cost you one of your graveyard count to activate. Moreover, she'll likely become a creature at some point. Nylea, God of the Hunt also acts as a way to push through damage from a highly-inflated creature. Nylea can also target an opponent's creatures with Dismiss into Dream out, acting as a machine gun to pick them off. Kruphix, God of Horizons lets you stockpile mana for Nylea's activation, and it lets you hold all the cards that Eidolon of Blossoms grants you, too.
Mana Bloom as a set is essential with a corresponding playset of Eidolon of Blossoms. Not to mention this gives me eight hard-to-interact-with ways to ramp on turn two. Likewise, a set of Strength from the Fallen seems important, too, even if just as a cheap way to trigger Constellation again. Detention Sphere is an old standby by now, and Banishing Light has come into its own, too. We have just two copies of Dismiss into Dream, as they're both expensive and redundant in multiples.
Thankfully, four Caryatids and four Mana Blooms lets me play a bit fast and loose with my mana, so I can splash a bit of black without endangering my plan. One Mutavault survives as we're able to target that with our Strength from the Fallen triggers.
The sideboard contains the rest of two playsets from the main as well as good old Keening Apparition. Bramblecrush is good at taking out problem planeswalkers, opposing Detention Spheres, and even an errant Nykthos. Three Supreme Verdicts break the theme because, I mean, sometimes you just gotta watch the world burn. Blind Obedience provides an avenue to drain out decks using Mana Bloom and it gives me extra time to do what I need to when I'm on the defensive. This deck has no instants, so Blind Obedience helps mitigate that disadvantage. I like Debtor's Pulpit as a singleton because it is colorless removal that lets you deal with any control deck's threat; Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Aetherling, and Stormbreath Dragon ain't got nothin' on you. Even though the enchantment is white, the land is colorless.
I didn't have as much time to test this as I expected. Matches took a long time, but it reliably found answers. The Gods turned out to be the sturdiest win conditions, and turning on the Dismiss into Dream combo was fairly challenging. In short, I think the G/B Drexproof deck is where you want to go.
M15 is rumbling down the stretch, and I am excited to see every spoiler. More than usual, M15 seems to offer a lot to us brewers, and with Standard being at its peak card pool in the summer, we'll have long days and long lists of decks to make. I've got a couple dozen already slated, so starting next week, I'll be incorporating M15 in my builds, too. It's been hard to hold back, but I always like to speak to the Standard we're currently in. Don't want to speak ill of the dead.
Where have you gone with Strength from the Fallen? Have you gone a reanimation route, or a more traditional aggro direction? Bet you came up with something funky, too!