Preview season has once again come and gone, and now the real fun begins.
War of the Spark pulled no punches in previewing a swath of unique, powerful, and creative cards that we the players now must begin to piece together to find the decks that will rise to the top this new Standard season.
Many of you who read my content regularly know how much of a fan I am of Nexus of Fate in Standard. The most infamous Buy-A-Box promo of all time typically sees either a ton of love from people like me or incredible vitriol from those who have the day the card rotates from Standard marked on their calendar. Now that all the cards from War of the Spark have been previewed, my attention has already turned to improving Nexus of Fate / Wilderness Reclamation strategies to make them even more powerful.
Step one in this endeavor was creating a list of the cards that pass even the minimum criteria for consideration for this archetype. I'll break these cards down individually throughout the rest of this article, but here's the short list:
This list still features cards on the lower end in terms of the likelihood they'll ultimately make the cut, but for the purposes of educating myself and the masses, they've made the list for now.
Let's get this breakdown started.
I'm writing this article while listening to the latest episode of the GAM Podcast in which they wrapped up their three-part installment of their initial impressions of War of the Spark cards. Tamiyo, Collector of Tales was covered in this episode, and fellow Nexus of Fate aficionado Bryan Gottlieb seemed very high on this card, calling it a very likely inclusion in Simic Nexus.
I hadn't really put too much thought into Tamiyo up to this stage, but it got me thinking, and it made me tank a bit on how the plus ability would function in a Nexus of Fate deck. Her static ability doesn't have too much applicability in most cases, but I could see it having some benefit in sideboard games against decks that utilize cards like Duress and Thought Erasure to pick apart your hand. She does notably stop the first chapter of The Eldest Reborn, a card that occasionally sees fringe play, as well.
The plus ability does a good job at digging you towards exactly what you're looking for (which, in most cases, is more Nexus of Fates). As long as you are meticulous in calculating your odds on finding what you're looking for, you will either be finding or working towards finding the named card a good percentage of the time. The cards that don't match the named card end up in your graveyard, so the -3 ability lets you nab a card you might need in a pinch the following turn, very similar to how Karn, Scion of Urza functions.
Overall, I'm interested. Tamiyo comes in with a lot of loyalty, and she makes for a fantastic follow-up to a Wilderness Reclamation turn where you can hold up mana to protect her. Her plus ability offers a lot of synergy with what the rest of the deck has historically done, especially in regard to the graveyard. Binning Chemister's Insights off her plus to keep the ball rolling with the jump-start side of the card lets you keep working towards thinning your deck and taking infinite turns.
Ral is a bit of a question mark, but the dream scenarios he presents cannot be understated. His static ability plays well towards winning the game, meaning that a Temur Nexus list utilizing a high number of copies could serve as its own win condition, allowing you to make room for more utility cards. The plus ability is the worst ability on the card by a significant margin, but it still does something, and it also allows Ral to sit at a cool six loyalty, meaning he needs little help in surviving a turn against creature decks.
The minus, however, is where the real potential lies. There is no converted mana cost restriction on what you get to copy with this ability, unlike Expansion//Explosion, meaning the possibility of copying Nexus of Fate is on the table. This is not insignificant, as that one extra turn you can take to push towards going infinite with only a single copy of Ral can make or break you in any given game, especially against opponents pressuring you.
Ultimately, this card requires a likely shift back to three-color Nexus decks. The de facto Nexus of Fate deck of Ravnica Allegiance Standard was Simic Nexus, and Temur Reclamation was another popular non-Nexus Wilderness Reclamation deck that saw play, so I find it highly unlikely Ral does not find a home somewhere.
Teferi gets my attention due to his possible inclusion in this archetype, but also in part due to how the static ability leads to severe headaches for Nexus decks moving forward. Being unable to utilize the mana Wilderness Reclamation typically gifts us each end step presents a fairly large problem, so it will take some time to figure out how to best adapt.
By nature, Nexus / Reclamation decks typically don't utilize that many sorcery-speed spells, so I don't see the plus here being particularly useful. The minus is nice, getting rid of pesky Conclave Tribunals as well as large creatures, and does draw a card. My pre-testing analysis wants me to believe this card will do more against us than for us, and like Ral, this card forces us back to a three-color deck that would probably rather play the other Teferi instead.
The last planeswalker to show up on this list, and the only uncommon, Saheeli has garnered a lot of attention from the community at large due to her similarity to Young Pyromancer, Monastery Mentor, and Murmuring Mystic, all cards that have historically seen at least some play due to how well they operate in decks chock-full of instants and sorceries. In Nexus of Fate decks, she does offer another reasonable win condition, especially when going infinite, and at only three mana, she works well with the other setup instants and sorceries to pad our life total.
The minus ability does fairly little in this deck for now, so that ability is a bit of a miss. I think Saheeli might serve nicely as a solid, difficult-to-answer win condition, especially against control decks, though I don't know if she is a more potent threat than Murmuring Mystic. One dies to creature removal, while the other can be simply attacked down, so perhaps they each have their place in different metagames.
A Pauper staple and reprint, Augur of Bolas once against joins us in Standard, and given its history, I imagine it will see plenty of play. Nexus decks are likely in the market for this card, as creating an early roadblock that provides card selection is exactly what this deck was in the market for. Too often, Search for Azcanta is too slow against the more aggressive decks in this current Standard format, so I envision some number of those could be shaved to make room for Augur.
Sorcery-speed draw spells of this type typically don't find themselves in control decks due to the fact that they require the player to tap out on what is likely a critical turn to draw the amount of cards that would make this card worth it. At X=4, Finale of Revelation is just a sorcery-speed Opportunity, which isn't really what decks like Esper Control are interested in.
Introduce Wilderness Reclamation into the equation, however, and the game changes completely. First off, Nexus decks are also Growth Spiral decks, meaning the deck does provide at least some amount of ramp, and a card like this is a nice payoff. Most importantly, I'm more than happy to tap out to cast this spell for some huge amount with a Wilderness Reclamation on the battlefield. I could Finale of Revelation card being utilized in some number, though I doubt it would be more than one to two copies.
A solid body at a great rate with a relevant ability. A practically unremovable win condition makes this card difficult for control decks to deal with long-term, and the copy ability on even something as tiny as an Opt can go a long way towards finding all the tools you need to win the game.
This card is sure to make waves in multiple formats. Putting what is essentially the ability of Engineered Explosives onto a land is quite potent, and while it is slightly slower overall to put counters on as well as detonate, being able to be played as a land is no small benefit. Typically, Simic Nexus plays one to two copies of Arch of Orazca, so it is possible that some numbers of Blast Zone could supplant those spots.
Due to Nexus / Reclamation decks typically being very good at generating a lot of mana very quickly, this card can likely be used to deal with just about any problematic permanent from the other side of the table. I envision Blaze Zone being particularly strong against decks like Azorius Aggro and Mono-Red Aggro, as both decks play with plenty of small one-mana creatures that Blast Zone can wipe up quickly.
I'm sure there are a few cards not on this list that I'll try to test as SCG Richmond looms ever nearer, but for now, here are two decklists I would like to try. One is Temur to try Ral, Storm Conduit, while the other is an update to traditional Simic Nexus.
As I mentioned above, this list tries to utilize Ral, Storm Conduit to try to copy critical spells to gain an overwhelming advantage. This decklist shaves a copy of Nexus of Fate to make some room for some extra utility cards. I want to start with three copies of Augur of Bolas, as there are a handful of cards that it can't find, like Wilderness Reclamation and Ral himself. This list also features another infinite combo:
- Use the minus ability of Ral, Storm Conduit.
- Cast an instant or sorcery, like Opt or Growth Spiral.
- Hold priority and cast Expansion, choosing the copy mode.
- Before the first Expansion resolves, cast another Expansion, targeting the first Expansion.
- Use the copied Expansion to copy the first Expansion on the stack.
- Do this infinitely.
- Each cast will trigger Ral's passive ability, creating an infinite damage loop.
This was originally featured in Todd Anderson's article last week, but his lists focused more on the Temur Reclamation deck, sans Nexus. I think playing both combos in one shell is feasible here, as the cards are still fine on their own.
The sideboard is a typical Week 1 sideboard: the full set of Fiery Cannonade for aggro decks; four Negates for control decks; and a smattering of midrange threats, some new toys, to test and tinker with to shore up the rest of the field.
Little has changed here, as the Simic Nexus decks were already quite tuned. Shaving on Search for Azcanta to make room for Augur of Bolas serves to shore up the aggressive matchups as previously mentioned. God-Eternal Kefnet serves as the deck's maindeck win condition in this build, and running two copies seems like a good amount to start with to see how it meshes with the rest of the shell. The sideboard features an extra copy of Blast Zone to serve as a makeshift Engineered Explosives for the decks you really want the effect against.
The Wilderness Reclamation and/or Nexus of Fate decks from Ravnica Allegiance Standard were well-oiled machines heading into the final weeks of the season. The new cards from War of the Spark have a lot to prove if they aim to supplant some of the cards in those lists. The lists I've provided here offer a solid starting point that aim to explore what these cards can really do without disrupting the best elements of the pre-existing shells. I look forward to fine tuning these decks as we head into an exciting debut of War of the Spark Standard at SCG Richmond in a couple of weeks.
Lastly, I have been granted the awesome opportunity to participate in the Magic Arena War of the Spark preview streaming event tomorrow and will assuredly be giving these decks a spin. If you're interested in seeing these decks in action, be sure to follow my Twitch stream so you'll know when I go live!