Born Of The Gods U/W & Courser Of Kruphix

Huey writes about how he did at Grand Prix Vancouver, the Born of the Gods cards he’s excited to try in U/W Control, and some Courser of Kruphix brews he thinks have potential.

Last weekend I headed north of the border to play at a Standard Grand Prix in Vancouver. Once again my deck of choice was the U/W Control list that Andrew Cuneo designed, which I previously piloted to a second-place finish at Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth. A lot of people asked me if I still thought that this was the best deck, and my answer to them was basically this: 

I think a lot of decks in Standard are capable of competing at the top level, but this is the deck and the type of deck that I’m most comfortable with. I like the type of games that the deck lends itself to, and I like the overall strategy of control decks in general. So while it might not be the best choice for everyone, I thought it was the deck that I’d both enjoy playing the most and would give me the best chance to do well in the tournament.

Here is the list I played:

The only difference from Dallas to Vancouver in the maindeck was that I chose to play one copy of Last Breath over one copy of Ratchet Bomb. Ratchet Bomb is fairly underwhelming. It’s good at killing opposing Detention Spheres, but the deck doesn’t even really have many targets for Detention Sphere in game 1. Against decks where you’re Bombing away opposing Detention Spheres, you very likely have your own Detention Spheres in play with opposing planeswalkers or whatever else under them anyway. Last Breath has become more powerful in the Standard metagame as well thanks in no small part to Mutavault seeing more and more play even in control decks, against which a card like Ratchet Bomb would often be dead.

I ended up finishing in nineteenth place, losing my "win and in" in the final round of the Swiss to Jon Stern playing Mono-Black Devotion. Jon also eliminated me from the Top 8 of Grand Prix Louisville earlier in the season, putting me to 0-2 against him in my career. I’m definitely looking forward to my chance to avenge those two very important losses.

With the Prerelease coming up this weekend, I’ve continued thinking about Born of the Gods, its effect on Standard, and especially what cards might find a home in my favorite Standard deck, which is of course U/W Control.

Destroying all creatures and planeswalkers at instant speed is an insanely powerful effect. The fact that if you play it on your own turn you get to scry 2 does add a little bit of value to the card but most likely won’t come into play against the decks where Fated Retribution will really shine. Due to the fact that against aggressive strategies you still need to rely heavily on Supreme Verdict to be cast very early in the game so you don’t get overrun, I only expect to see one or very rarely two copies in a control deck. Drawing two early in the game is a disaster, and against decks without a lot of creatures, having six sweepers is a lot. Although it costs seven mana, Fated Retribution will certainly see some play, at the very least as a sideboard card.

Against a deck like G/R Monsters, Fated Retribution will be a true bomb. One of the biggest challenges against G/R Monsters is that you’re forced to tap out on your own turn to deal with cards like Mistcutter Hydra; Domri Rade; Xenagos, the Reveler; and Stormbreath Dragon. Having a tool at your disposal with the ability to wipe up all those cards at instant speed and then have all your mana available on the following turn to keep control of the game with counterspells should prove to be amazing.

Revoke Existence is a card that is going to provide access to a removal spell for a lot of problem cards for control decks. Although likely a sideboard card, being able to have access to a card that removes Erebos, God of the Dead; Underworld Connections; Whip of Erebos; Thassa, God of the Sea; and Bident of Thassa, should prove especially useful. The fact that this is the first reasonable answer to the indestructible Gods outside of Detention Sphere is particularly exciting. Now you won’t have to worry about saving your Detention Spheres or counterspells for Gods because you simply don’t have any other answers.

Nullify is a card that I think is flying a little bit under the radar. Although you’re paying two blue instead of one blue and one colorless like you would for Essence Scatter, the ability to counter an Aura is very relevant for a control deck in the current Standard.

Nullify’s Aura-countering ability will prove especially useful against Mono-Black Devotion. One problem in that matchup is when the control deck is on the draw it can be very difficult to counter a turn 3 Underworld Connections. The only counterspells that see much play and are capable of answering Underworld Connections for two mana are Negate and Syncopate. Negate has the problem of being pretty bad in the matchup if you aren’t using it to counter exactly Underworld Connections or occasionally later in the game using it to counter a discard spell to protect one of your better counterspells or Sphinx’s Revelation. Syncopate gets worse as the game goes on because its effective cost goes up and up since you need to spend more and more mana to counter your opponent’s spells.

Nullify can counter nearly every card from Mono-Black Devotion. The exceptions of course are the discard spells and the removal spells. Other than Hero’s Downfall, the removal spells are nearly dead against the control deck anyway and often sideboarded out. But for two blue mana being able to counter Underworld Connections, Nightveil Specter, Desecration Demon, Pack Rat, and Erebos is a real bargain. It almost feels like the card Counterspell in that specific matchup. It’s true that against most other decks Nullify is going to be a slightly worse Essence Scatter, but with the popularity of the black deck, I think the ability to counter Underworld Connections will make up for the difference.

Here are some Auras that a deck like Mono-Blue Devotion or another non-control blue-based strategy that emerges might want to counter:

Boon Satyr Chained to the Rocks Domestication Madcap Skills Soul Ransom Unflinching Courage

So Nullify could see some play as a sideboard card outside of control decks.

Finally! There’s not a ton to say about this scry land except that if you’re planning to play a deck that can support Supreme Verdict, Nullify, and Fated Retribution having access to twelve lands that produce both blue and white mana will prove very helpful.

Here is the U/W deck in the same vein as Andrew Cuneo’s list that I look forward to trying when Born of the Gods is released:

In addition to thinking about U/W, I’ve been checking the preview cards daily and was recently very pleased when I saw this guy:

I think Courser of Kruphix has the potential to be the most powerful card in Born of the Gods. The ability to play lands for "free" off the top of your deck is one that is extremely powerful and very easy to take advantage of. Think for a second about having the ability to play lands from the top of your deck. Imagine that you are disallowed from doing anything else to further enhance the ability. Just the ability alone is going to provide you with both real card advantage and card selection.

The fact that every time you start your main phase if the top card of your deck is a land you get to put it into play and then draw a different random card on the following turn means you are less likely to draw lands in your draw phase after the Courser is in play. Also, you are obviously much less likely to miss land drops. Now factor in that you can actually use various effects, most notably scry, to further manipulate the top of your library, especially when you know exactly what’s coming, and you’ll start to realize how truly powerful the Courser could be.

One approach would be to combine Courser of Kruphix with Chandra, Pyromaster and Domri Rade. Both cards are planeswalkers that generate an effect by using the top card of your library. Both cards have a significant effect depending on the quality of your top card, and both cards’ effects are made significantly more powerful if you know exactly what your top card is. In addition to simply being able to know that your top card is a spell you want to cast with Chandra or a creature that you get to put into your hand with Domri, both cards allow you to get "through" your top card and attempt to find a land card that might be deeper in your library in order to get maximum effectiveness from the Courser. Scry lands and other cards with scry will have a similar effect.

Another approach would be a deck that uses cards that allow you to play multiple lands in a turn. This way you can play multiple lands per turn right off the top of your deck, and we can treat our deck more like a ramp deck and try to use the mana to play very potent threats. We will still want to have scry lands at the very least for card selection so that we can be sure to play as many lands as possible from the top of our library.

The most obvious way to put multiple lands into play seems to be Kiora, the Crashing Wave. Interestingly, in combination with Courser of Kruphix, Kiora actually helps with card selection. Given that her minus ability will draw you a card as well as allow you to play an extra land, you can base your timing off using that ability versus using her plus ability by what card is on the top of your library.

Another card that will allow you to play two lands in a turn is Urban Evolution. Urban Evolution is a bit trickery because after it resolves you’ll likely be at the mercy of your deck as to whether or not you get to play a card off the top. But keep in mind that even if every land you’re putting into play isn’t from the top of your deck it’s okay. You’ll still be able to get plenty ahead on mana and put plenty of lands into play from your library; it doesn’t have to be every single one.

I included Primeval Bounty in the above deck just because I think it is a very powerful card, especially when you’re going to put a land into play almost every turn. I am including more copies in this deck since I feel the same way except now we’re often putting multiple lands into play per turn. Primeval Bounty is also a very realistic win condition in a deck that is drawing lots of cards.

Here is a list to try:

What do you guys think about Courser of Kruphix? Are there any combos with it that I might be missing? Any cool interactions I didn’t mention?

I’m very excited for the Prerelease this weekend. (Speaking of which, what color should I choose at the Prerelease and why?) I tend to really enjoy my first Limited experiences with new Magic sets, and I often find that once I see how cards play, even in Limited, I have a better feel for their potential in Constructed. I’m really curious to see if anything strikes me this weekend that I may have overlooked. Good luck to all of you in your Prerelease this weekend and enjoy Born of the Gods!