From Charlotte To Nyx

Tom Ross writes about the two decks he played to the Top 8 of the SCG Season One Invitational in Charlotte and a few new cards in Journey into Nyx.

A couple weekends ago I was fortunate enough to play in the Top 8 of the Season One Invitational of the SCG Open Series in Charlotte. I had high hopes of being immortalized on either a poison counter token or an Akroan Crusader 1/1 red Soldier, but I have to give a big congratulations to Derrick Sheets for winning the whole thing. The Swan Song token is super awesome and does a great job portraying Derrick’s personality.


I liked my deck choices for the Invitational. Control was in big numbers in Standard as expected, and aggro fared well overall. I’ve been tweaking Infect in Legacy and was glad to see it perform well against some of the country’s best.

The deck performed well enough for an 8-0 record in the Swiss portion of the event. I played a couple tough matchups along the way, including Mono-Red Burn and Punishing Jund, but somehow I was able to dodge any deck containing Delver of Secrets until the quarterfinal. Against decks that can’t put an actual clock on me like Elves, Sneak and Show, and Miracles, it feels like I have infinite time to sculpt the game state to where I can kill them in one shot or can grind them enough with small poisonous attacks to where they have to act fast, which usually means dropping their shields down and allowing me to finish them off with the Invigorate or Vines of Vastwood they were playing around the whole time.

Stifle has lost some of its value. For a time it seemed like people had forgotten about it and disregarded it when sequencing their plays. Hitting a fetch land with a Stifle was often enough to set the opponent too far back to be able to recover in time. The pair of Stifle does complement the four copies of Daze maindeck very well, and I imagine that the entire package must be taken in or out of the deck as a whole.

I like to keep my opponents guessing, and if they’re already playing around Daze and Stifle, then there is added value to not playing them in the deck at all. Spell Pierce is a similar card that fluctuates in value based on how much play it has been seeing lately and how cognizant players are of its existence. Maindeck removal like Swords to Plowshares and Nature’s Claim can be blowouts when they’re not expected.

As of right now Berserk is the only "removal" in the maindeck. This requires the opponent to be attacking with an unwanted creature and for me to accept taking double damage from that creature to remove it. Although a bit versatile, it’s incredibly inefficient and is quite easy to play around. Once the opponent gets their Painter’s Servant killed by a Berserk trying to get in that "free" point of damage, they’ll never do it again for example.

At the end of my last Modern Infect article, I jokingly mentioned that I likely wouldn’t be alone playing Infect in Charlotte. The truth is that I didn’t see anyone else playing Infect, but I don’t believe it’s because no one thought it was good or didn’t want to play it. Several people I talked to just couldn’t find the necessary commons to complete the deck. No one carries around Invigorate in their binders, and it’s too niche of a card to carry at the dealer booths. I had to personally request for the dealers to pick up Invigorates for me or else I wouldn’t even have found the ones I have.

Before the event I made a rather ineffective plea for Piracy Charm. Obscure for sure, I wished I had thought of the card before getting in the car for the fourteen-hour trip from Baton Rouge. It’s a multimodal card that fills in quite a few small holes without much opportunity cost. +2/-1 is the main attraction since it functions as a removal spell that pitches to Force of Will against Dark Confidant, Grim Lavamancer, an unflipped Delver of Secrets, and pretty much every card out of Death and Taxes and Elves. I imagine the evasion of Islandwalk and the discard effect might come up (say with a Show and Tell on the stack and them having one card in hand).

For Standard I wanted to play something that got the rounds over quickly. In such a large tournament one only has so much mental energy to spend over the weekend, and I feel that long drawn-out mirrors can take a larger toll on people than they realize they’re signing up for. I settled on R/G Aggro, which I affectionately call Boss Blitz, though I doubt the deck will be popular enough for the name to stick. It was good for the weekend at least.

My Standard deck was good but nothing special. I can’t see the deck as something that could win a large tournament without things falling right into place. It was a deck that I felt was great against Esper Control and Mono-Black Devotion and terrible against R/W Burn and G/R/x Monsters. Due to this high variance, I wouldn’t like the deck in an Open, but I think it was fine for the Invitational, where you can afford a few losses and what matters is having a high win percentage over many rounds.

The sideboard is a bit too geared toward removing small creatures. I was deathly afraid of Satyr Firedancer going into the event and definitely oversideboarded for it. A few Mizzium Mortars should be in the sideboard somewhere, likely over Magma Jet. It’s tough to say how good this deck is moving forward, but hopefully Journey into Nyx brings something to the table.

And speaking of Journey into Nyx, a few of the cards have caught my eye. Like Temple of Enlightenment from Born of the Gods, I feel that Temple of Malady will be one of the most impactful cards for Standard. Various G/B Midrange decks have been missing this piece of the mana base puzzle, embarrassingly relying on Golgari Guildgate to function. While my build of Jund Midrange was largely overshadowed by its cousin Jund Monsters, I feel like a more G/B-focused build of Jund is due for a resurgence.

Surely to best friends with Boros Reckoner, it’s unclear whether the better home for Iroas is in the R/W Devotion decks of the past or in W/R Aggro. Iroas feels most like a Frontline Medic with haste, and his value will be maximized on turns where your opponent was trying to set up a block against your creatures. Turning Iroas into a creature will often be overkill and I imagine will merely serve to finish lopsided games even faster.

I like how Keranos doesn’t require you to have creatures in play or need you to cast more creatures to be relevant. One-sided Howling Mine effects have typically cost five mana, and this guy will usually outperform the extra card with the free Lightning Bolt trigger. Since the Izzet color combination is known for its instant/sorcery, counter/burn, draw/go styles of play, it’s no surprise that the design of Keranos doesn’t rely too much on you controlling permanents.

The natural pairing for this card is Sphinx’s Revelation given the ability to store a large amount of mana and then avoid discarding everything. Prime Speaker Zegana is a great combo as well since she provides four devotion on her own and only requires one other green or blue permanent to be in play to trigger drawing four cards from seeing Kruphix in play on resolution. You probably don’t need anything special in your deck to make use of the stored colorless mana, as likely having a Polukranos, World Eater as an outlet will be enough.

I like the flavor of this card as a precursor to Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. The second +1 helps find her, and the first +1 complements the tokens that Elspeth makes. The -8 looks like it’s begging to get Skullcracked, but I imagine it’s a little better than it looks, though doing nothing to directly affect the board nor giving you an emblem isn’t what we’re used to in planeswalker ultimates. 100 life is certainly beatable, but I think it’s a larger number than it’ll get credit for initially. Every deck in Standard wins by eventually dealing twenty damage one way or another, so I feel like 100 will end up being closer to "infinite" than not and just like other ultimates will be hard to overcome.

What is your favorite card from Journey into Nyx so far?