Is Brimaz Overrated?

Prepare for Standard at the SCG Open Series in Somerset, New Jersey this weekend by reading what Michael thinks about playing Brimaz, King of Oreskos in the current metagame.

Mono-Blue Devotion, Mono-Black Devotion, and U/W/x Control were the triumvirate of Standard, and many were hoping Born of the Gods would offer tools to push a few more decks into tier 1 range. The SCG Open Series in Nashville had six different archetypes in the Top 8. The one that looks the best to me is G/R Monsters piloted by Kent Ketter.

The deck seems very good. It has four of all the most powerful cards, one and two of cards that get significantly worse in multiples, and a diversified sideboard ready for multiple matchups. I encourage anyone who wants to play the archetype to start here before making significant changes.

Courser of Kruphix doing well is not surprising. What was unexpected to me was the amount of Brimaz, King of Oreskos. I did not think it would be so widely played, as it’s extremely poorly positioned in the current Standard metagame. Don’t just take my word for it—let’s measure how Brimaz stacks up against other Standard staples.

Cards Brimaz is on the losing end of:

Courser of Kruphix Polukranos, World Eater Ghor-Clan Rampager Stormbreath Dragon Master of Waves Advent of the Wurm Domestication Nightveil Specter Mizzium Mortars Banisher Priest Blood Baron of Vizkopa Pack Rat Fanatic of Mogis Boros Reckoner

These are all cards that are massively advantaged against Brimaz and ones that I would much rather be playing with. Courser of Kruphix and Nightveil Specter can’t kill him but do block the token and provide card advantage, as I would certainly pay a 1/1 token or three life a turn for their other abilities. Domestication is a nightmare, and the rest of the list just smashes the poor leonin.

Brimaz trades or is even with:

Detention Sphere Hero's Downfall Frostburn Weird Mutavault Burning-Tree Emissary Gray Merchant of Asphodel Boon Satyr Brimaz, King of Oreskos

These are all cards that basically trade (I don’t consider the 1/1 to be worth much). Burning-Tree Emissary is listed here because she rarely comes alone and can easily double block Brimaz with a friend. Amusingly, Brimaz facing himself leads to a complete standoff, as the attacker would get killed by the 1/1 vigilance made in blocking.

Cards dependent on who gets to play first and the enemy has none of the following:

Domri Rade Xenagos, the Reveler Desecration Demon Lifebane Zombie

Domri Rade coming out first would allow a four-drop to come down and fight the 3/4 the following turn. Xenagos, the Reveler can make a pair of 2/2s, easily blocking Brimaz down. Lifebane Zombie can swing past and simply rip Brimaz from the hand. And Desecration Demon is just too big to fight and can stop being tapped continuously with just a Mutavault blocking the attacking 1/1.

Compare that to Standard staples like Desecration Demon; Master of Waves; Stormbreath Dragon; and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, which only lose to each other, and you see what I’m talking about when I say Brimaz is poorly positioned.

There are four reasons I can fathom why Brimaz would be so widely played despite its numerous shortcomings.

1. Brimaz was highly touted by many set reviewers. This led to a self-fulfilling prophecy where people just played it because they were told to. This being the first weekend of legality, people may not know its power level and want to try it out. This is likely, as people were playing tribute cards in the Top 32 as well.

2. Mono-Black Devotion has replaced Devour Flesh with Bile Blight. This change is quite positive for a 3/4, and I will readily admit that a completely unanswered Brimaz is quite good.

3. The only archetype not well represented in the list was U/W Control. Their spot removal is Last Breath, and they would almost certainly board out Supreme Verdict in the mirror. Being on the draw and facing Brimaz could lead to a four-outer for the opponent (Detention Sphere) that has to be on time or they’ll be facing a lethal attack in a few turns with numerous counterspells to protect the strategy. This is likely a result of people not having Glare of Heresy, which in the future will make this a nonissue.

4. The comparison to hard-hitting Standard staples is perhaps a bit unfair, and I should try to evaluate Brimaz as a role player instead. Even doing this makes Brimaz come up short, as then he is just a 3/4 on offense and 4/4 on defense, similar to Loxodon Smiter. The problem is the Elephant has not been playable for months, though I admit that may be a product of Soldier of the Pantheon and Tidebinder Mage, cards Brimaz is significantly better at defeating.

I suppose there could be a fifth reason.

5. I’m wrong.

I was going to just write it off as me being a silly goose when I reviewed the tournament results from another Standard event this past weekend: the Sunday Super Series Championship. There Makihito Mihara played what seemed to be an updated version of Shota Takao’s Esper deck from Grand Prix Shizuoka.

This seems like a Brimaz deck that understands my concerns and addresses them. Spear of Heliod does double duty, turning the King into a 4/5 making 2/2 attackers. This change alone addresses a majority of the cards, but the list goes even further in clearing the way with eight removal spells, two Imposing Sovereigns to keep bigger creatures out of the way for at least one attack step, and four Lyev Skyknights for detaining those that dare stand in the King’s way. In addition, there’s Ephara, God of the Polis, which further rewards every clear attack with drawing a card off the token.

The list does seem to be hastily put together however. A mere twelve black sources for the four double black cards seems far too few, as does the eleven blue sources for the eleven to thirteen blue cards in the deck. Temple of Enlightenment and Temple of Silence surely do good work in scrying the way to missing pieces, but I can’t help but think this is entirely too greedy. Obzedat, Ghost Council and his partner in crime Whip of Erebos are certainly insurance against Supreme Verdict decks, but its possible Ephara can pick up some slack if we cut black entirely.

Working with two-color aggro decks the past several months in Standard has jaded me. The decks constantly have double color requirements for their best cards, and just running Ravnica shock lands and Guildgates leads us to commonly having fifteen or sixteen of each mana source. Green two-color decks have to massively overload on mana sources with Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid just to be able to cast spells on time. We don’t have access to Sylvan Caryatid here, but do we do have another option.

Often thought of as only a combo with Pain Seer to get a card immediately, there are actually a few more synergies in Standard.

Burning-Tree Emissary + Three-Drop

The Drum on paper is a way to ramp from two to four with mana fixing, but there is one card that makes it function more like Birds of Paradise. A turn 1 Springleaf Drum into Burning-Tree Emissary grants us G/R and one mana of any other color on turn 2. Some spicy plays might be Abrupt Decay, Putrefy, Courser of Kruphix, Domri Rade, Thoughtseize, or Dreadbore. These aren’t all for this deck, of course, but simply something to keep in mind.

Precinct Captain, Archangel of Thune, Brimaz, & Ephara

This one is a little more complex, but hear me out. Precinct Captain and Brimaz both offer 1/1 tokens that are untapped, allowing us to get mana ramp from Springleaf Drum and still keep the pressure on while attacking. Imagine turn 1 Springleaf Drum; turn 2 Precinct Captain; turn 3 attack, make a token, use the token with Drum to cast Ephara, draw a card. I would find it very hard to lose from that scenario.

Throw in a copy or two of Archangel of Thune, a card that has been making waves against Mono-Blue Devotion because it makes their life miserable, and all of a sudden your tokens that helped accelerate you and drew you cards can start attacking your opponent. On top of all of this, you can stay on curve with your big white creatures and still have mana for Brave the Elements due to Springleaf Drum.

I’m hoping that what works for G/R Monsters can work here as well, with having so many mana sources being balanced out by having powerful accelerated threats in Archangel and Domestication and card draw similar to Domri with Ephara. Spear of Heliod and Domestication is sort of a nombo, but the only creatures with three power we’re taking are Boros Reckoner and Brimaz. I have complete confidence to play around our own cards, and I think the possibility of taking Nightveil Specter (turning on Ephara with devotion) and Courser of Kruphix to be well worth the risk. Using Brave the Elements for an all-out attack is also quite rewarding with Bident of Thassa in play.

Born of the Gods is released on Monday for Magic Online, and I look forward to streaming some release Sealed events next week and trying Standard with some new brews. The fun starts at 3:00 PM EST, so hopefully you can join me.

Do you think Brimaz is overrated? Does Springleaf Drum have a place in Standard?