Journey Into Nyx Set Review Part 2: New Brews!

Prepare for the SCG Standard Open in Cincinnati, Ohio this weekend by reading the second part of Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Patrick Chapin’s review of Journey into Nyx!

Athreos, Pharika, Keranos?


Prophetic Flamespeaker, Ajani, Eidolon of Blossoms?

Build arounds—check.

Deicide, Silence the Believers, Magma Spray?

Trace busters—check.

Mana Confluence, Brain Maggot, Banishing Light?

Perfect reprints to change the texture of the format—check.

Journey into Nyx wasn’t an accident.

. . .

One of the most exciting small sets in years just dropped, and there is no shortage of brewing to be done. Today is the second of three set review articles this week in which we’ll be brewing with basically everything in Journey into Nyx. Monday was primarily focused on updating existing strategies. After all, we gotta know what we’re up against, right?

While we covered a ton of decks Monday, there are a couple notes from the old format that need to be hit. First and foremost is one of the existing archetypes that stands to gain the most from Journey into Nyx: G/B Dredge. To be fair, it’s really the color combination of G/B that gains, not just the self-mill strategy. In fact, there are so many new options for G/B that we could be looking at three or more different G/B decks during the next three months.

The most obvious starting point for G/B decks however is the self-mill approach:

There are just too many cards that synergize with self-mill to play them all, so let’s start with the boss herself:

Pharika is a totally respectable token maker, and even though she has some amount of potential tension with cards like Nighthowler and Nemesis of Mortals, the power level looks like it might be high enough to just do both. She’s not much of a graveyard hate card, but there is a nonzero amount of value there, particularly against Whip of Erebos and Chandra’s Phoenix.

Where Pharika starts getting really outrageous is when you consider just how easy it is to wake her up. We were already playing Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, which singlehandedly gets us to within one. Obviously the Elvish Mystic dream is pretty crazy (attacking for five on turn 3), but literally anything gets us there. Part of what’s so sick is that we get to naturally tutor up our Jarad just by continuing to mill ourselves. This means even in a very attrition-based matchup we’re going to consistently be able to get Phariky.

Herald of Torment, Nighthowler, Nemesis of Mortals, Lotleth Troll, Nyx Weaver—we’re not short on devotion-enablers. Speaking of Nyx Weaver . . .

Nyx Weaver is a graveyard enabler, sure, but it’s also a surprisingly potent tutor. With so much dig, we are incentivized to play more ones and twos than we normally would. Nyx Weaver lets us find them easier and reuse them more times. On top of this, its body is surprisingly well positioned. Blocking Nightveil Specter, Chandra’s Phoenix, and most of the plethora of one- and two-drops people use, it just matches up well against a fair chunk of the format.

That it is an enchantment is a slight drawback in the abstract; however, it combos with cards like Strength from the Fallen to add another powerful dimension to the deck. In fact, we can go even further if we want. Kruphix’s Insight is another self-mill card that can capitalize on just how many enchantments we’re playing if we push in that direction. Eidolon of Blossoms could be a part of a build that is even more extreme. Remember, Pharika’s Snakes are enchantments, so Pharika plus Eidolon of Blossoms is actually a pretty disgusting card draw engine.

One of the trickier puzzles to solve in Journey into Nyx is Strength from the Fallen. This card promises absolutely unbelievable power for a very low cost. The catch? It is a noncreature enchantment that needs you to self-mill lots of creatures and then cast lots of enchantments so you can buff your creatures in play. That is a pretty extensive quest. The payoff?

Well, you are regularly going to be able to get twenty or more power in buffs for two mana, so there’s that.

I’m not talking milling twenty creatures, though that will happen some of the time. I’m talking about the fact that you can cast Strength from the Fallen and then immediately follow it up with one of your many other enchantments to pump two different creatures in the same turn (or just the one if it has flying or trample!).

Obviously, we could make Strength from the Fallen stronger by playing more of each of the enchantment creatures, which might be right. We could also want to play a four-of version that sets up a crazy turn where we already have a Strength from the Fallen in play, play a second one, and then play another enchantment for quad damage! Even without that much support, I want to try one in this version due to the combo with Pharika. Once you get both together, you can spend two mana at instant speed to give any creature a giant buff as many times as you want (assuming you can pay both costs). Yes, each one shrinks the next pump by one, but if you give plus nine, plus eight, and plus seven, the game isn’t lasting that much longer. You even get an army of deathtouch Snakes as a bonus!

One of the big puzzles is which one-ofs to use. Grisly Salvage, Commune with Nature, Nyx Weaver, and Kruphix’s Insight are all great at finding them in the right spots, so the first copy of each card can add a lot. Hell, we can even use a Jarad’s Orders if we’re that serious. Remember, it’s not just creatures, as most of those cards can find enchantments too. Whip of Erebos for instance is a super valuable option to be able to look for going medium.

For instance, the first Brain Maggot gives us a very different way to threaten people game 1. Varolz, the Scar-Striped might be another respectable one-of to take over some games; I just hesitate since it exacerbates the tension from Pharika. Eidolon of Blossoms could be the entire point of the deck if we move all in, but even just playing one adds a very different dimension, particularly when we employ the Pharika mondo combo. Shadowborn Demon could be a one-of maindeck to be able to find removal. I just hate how weak it is to Desecration Demon. Agent of Erebos is totally a sideboard-only card, but having just one copy goes a long way toward dominating mirror matches given how easily we can find it.

It’s hard to predict the fallout from so many new options, particularly given how much better G/B is at using ones and twos than most decks. Remember, a lot of decks are going to be lucky to gain one or two cards. For instance, this little guy right here:

Bassara Tower Archer isn’t exactly a breathtaking rate of efficiency, but it does do two things for us—has hexproof and provides devotion. The hexproof side could be utilized by the fringe hexproof decks that are desperate for another "not horrible" hexproof creature.

Going from eight to twelve hexproof creatures is a big gain, even if the card isn’t busted on its own. Unfortunately, we don’t really gain any out of this world Auras to put on hexproof creatures, so this archetype might not get enough to elevate it to the top tier. What it does gain however is Mana Confluence. Yes, a lot of people gain Mana Confluence, but hexproof really needed it since it had too many tapped lands and suspiciously low color-production abilities.

The other side of Bassara Tower Archer is as a devotion enabler. I don’t think it brings enough to the table to be worth it in a big Garruk, Caller of Beasts style of green devotion, but maybe there is some kind of a Reverent Hunter deck that cares to overload the two-drop slot.

That sure is a lot of two-drops adding two devotion, making Aspect of Hydra and Reverent Hunter stronger, but it’s disappointing that Bassara Tower Archer is probably the weakest of all of them (Burning-Tree Emissary, Kalonian Tusker, and Swordwise Centaur).

On the fringe linear beatdown front, we might as well take a look at mono-white Ethereal Armor beatdown. People were already playing this deck (occasionally), and it gains a few options.

Banishing Light is the obvious gain here, but Armament of Nyx might actually turn out to be more important. If it’s good enough (which is really just a question of how many people play big creatures), it is a potential source of removal that isn’t dead against noncreature decks. In fact, in conjunction with bestow creatures you can make a pretty big threat and then give it double strike.

Dictate of Heliod is the enchantment I am most excited about for white aggro, and in fact my guess is that the most successful white aggro decks will warp around it like metalcraft decks did for Tempered Steel. It costs a pretty penny mana-wise, but its impact on the game is enormous.

Sightless Brawler is pretty lame and probably needs to be replaced with someone that does its job when it says it will. We can give ’em a shot, but they are only going to disappoint us. What about Hero of Iroas? It doesn’t save us that much mana or give us that many counters, but maybe it does enough?

Speaking of heroic . . .

More enablers, more heroic creatures—maybe it’s time.

Okay, let’s be serious. The card we really needed was Mana Confluence (as usual).

At this point we can actually play mono-heroic creatures if we want, which has us asking "which heroic cards are the best at multi-targeting?"

Launch the Fleet is the absolute sickest! It can target your entire team easily, creates an overwhelming board presence, and is just good enough to be not embarrassing when you aren’t doing anything fancy. If white heroic is a thing, it is surely Launch the Fleet that makes the archetype possible. Reap What Is Sown is not as strong, but when you’re playing a heroic deck, it’s exactly what you want.

Ajani’s Presence is a pretty poor enabler comparatively but might still be good enough to use. Gods Willing is the obvious rival, but this one does have a reasonable two-target plan. A little extra damage is something, and it can protect our guys from sweepers like Supreme Verdict. Maybe we want a mix, but with this many heroic creatures we should try the ambitious plan first.

Lagonna-Band Trailblazer is a pretty weird dude. Using it in beatdown is a little goofy since it doesn’t exactly hit hard early. It’s an obvious cut here if we want more actual good cards, but we might not have seen the last of it. Luis Scott-Vargas played a 0/4 vanilla creature in the sideboard of Esper Control within the past year, and this is a strict upgrade. What would we be targeting our 0/4 with?


Eh, lame. How about this little number?

Now that is an engine! Maybe work Dawnbringer Charioteers in there? That’s just clean living.

Okay, okay, I guess we could always just update the existing heroic deck:

It’s always so hard to fit everything into these decks since you need a lot of heroic cards and a lot of enablers. Bloodcrazed Hoplite is a rather unexciting possibility, but it’s not out of the question. At least it’s a Human!

If you want to go a little more traditional beatdown, increasing the amount of Gnarled Scarhide is a totally respectable option. It’s got the right cost to power ratio, can be an enabler itself, and can serve as makeshift removal if needed. I just wanted to make sure to try one in here to get a feel for if it is just too good to not play.

Mana Confluence is going to keep showing up in these goofy aggro decks that are desperate for untapped mana early. While I do think people are little too quick to just load up on super pain lands, I also remember Tarnished Citadel.

We haven’t covered it yet, but it is worth remembering that you can cast Nylea’s Presence on Mana Confluence to cheat the system (a combo that would not have worked with City of Brass).

While we’re on the Mana Confluence topic, one of the most obvious places to try it is in Naya. There are a lot of cheap gold cards that push us toward a low mana curve. The problem has been that the only good way to fix a three-color deck’s mana has been Temples—until now.

If we are willing to take a boatload of damage, reliable mana is actually on the table now. But can we really afford to take a boatload of damage? Of course the faster and more aggressive we are, the less likely it is that our opponents will actually be able to punish us for our greed.

What if we go to the extreme?

This build is probably horrible, just too all in, but maybe there are lessons to be learned. Could we really play a deck that actually just starts out:

Turn 1: One-drop
Turn 2: One-Drop, one-drop
Turn 3: One-Drop and removal or Ghor-Clan Rampager

That is a pretty aggressive start and doesn’t even factor in casting Burning-Tree Emissary on turn 2 or Dynacharge on turn 4!

While not quite extreme, I’m actually more excited for the next aggro deck because of this card:

Prophetic Flamespeaker has a rate that is just crazy. It’s not a kind of card that’s usually good, but this one has so much thrown in for free that it’s priced to move. Scroll Thief? What about one that draws two (mostly)? A 1/3? Well, it is a double striker, and there are a lot of good ways to pump it. Trample on a one-power creature? Well, it does mean that the card combos with removal and tricks to draw tons of extra cards.

Obviously everyone wants to try Prophetic Flamespeaker with Ghor-Clan Rampager, but there are a lot of other possibilities. For instance, I really want to try U/x decks, like maybe:

But this style of deck doesn’t actually have to be blue. R/W tempo decks aren’t seen all that much, but with Prophetic Flamespeaker; Precinct Captain; Brimaz, King of Oreskos; Assemble the Legion; and planeswalkers, there are a surprising number of permanents that can generate an advantage each turn for Boros.

In general cheap tricks, cheap removal, and cheap cards are to be paired with Prophetic Flamespeaker since you have to actually cast them that turn to get the value. If you used mana to get it through, your resources will be even more tapped. I could easily imagine this list shaving a lot of the cards that cost four or more to make room for more cheap burn, maybe a couple Banishing Light or Banishing Priest. Note that Stormbreath Dragon has less value here since often we will draw it after combat from the Flamespeaker.

Speaking of Boros, what about Boros Reckoner combo?

Boros Reckoner combo? Which combo this time?

On your opponent’s end step, flash down Dictate of the Twin Gods. Untap and Fated Conflagration your Boros Reckoner. Dictate means the Reckoner takes ten and then deals twenty to your opponent! Warleader’s Helix is only sixteen, but it helps add some much needed redundancy.

Even when we’re not comboing off, we can still play a pretty respectable R/W Burn game. Dictate of the Twin Gods feeds right into this plan.

Speaking of combo decks, what about:

Yes, you sick freak—if you cast both of these cards, no one can ever cast anything ever again. Ever. So you better be even or better on board.

Sphere of Safety isn’t an ideal match with the Rhetoric Storm combo since opponents that are temporarily thwarted by it may be able to draw out of it. After all, they get to keep playing land, while we don’t get to keep casting enchantments. At least the Maze’s End kill ends the game in a reasonable amount of time without casting a spell.

By the way, you’ll notice this list is more than 60. That doesn’t totally mesh with the Maze’s End plan, but one possibility is to just play 64 cards and run people out the long and hard way. Eidolon of Rhetoric can deal twenty itself, but a single Mutavault can brick wall you. Of course, if you have four copies of Mutavault, you can start to get ahead. Eventually.

In all likelihood, the better home for this combo (if anywhere) is in some U/W/R Control shell. You just have to be careful because once you stick a Possibility Storm Sphinx’s Revelation is turned off. Note that I intentionally avoided Mizzium Mortars and other sorceries to ensure that with an active Storm Supreme Verdict is still reliable.

More Sphere of Safety decks have been requested, so let’s keep the party going:

Skybind is a little expensive, but it does work pretty well with Agoraphobia. Once it gets going it is a pretty powerful thing to be doing in your Eidolon of Blossoms deck.

Recently we discussed a build of this sort of Enchantress style deck, but Kruphix’s Insight plus Maze’s End just doesn’t work since milling a Guildgate ruins you. You could play a bunch of Nyx Weaver, but you could also just cut one or the other. Cutting the Kruphix’s Insight doesn’t require much change, so this is a look at cutting the Maze runner package.

Speaking of Bant do-nothing decks, what about Turbo Fog powered by Dictate of Kruphix?

A Howling Mine that you get to draw off of first is actually super sweet. It makes Howling Mine basically a cantrip, not to mention the fact that the card’s flash gives you a lot of options. There are a lot of different power levels of Howling Mines. This is one of the best.

This is another place we might want Maze’s End, but here’s a "clean" version.

My god do I hope this deck doesn’t become tier 1. Want to troll your friends? Knock yourself out. But man, take this to Friday Night Magic and people are going to get angry.

And like that, I’m out for today. However, there is still an ungodly amount of brewing to do, so I’ll be back on Friday with the conclusion of Journey into Nyx.

Last chance for requests!