Keranos, God Of Storms

Get excited for the release of Journey into Nyx in a couple of weeks as Patrick brews in Standard with Keranos, God of Storms, one of the new set’s five God cards!

How do we know he’s really there? He never seems to show up to the battle when you need him.

Yeah, but the Lightning Bolts sure do . . .

Keranos, God of Storms is not like other Gods.

Let’s set aside waking him up because let’s be serious—he’s probably waking up less often than most.

Dude needs his sleep.

No problem. I respect that. Throwing that many Lightning Bolts has got to be pretty tiring.

Seriously, how little he wakes up can actually be a pretty big advantage! Just imagine you’re playing against Mono-Black Devotion with Silence the Believers. Do you really want Keranos to get out of bed or just keep giving ’em the business from a distance?

Keranos functions like a planeswalker. For zero mana per turn, he gives you an extra card every turn. About 55 percent of the time it’s a Lightning Bolt, and 45 percent of the time it’s just an extra card off the top of your deck. Both of those options are real great.

Wait, Keranos doesn’t draw you a card the turn you play him. What kind of a planeswalker is this?

True. However, Keranos has another difference from other planeswalkers.

Keranos is indestructible.

He doesn’t die to the attack phase.

He doesn’t die to Lightning Strike.

He doesn’t die to Hero’s Downfall.

He can’t even be stopped by Pithing Needle!

Keranos is a pretty serious card advantage engine that will change the landscape of Standard. Just think about how devastating this card is against Mono-Black Devotion! Yes, they can Thoughtseize it (like everything else); however they can’t Duress it, Bile Blight it, or Hero’s Downfall it, and it dominates Underworld Connections in the head to head.

It’s funny. Often the U/R part of a cycle is all fancy, requiring lots of thinking about how to make it work. Keranos is actually the exact opposite of this. It is crystal clear how to use the card, what the two possibilities are, and what the chances are. Hell, you can even use Temples to help arrange to get what you want next turn!

What is the downside? Well, outside of costing five (which is a very real drawback), Keranos does leak information like crazy to your opponent. He only shows one card a turn, but that is generally going to add up to almost two-thirds of your cards (depending on how much other card drawing you do). This loss of information is not that big a deal, but it is a cost.

Let’s try brewing with his storminess a bit, shall we?

Up first is the literal most obvious place to try Keranos, a U/W/R Control deck:

Here Keranos actually has pretty serious competition. It’s not that he’s bad by any means; it’s just that Sphinx’s Revelation; Elspeth, Sun’s Champion; Assemble the Legion; and Aetherling are pretty intense competition for the expensive card slots.

Without realistic hopes of waking Keranos up, he really is just an indestructible planeswalker in this build. That said, that is definitely something we’re interested in. Yeah, I guess you can assemble a whole bunch of Detention Sphere, your Assemble the Legion, and a Jace, but mostly we’re just looking to draw extra cards and send a Lightning Bolt flying every other turn.

U/W/R may not have Thoughtseize, but it does have access to a lot of durable threats and a lot better mix of sweepers (Supreme Verdict, Mizzium Mortars, and Anger of the Gods). Counterflux also provides a pretty sweet trump (for the games where it doesn’t get Thoughtseized). Finally, Wear // Tear may not seem like a big deal, but with the huge increase in enchantment creatures in Journey to Nyx, it is going to be relevant more often. Maybe Revoke Existence is better due to being able to hit Gods, but Wear // Tear is not only (usually) half the mana and instant speed, but it also has the possibility of a Whip of Erebos or Bident of Thassa blowout.

Wait a minute. With Keranos available to help make up for Sphinx’s Revelation and Elspeth, do we even need white?

Good point! Let’s take a look at what a straight U/R Control list might look like:

Ahh, of course, a deck even less likely to wake up Keranos than the first!

In all seriousness, U/R appreciates Keranos even more than U/W/R. First of all, you need the heavy hitter power to help make up for no Elspeth. Second, you need the extra cards to make up for no Sphinx’s Revelation. Finally, the extra Bolts are better somewhat because of burn and Mutavault, but more importantly Keranos helps ease the pressure of planeswalkers (which are a bigger problem without Detention Sphere).

The tough thing is answering why we are doing this. Yes, our mana isn’t nearly as "tapped," but we also have seven fewer Temples. Instead, we’ve got cards like Izzet Guildgate.

Meanwhile, we’ve got Anger of the Gods instead of Supreme Verdict, Fated Conflagration and Claustrophobia instead of Detention Sphere, Opportunity instead of Sphinx’s Revelation, and more Keranos and Aetherling to help make up for no Elspeth. Hrmm.

By the way, I know Claustrophobia seems kind of loose, but it’s really not that bad. U/R has a serious weakness to big creatures, and Claustrophobia is like a three-mana removal spell for most creatures that also happens to contribute to a possible Keranos longshot. Mizzium Mortars, Anger of the Gods, Shock, and more all mean small creatures can be dealt with in a variety of ways. What about Polukranos, World Eater? What about Desecration Demon?

The problem is that we’re not exactly getting anything in return. I dunno—I think if you want to play straight U/R, you’ve probably got to play some more tempo cards, something to capitalize on the much smoother and faster mana base.

Of course, there is one new tempo card that just might be the missing link:

Holy $#!&—this card is no joke!

So Prophetic Flamespeaker is kind of like a Scroll Thief, but it does twice as much damage, draws twice as many cards (mostly), provides twice the devotion, is twice as hard to chump block (sort of), and has way more combos!

Let’s just get this out of the way:

Prophetic Flamespeaker is for real.

  • Yes, it is in a color that is not super well known for drawing cards.
  • Yes, Scroll Thief types haven’t exactly been dominating lately.
  • Yes, it doesn’t just naturally fit into a whole slew of decks.
  • Yes, lots of people play lots of removal.

Regardless, Prophetic Flamespeaker is the new hotness, just wait and see. First of all, bloodrush is still legal. This guy plus Ghor-Clan Rampager? A match made in heaven. That’s some seriously hot stuff, man!

Next, consider blocking with Prophetic Flamespeaker! This guy stops everything a Nightveil Specter would short of a Judge’s Familiar.

Finally, hit someone with this guy one time, just one time, and it will all make sense. What will? All of it. Literally everything that has ever been in question will all come together in that moment. Ever cast Ancestral Recall? You’re in luck!

You might be wondering "but where do we put the Prophetic Flamespeaker?"

The first thought that comes to mind is where the sun doesn’t shine. If the deck has white mana in it, you’ll have too many tapped lands and lose too much of the tempo you need to capitalize on the Flamespeaker’s talents. Instead, we need a deck free of the oppression of the white sun. Maybe we need to kick it old school. Maybe we need that Paul McCabe (an obscure reference to a U/R Tempo deck the first Player of the Year, Paul McCabe, used to make Top 8 of the 1997 World Championship).

Disrupt? They don’t make cards like that anymore. That has got to be the reprint I would like to see most. There are not many cards better against Thoughtseize, and that card is pretty mediocre against anyone doing anything remotely civilized. Plus just think of how many fewer cards people would draw from Revelations by regularly leaving one mana up!

So as good as Ophidian is, Prophetic Flamespeaker is slightly better.


Let’s try a Prophetic Flamespeaker deck that can clear the way to get that bad boy through!

It’s very possible we need more removal, but we aren’t short on ways to get the Flamespeaker through. Keranos and Ral Zarek contribute a lot of extra burn, while Chandra, Pyromaster can disrupt blocking plans and Thassa, God of the Sea can make the Flamespeaker straight-up unblockable.

This build actually has great chances of waking Keranos up, particularly if you follow him up with Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. It might be too cute, but you’ve already got a lot of good targets for removal as well as lots of good anti-removal threats (like planeswalkers and Gods). If he proves too slow, Stormbreath Dragon might actually be an even better threat than Aetherling.

What I like most about this list is that it is not just trying to be a bad U/W/x deck. It plays to red’s strengths (a surprising number of cards that draw extra cards each turn and damage to creatures), playing a different game than the Supreme Verdict plus Sphinx’s Revelation game Azorius decks play.

The biggest downside of course is that this leaves us vulnerable to large creatures. Polukranos and Desecration Demon are real problems, and while we can combine two burn spells to kill them, it’s far from trivial. I love Claustrophobia for helping shore up this weakness, but I suspect enchantment removal will be on the rise. Golgari Charm in particular is going to gain popularity. Enchantments are already most places, and this trend is only going to continue. More importantly, however, B/G decks will be greatly on the rise. In recent weeks they have been gaining a following, and now they finally have a Temple, not to mention one of the sexiest of the new Gods.

Turn // Burn and Fated Conflagration are both sort of options, but they are so expensive. There has to be a better way!

The next list addresses the creature problem in a very ham-handed way, so please take care if you do anything with it. This one doesn’t seem good, but at least there is a potent dream.

Dismiss into Dream creates a soft lock with Izzet Staticaster, Ral, or Chandra. Unfortunately, it costs seven and has no immediate impact on the board. You could literally just play an Aetherling with mana up for that kind of investment. If your Dismiss into Dream gets Golgari Charmed, your heart might actually explode on the spot.

As you can see, I imagine Keranos to be more of a two-of or a one-of than a four-of given that he is expensive, slow, legendary, and very difficult to remove. It is totally possible that he proves so good (and people play so much removal for Gods) that you want more, but I would start on the lower side.

That said, I do think Keranos has what it takes. There are basically two ways to play the card: as an unkillable planeswalker card advantage engine or as a role player in some new U/R midrange deck that actually features permanents. The card looks super fun, promotes new and awesome gameplay, and is a good example of how Journey into Nyx is doing it right.

If there are zero more playable cards in Journey Into Nyx, it will still have far more impact than Born of the Gods, and I suspect there is more to come (you know, seeing as 100 of the 165 cards have not yet been revealed).

Bonus brewing!

I considered Mana Confluence here, but it remains to be seen how aggressive the format will prove to be. We don’t want tapped lands, but Temples may prove too good not to play.

Pharika, God of Affliction is an interesting one. First of all, five power on a three-drop, with realistic hopes of waking her up? That’s pretty hot. Then you get to factor in that she is a totally reasonable token maker that moves into unreasonable space if you have self-mill? What’s tricky though is that if you use her a whole bunch, it hurts the power of your other dredge cards, like Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord; Nemesis of Mortals; and Shadowborn Demon.

What I’d rather try is some kind of an enchantment theme deck. Kruphix’s Insight is pretty appealing, and Extinguish All Hope works great with dudes like Courser of Kruphix and Boon Satyr. Whip of Erebos and even Bow of Nylea add up to even more dimensions for what we’re filling our hand with. Verdant Haven costs three so yes we’d rather have Fertile Ground, but it might easily still be worth it.

You know, Sphere of Safety has got to have improved quite a bit. That is exactly the type of card that would be good to find with Kruphix’s Insight.

G/W Enchantress by Patrick Chapin

4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Heliod, God of the Sun
1 Blind Obedience
3 Pacifism
4 Kruphix’s Insight
4 Verdant Haven
1 Bow of Nylea
4 Sphere of Safety
4 Mutavault
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Plenty
3 Selesnya Guildgate
5 Forest
3 Plains

Adding blue would give us Detention Sphere and Agoraphobia, which might be the better way to go. Jace, Architect of Thought is also great in a Sphere of Safety style deck, and Kiora, the Crashing Wave is a totally reasonable option. But we do have to be careful of diluting the core concept too much.

Okay, I’m out for this week, but I’ll be in Detroit with Patrick Sullivan this weekend to cover the SCG Open Series. Hopefully I’ll see you guys there or on the stream. Otherwise, I’ll be back next week with a whole lot more Journey into Nyx.

It’s been a while since I was this excited to brew.

Ahh, old friend, it’s good to be home!