The StarCityGames.com Open in Cincinnati this past weekend gave us our first taste
of Journey into Nyx Standard. Compared to Born of the Gods there was a ton of hype about the new cards.
With the 13 rounds shown on camera, what can we learn about the format?
Chris VanMeter (Jund Monsters) 2-1 vs. Justin McWhorter (B/W Aggro)
Justin led Game 1 with a Hopeful Eidolon, a card that seems like a great choice if the Week One shift is towards aggro Mana Confluence decks. I was going
to say it’s a pretty miserable creature, but the Ethereal Armor curve from this game shows otherwise. It’s possible that if you want one or more lifelink
enchantments in Naya Hexproof, this Bestow creature is better than Gift of Orzhova.
Game 1 really illustrates one of the keys to this format: Aggro needs a fair number of answers to actually get places in this format. Otherwise the
oversized four-drops come down fast and brick your board state.
I’m on Pat’s side of the Eidolon of Countless Battles discussion. The card is not individually powerful, which is extremely relevant when White Aggro’s
typical failure state is “Get Supreme Verdict-ed.”
Godsend really shined this game. The ability to move it between your attacker to force it through and your blocker to hold the ground is pretty key. The
issue with the card is that it doesn’t actually stop the game plan of “kill all your guys” or the game plan of “bash you with a Demon or Dragon while
chumping when relevant,” but if people move to dorky ground guys it might have a place as a trump.
Golgari Charm is a big gating factor for this kind of enchantment aggro strategy. The card is an extremely powerful, extremely flexible sideboard card that
is going to show up everywhere with Temple of Malady being touted as one of the best cards in the format.
Athreos was really unimpressive in these games. A large part of this was timing, but it was also partly that CVM was trying to beat him by attacking as
well. Seven is a lot of devotion to ask for, so most of the time Athreos is going to be just the enchantment effect. The card is capable of shining in
attrition-based matchups, but as I mentioned in my last breakdown of Standard, a lot of the format was focused on
four-drop threats that quickly end games. Sure, Athreos can provide some profitable chump blocking or hold off a Desecration Demon, but it merely stalls
and chews up your mana until the second threat lands.
Jeff Hoogland (Junk Midrange) 2-0 vs Donavahn Speers (Mono-Black Aggro)
Cedric, that’s a bold claim that you like attacking more than Pat. [Editor’s Note: Patrick used to cast Thieving Magpie and Forbid!]
This game really showcases the problem with one-drops in this format. Again, I’ll link to this. The two-drops drastically trump the
one-drops, and the four-drops are all massive and race extremely effectively.
Archangel of Thune plus Scavenging Ooze was an interaction Brian Demars was very high on towards the end of the last Standard format. It hasn’t had a place
in this format as it isn’t great against Mono-Black or Esper, but for this week it seems well-positioned. Archangel is very, very powerful in aggro and
midrange matchups, and in addition to Scavenging Ooze you now have Courser of Kruphix for more lifegain triggers.
Nice Rogue’s Passage shoutout by Pat. If this deck were Nighthowlering I would be more excited, but the bestow set of Spiteful Returned and Gnarled
Scarhide might be enough pump to make the card worth it. The issues are: A) it chokes up the triple-one-drop nut draws, and B) it is embarrassing if you
are forcing through a 2/x.
I do enjoy the fact that Ajani, Mentor of Heroes can find Underworld Connections. I also have great respect for Jeff Hoogland’s unnecessary, strictly
incorrect, but 100% showboat value ultimate. I also enjoy that it now makes someone add a third digit to the life total overlay.
Dan Musser (Mono-Black Devotion) 2-1 vs. Andrew Cahill (Brave Naya)
We didn’t see much of this match, but the board state was worth discussing.
Dan has just untapped.
Dan – 7 life
Andrew – 12 life
2 Knight Tokens (2/2 Vigilance)
Mana Confluence (tapped)
Hand – 1 Card
The immediate line a lot of people would consider is just making trades in combat and riding your in-hand card advantage.
The immediate line Dan made was attack.
Andrew’s card is Boros Charm. At 7 life, Dan is able to animate Mutavault, block a token, Doom Blade another token, and survive that combat. Two attacks
with both Zombies is exactly lethal (I blame Mana Confluence).
Andrew has a single Red mana. He can’t draw Ghor-Clan Rampager to go with Boros Charm and has already used two Selesnya Charms to make the Knight tokens.
At best, he has ~5 outs, and I would even assume less as Brave the Elements is really bad against Mono-Black in multiples.
The joys of playing with three-power evasive creatures. Alternatively, the joys of playing with Vendilion Clique.
Joe Russel (Golgari Dredge) 2-0 vs. Adam Johnson (Junk Reanimator)
Dredge has a lot of mirror breakers here. Deathrite Shaman and Pharika, God of Affliction lock out graveyard interaction, and Nighthowler counts both
graveyards. Adam is most likely going to be hardcasting his threats, though with the power level of things like Angel of Serenity, Ashen Rider, and
Obzedat, Ghost Council I would not be shocked if that was enough.
I’m with Pat on Pharika. I really have no idea why people are badmouthing it because of the ability. Yes, exiling their stuff isn’t ideal. If you got a
Snake when you exiled their guy, playing against Pharika would be terrible. Attack, trade a guy for your deathtoucher, you get another deathtouch guy. If
anything, the issue is the same as Athreos: the enchantment mode of the card might not be enough. Of course, with Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord that’s much less
of an issue. The fact that this interaction completely ignores the graveyard and puts up a relevant threat is pretty awesome, as demonstrated in Game 2
where Scavenging Ooze was basically irrelevant.
Maybe the key to Athreos is making sure you pair it with Obzedat, Ghost Council? Also, the key might be not playing three or four like everyone is pushing.
The point Pat made about Junk Reanimator being way more reliant on its graveyard than Dredge is interesting. I’m not sure how true that is, and it may just
be a function of Adam’s list being heavy on Rescue from the Underworld. That said, as mentioned above, Pharika certainly suggests Dredge has even more
tools against random haters with Crypt Incursion and Shadowborn Demon handles the most common graveyard hate option of Scavenging Ooze.
Basically, this Dredge deck isn’t Legacy Dredge. It still has a fair game even if you have your Tormod’s Crypt analogue, and you need to keep that in mind
when keeping hands against it post-board and building your sideboard.
Craig Bargo (UW Control) 2-0 vs. Greg Smith (Naya Hexproof)
Naya Hexproof was the deck I was suggesting moving into week one. It gained multiple cards (Mana Confluence and Bassara Tower Archer) and Lifelinked
Hexproof creatures crush aggressive decks.
My one disclaimer was that I didn’t play the deck at Grand Prix Cincinnati because it lost to U/W and Esper Control.
And U/W now has more Detention Sphere effects through Banishing Light to handle Voice of Resurgence and Auras. And it now has Deicide if it wants it as
more enchantment removal that is reasonable to main deck. And this guy has Celestial Flare? Yeah, that’s definitely not happening.
A note on Bassara Tower Archer: Is there a way to give this vigilance to exploit the reach?
Brian Westbrook (Bant Midrange) 2-1 vs. Adrian Sullivan (UW Control)
(See my Round 6 Aside for more on this).
Brian Braun-Duin (Jund Monsters) 2-0 vs. Jack Fogle (UWR Control)
I’m not super impressed with the move to Red over Black in the traditional Esper shell. Obviously Temple of Epiphany is a real reason to consider it, but
are Izzet Charm, Counterflux, and Anger of the Gods actually better than Thoughtseize, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Doom Blade, and Drown in Sorrow (if you want
the off-color sweeper)? If we don’t actually want Ral Zarek or Keranos, God of Storms, what are we really gaining that is unique to the color while Black
offers cards that are similar but with more raw power? It’s also worth noting Esper has never deemed it worthwhile to splash for the double-black cards,
making Anger of the Gods questionable at best.
I can think of exactly one reason to be very high on these Red cards: G/W Aggro. If you expect to play against Voice of Resurgence and Fleecemane Lion
every round, access to Magma Spray and Anger of the Gods might be nice. That said, you do get more on color answers to Voice in Banishing Light already, so
I’m not sure this is necessary. I’m also not sure this is better than just Blood Baroning them.
Nyx-Fleece Ram is a really nice one. We were playing Yoked Ox back in week one, and this card is for the most part a better version of that. It’s a
two-mana removal spell against aggro that gains life. It also blocks Loxodon Smiter or Ghor-Clan Rampager out of Naya.
That said, this was just a good old-fashioned reminder of why Monsters can be a pain for control. It has a ton of awkward-to-answer threats and some
semblance of card advantage to keep up against a non-massive Sphinx’s Revelation. Yet another reason you want Banishing Light as you need to handle more
Brian Braun-Duin (Jund Monsters) 2-1 vs. Dan Musser (Mono-Black Devotion
As seen here, the big draw of the Black splash lies in cards that kill Desecration Demon. A 6/6 flier trumps everything in the Monsters deck, but all the
cards in the Monsters deck trump a lot of the Mono-Black Devotion deck. Mono-Black Devotion can win games where it pulls ahead with Pack Rat or uses
Underworld Connections to rack up removal spells, but the Monsters deck is capable of the same. Game 1 BBD was able to use Courser of Kruphix to keep the
card count at relative parity, and the Monsters deck has more threats than Mono-Black Devotion has removal. Had the Desecration Demon stayed in play, the
game would have quickly ended in the opposite direction.
Of course, this involves you drawing Dreadbore, it not getting Thoughtseized, and you not just getting Lifebane Zombied and removal spelled out of the
game. See also the Game 2 replay.
Aside on Mono-Black Devotion and Midrange:
Mono-Black Devotion is the classic Rock deck, a bunch of solid guys and one-for-ones.
Typically, these decks fold to A) powerful, linear strategies or B) single, powerful spells. The latter exists in Sphinx’s Revelation, but the former is
lacking in Standard. Dredge is about the only engine or comboish shell, and aggro is stymied by the two-drop power jump.
So we have to go back to the original premise. The reason those two things beat Rock strategies is that they force the midrange deck to have specific cards
that interact with them and ignore a lot of the other ones. Because Rock decks don’t typically have cards that generate swinging advantages, they struggle
when they are denied the ability to trade cards or when their threats are irrelevant.
When you build a “random threats” midrange deck and battle against a Rock deck, you are playing right into their game. All of their cards trade for yours.
Their threats are better than yours on a one-for-one basis. In order to fight them, you need a lot of specific pieces. You need card advantage to match
their Underworld Connections. You need answers to their Pack Rat and Desecration Demon. You need redundant threats or card selection to dodge Thoughtseize.
You need threats that can leave them in awkward spots with their removal.
Decks like the Bant Midrange deck featured in round 4? Never beating a Pack Rat, so that’s one piece missing. You also have fewer Planeswalkers, which puts
you down on the card advantage and diverse threats side.
What about Jeff Hoogland’s Junk and Reid Duke’s previous versions? Well, you definitely have answers to Pack Rat and Demon. You have your own Underworld
Connections to match theirs alongside Planeswalkers and Courser of Kruphix. You have your own Thoughtseizes and temples to fight them on that axis. Your
threat selection has cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa so you have that covered.
The point is that is isn’t impossible to build a new midrange deck that fights Mono-Black Devotion, but you need to make card choices with a reason to do
Adam Yurchick (Mono-Black Devotion) 2-1 vs. Tyler Winn (R/W Burn)
Time to see Eidolon of the Great Revel in action. I can see it being pretty good against most things but absolutely miserable against something like Jund
Monsters that starts jamming expensive threats early. Pat Sullivan was quick to note that if they kill it on the spot it is at least as good as Ash Zealot,
so that’s a definite plus for it. I also agree with Pat’s call that Eidolon and Mana Confluence is definitely pushing how much damage you deal to yourself.
It looks like Tyler Winn only had two copies of Mana Confluence, which means drawing multiples plus Eidolon is unlikely to happen, but it’s worth
considering that racing your own cards could be an issue in a clunkier Burn deck.
After watching Game 3 and seeing Tyler get nearly locked down by his own Eidolon, it seems safe to say the card pushes games further downhill for whoever
is losing. I would guess Burn is playing from behind enough, looking to scry into a topdeck, that I would try to avoid this card if possible.
The note that there aren’t many new cards but more archetypes that can exist due to better mana is a good read. Lots of people are hesitant to try new
things, are slow to acquire new cards, and often don’t understand exactly how to build around them. As a result, old tried and true shells see more play,
and the ones that get obviously better see the most play. Journey into Nyx is light on generic good cards and heavy on unique ones, but the new mana
clearly makes old archetypes better. As a result, we see what we do this week. Next week people will have a couple events in and more tuned brews, and the
week after more so, and then we start entering the normal metagame cycle of chasing the “best” deck.
Kurt Crane (Blue-White Control) 2-0 vs. Harry Corvese (G/W Aggro)
I don’t know who got to Harry to get him on this side of the match up. I blame Craig Wescoe and/or Andrew Shrout.
The issue here is that the G/W deck in a lot of configurations is stuck playing from behind here. Your threats aren’t fast enough to put the control deck
on the back foot and you can easily be short on tricks to play around their interaction. Cards like Boon Satyr were key to past success the Selesyna deck
has had in the matchup, and Harry eschewed those for cards that play well with Brave the Elements.
He made sacrifices against control to get a better deck in midrange matchups and got punished accordingly.
Basically, if you want to play G/W and beat control, don’t play this list.
Eric Rill (U/W Control) 2-1 vs Adam Bowman (Golgari Dredge)
That said, it does make Golgari Charm way better, but that’s still an answer for their answers. Not where the proactive deck necessarily wants to be.
Mike Abner (U/W Control) 2-0 vs Adam Bowman (Golgari Dredge)
That said, I’m not sold on Whip of Erebos or Rot Farm Skeleton here. I also don’t know if you can realistically beat 4 Detention Spheres in a single game.
I really liked the pseudo-transformational sideboard I had with Mistcutter Hydra and Thoughtseize and would try to accomplish something similar with newer
Jeff Hoogland (Junk Midrange) 2-0 vs Matthew McCullough (G/R Monsters)
I don’t know what’s worse: Cedric’s current music obsession or Jeff’s red zone lands. [Editor’s Note: I’m not proud of how much Train I’ve listened to in the past seven days.]
This is another place where the lack of Dreadbore in the Monsters deck is punished beyond the Black matchups. You need the answers to Archangel of Thune
and Advent of the Wurm and you just don’t have them. As Cedric said “If he can’t answer this Archangel, he is dead immediately”. Advent isn’t on the same
level, but it’s quite the clock.
The hottest part of this Jund deck might be the ability to play six near-Vindicates in Banishing Light and Hero’s Downfall. The lack of unconditional
removal is a huge issue in this format, and this deck gets more than anyone else.
The eleven Temples and ten shock lands are very telling. You only need a certain number of enters-the-battlefield-tapped sources to make everything work
out. Apparently the correct number is around fourteen, or more accurately, you don’t really need the last G/B source.
Eric Rill (U/W Control) 2-0 vs. Alex Gfroerer (B/W Midrange)
We’ve seen this a million times by now. U/W played well is a solid favorite because of the power of Sphinx’s Revelation and the consistency of Temples.
Andrew Tenjum (B/G Devotion) 2-1 vs. Jeff Hoogland (Junk Midrange)
Here we see the issues with trying to go toe to toe with Black Devotion decks in the midrange mirror. Sometimes they just draw the right things and you
don’t, which has basically been the case in midrange mirrors forever. Cards trade, someone ends up not being able to trade, and that player dies. Jeff
certainly has the advantage with more Temples, but that’s not a guarantee as we saw here. Game 1 was how things “should” go for Jeff, but that “should” is
really just a marginal percentage.
Christopher O’Bryant (Saito U/W/R Control) Eric Rill (U/W Control)
This is what happens when neither player has Thoughtseize.
Thoughtseize creates openings. With Thoughtseize in a control mirror, it’s much easier for a player to find a spot to move in and get ahead, which then
cascades into more advantages and eventually a win.
If both players just have a bunch of Dissolves, they have to sit there until they can cast their spells, which is basically once one player has developed a
mana advantage. Games take forever and come down to Temples finding more Temples.
Basically, if you want to play three games of a control mirror in a round and don’t want games to be decided by not drawing your tenth land, play
I want to point out one play related item: +1ing Jace, Memory Adept to start like Eric did Game 3 is definitely correct early, where maintaining the card
parity in the fact of a Detention Sphere is almost always correct. I also really like Eric’s decision to ride the +1 for multiple turns too. The 0 is
tempting, but realistically control mirrors are won by card advantage and mana and not by actually ending the game. That said, I felt like Jace wasn’t
super exciting as an early threat as it takes a lot of mana for something that is relatively low-impact in the short term. It’s great to rip on turn 20,
but that shouldn’t be a big draw to the card.
It also gets better with Thoughtseize to clear the way. Just saying.
Eric Rill (U/W Control) Andrew Tenjum (B/G Devotion)
Is fixing our mana really so important that we need to run four Azorius Guildgates and only six Temples? Is Guildgate even a better mana fixer than a
Temple? All three games Eric played a Guildgate and ended up digging for something. If those Gates were just Temples that would have been so much easier.
I think this about sums up how Guildgates work:
@armlx I would rather die on my feet than
live on my knees (playing Guildgates being the latter).
— Patrick Sullivan (@BasicMountain) May 4, 2014
The lack of completely new archetypes isn’t a shocker. The decks that exist now are pretty well tuned as they have been played since November, and the
trend is towards powerful threats and broad answers. Compare to last year where threat choices were very finely selected to play into the current
answer/threat suite and a single set’s addition of removal and threats would force a shakeup.
The new Temples made a huge splash as they made easy changes to existing, tuned decks. I don’t actually think the red splash to U/W Control is better
than the black splash, as Thoughtseize seems like a much bigger gain than Keranos, God of Storms or Counterflux, but the green splash in Mono-Black
Devotion seems like a legitimate contender. I would like to point out that the older B/W deck does gain Banishing Light to play a similar role to
Abrupt Decay, so it’s not a clear upgrade, but Andrew Tenjum’s win has clear reasons behind it. Turning your previously blank removal spells into
Detention Sphere removal is a significant gain that can start to shift the control matchup back towards the Black decks.
Banishing Light is one of the biggest non-land gains from Journey to Nyx, giving control more unconditional removal and giving aggressive white decks
an answer across the board. As a result this amplifies the importance of enchantment removal, or (more accurately) increases the value of being able to
incidentally kill an enchantment and get back your threat. Golgari Charm and Abrupt Decay are the two biggest winners as they also gain Temple of
Malady to back them up, but it’s worth noting that Banishing Light also makes opposing Detention Spheres and Banishing Lights better in a positive
- Note that this above point is not good news for Dredge, especially as Nighthowler dies to Abrupt Decay even when Bestowed.
As seen Round 1, Athreos, God of Passage is not really a four-of card. The enchantment effect is good, but the advantage of being a three-drop God has
been overstated. The jump from five devotion for Thassa, God of the Sea to seven on Athreos and Pharika means they aren’t immediately jumping to active
on turn 4 most of the time and can’t be counted as actual threats.
Mana Confluence was surprisingly absent from the top tables.
Tom Ross was definitely correct to call the card overrated last week
, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still good. I think people were just trying too hard to make it happen this week. It’s likely the best Mana Confluence
deck doesn’t need to be three colors and might not even need the full set of the card, but instead is a solid two-color deck that is now that much more