M15: Let The Brewing Begin

There is nothing better than brewing during preview season for an awesome new set, and Patrick takes a deep dive into Magic 2015 to revel in a brewer’s paradise.

This is an article.

Articles talk about Mono-Black Devotion. That’s what makes an article an article. Here’s the list:

This is what is referred to as a “clean list.”

M15 spoiler season is in full effect and I can’t think of a bigger game-changer than a Sign in Blood reprint. No, not Read the Bones, Sign in Blood itself. Black has been long on three-drops for some time now, with Hero’s Downfall, Underworld Connections, Nightveil Specter, and Lifebane Zombie all vying for space, so Read the Bones is less common than it would otherwise be.

Now, with access to Sign in Blood, black finally has a way to trade life for an advantage. My hope is that this will enable a Mono-Black Control deck to emerge, likely built around draft superstar Gray Merchant of Asphodel to take advantage of how much devotion to black we naturally build up (and to fuel Thoughtseize, Sign in Blood, and Underworld Connections). Sign in Blood even lets us register 25 land with a straight face!

A lot of Silence the Believers? Get used to it. There’ll be even more once Souls of the Planes are all over the place.

Speaking of which, I’ve got Erebos in that 75th slot, but Soul of Innistrad really doesn’t sound too bad either. There is an awful lot of discard and enchantment removal, so Erebos’s safety is far from assured. Besides, we’ve got a dozen cards to trade life already. Soul of Innistrad is a pretty sweet trump to black mirrors, though he’d be even better if we had some amount of Nykthos going on.

Speaking of which, I feel like Nykthos is going to be a big winner from M15. The Souls of the Planes are such good things to do with Nykthos mana. Not sure where it’ll lead, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Sliver Hive is also an option as a one-of, giving you a pretty sweet plan going to long with your Mutavaults. The thing is, if you want to play Nightveil Specter on turn three, it carries a very real risk.

Like getting Thoughtseized/Duressed? Sorry to rain on your parade, but Duress is confirmed not in M15, so you’ve got just three more months to enjoy that particular experience this time around. After that, you’re going to have to go back to actually casting most of your spells in post-sideboard matches, instead of flopping around like people in trap videos.

Any more obvious reprints we can talk about instead of talking about the new cards?

As you wish!

With people likely to experiment with mono-black decks that use their life as a resource, this might be a good time to try combining direct damage spells with direct damage spells.

[deck id="69425"/]

Red is a pretty obvious burn color, but you might be surprised to hear that white is the second-best source of direct damage, with platinum hits like [card name="Boros Charm"]Boros Charm[/card] and Warleader’s Helix. [card name="Chained to the Rocks"]Chained to the Rocks[/card] isn’t exactly on theme, but it does help solve problems with fatties that you don’t exactly want to burn.

How many artifacts do we need to play to support [card name="Shrapnel Blast"]Shrapnel Blast[/card]? Not that many, but it’d be nice to not be stooping to Traveler’s Amulet and [card name="Prophetic Prism"]Prophetic Prism[/card]. [card name="Hammer of Purphoros"]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] is pretty speculative, too, but we might as well try it. Perhaps the most dubious deckbuilding decision here is the lack of Chandra’s Phoenix. Probability of that being correct in this style? 6.25%.

Like red decks?

Burn too good, looking for more of a challenge?

Have you considered Goblins?

M15 features two Goblin tribal rewards (though admittedly, Obelisk of Urd doesn’t super-discriminate). I’m not overly optimistic in the ability of these two cards to make up for using lots of second-rate Goblins instead of just using cards that are more Gerry Thompson (naturally badass).

Not trying to hear it?

Ok, let’s do this.

There’s still a hundred cards to go from M15, so hopefully one of them is a good one-drop Goblin (assuming making Goblin happen is your priority). Otherwise, I think you kind of just have to pick either Rakdos Cackler or Firedrinker Satyr and make some room. If anyone gives you a hard time about them being off-theme, point at Rubblebelt Maaka and laugh like a crazy person. There are good chances they will be a little weirded out and let you go back to hanging out in peace.

How do you play Obelisk of Urd? Generally, you want to get that bad boy down ASAP, even if it means calling off an attack. It’d be super sweet to play a one-drop on one, then two more on two, then Obelisk on three and make ’em taste it. Just remember, if you go adding Rakdos Cackler and Firedrinker Satyr, Obelisk of Urd only powers up one creature type at a time.

You know what? We can Obelisk of Urd much harder than this. In fact, I would venture to say, we can Obelisk of Urd so hard motherlovers wanna fine us.

But first they gotta find us.

“Wait,” you might be saying. “Why soldiers? The only Soldier lord there is isn’t even good, is it?”

Sure, but neither’s the Goblin lord. The difference is, most of the Soldiers are pretty damn good on their own, and the real reason we’re playing Soldiers is to take advantage of Obelisk of Urd. The only tough part is that it has to be better than Dictate of Heliod. It’s very possible it is, though, as Convoke on a six-drop really is a three-drop, whereas Dictate of Heliod is very difficult to cast at all.

Preeminent Captain isn’t exactly a breathtaking rate, but he still warrants a shot. After all, attack just once and you’re not just getting one to three mana back, you’re getting a few points of damage extra in. There are some expensive options if you want to get all crazy, but none of them are strong enough to risk not drawing a Preeminent Captain that lives, if you ask me. If you want to combo out a surprise Soldier to hit people with, I recommend considering Loxodon Smiter.

Yeah, that guy’s a Soldier. Who would have thought? What makes it so sweet to power him out is that it isn’t just saving three mana, it isn’t even just four extra damage, it’s that you are actually able to use Preeminent Captain to fix your mana. That means you can play four Temple Gardens, four Mana Confluences, and no Temple of Plenty if you just absolutely don’t want tapped lands. Twelve sources of green would be plenty, but the Captain is fairly unreliable, so we might still want to find room for a Temple of Plenty or two, but the idea’s the same.

It’s kind of awkward that Brimaz gets Captained in tapped and without his buddy. On the flipside, Vigilance is pretty sweet with Obelisk of Urd. Attack with Brimaz and you can not only tap him later for Obelisk, you get double value since his Cats have Vigilance too. That means a turn-three Brimaz on his own is enough for a turn-four Obelisk if you have a fourth land.

I don’t think Vigilance is worth so much that we want Vanguard of Brimaz instead of Fencing Ace, since Fencing Ace gets so much value out of stat boosts.

As you surely realized, Raise the Alarm makes Soldiers (as does Brimaz). This means it’s actually very easy to get the turn-three Obelisk draw. Literally any one-drop and a Raise the Alarm turns the option on. We won’t always want to exercise it, of course, sometimes wanting to just develop the board more. It is a powerful play, though, and remember, you can play more one-drops on turn three, then tap them for Convoke “with haste.” It’s also important to note, unlike Hall of Triumph, Obelisk of Urd is not legendary, and in fact, getting two in play is as real as the streets.

The fact that the three best one-drops, the best two-drop, and the best three-drop are all Soldiers seems too good to pass on. We totally don’t have to play Preeminent Captain if that guy ends up a lame, but literally any tribal synergy at all is close to a free-roll. I mean, what does it even look like to not play a Soldier deck?

There is one thing going on here that I really like, and that’s Hall of Fame candidate and Ascension lead designer Justin Gary’s guest-designer card, Spirit Bonds:

This card seems great to me. It’s kind of slow, but you don’t have to activate it many times before it has paid for itself, and it spread the value out across a lot of bodies that are pretty useful. The indestructible ability seems like it would absolutely work over Mono-Black. You already get lots of extra bodies and can feed Desecration Demon forever. The second ability makes Doom Blade, Hero’s Downfall, and the like very difficult to use.

I’m not sure if Spirit Bonds is good or great, but it is definitely one of the cards in M15 I am most excited to work with. If this card is as good as I think it is, there are going to be even more people splashing green for Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm or white for Banishing Light and Deicide in their black decks. Ratchet Bomb has always matched up awkwardly against the format, but it is also an option for people that want to stay mono-black.

There is a new option, a Nevinyrral’s Disk of sorts, but I dunno…

It’s actually much closer to Oblivion Stone, which did see play, but it doesn’t have the ability to protect your stuff. I guess that was never that important, but this one even costs more. Obviously it’s good that it exiles instead of destroying, so I guess that’s what we’re paying for, the ability to exile Gods (and the Souls of the Planes).

Is Perilous Vault good enough? Probably, at least for some people, some decks. It’s just so close to Oblivion Stone and still curves well enough. It might not be what Mono-Black wants, but historically mono-black has appreciated Oblivion Stones and Nevinyrral’s Disks more than most.

If we’re specifically trying to see what else we can do with Mono-White, I kind of want to experiment with white Devotion, now that there’s an expensive card actually worth using Nykthos to fuel.

While Soul of Ravnica and Soul of Innistrad are loud about their activated abilities, their functionality as spells, Soul of Theros is probably the most devastating if allowed to live. A 6/6 Vigilance creature for six is already pretty potent for taking over a game, but when it attacks, it is threatening to morph into a 8/8 first striker with lifelink. That is basically impossible to race or kill in combat. As if that wasn’t enough, your whole team pumps too, making them huge, and you often gain 20+ life a turn.

This guy is an absolute monster, and it’s not like he’ll never live. You can even protect him with either Spirit Bonds or Brave the Elements! Soul of Theros has so much power in a place we haven’t really had yet, I imagine our decks with it are going to look very different next month than they do right now. Mark my words, though, Soul of Theros is one of the best cards in the set.

Besides, it’s not like the Flashback ability is throwaway trinket text. Even if they Thoughtseize or Hero’s Downfall it, you have an instant-speed Overrun that gains a ton of life that you can do whenever you feel like it. That is a hell of an implied threat to hold over your opponent’s head every single combat. The ability is sick in a white creature deck, but it’s also pretty filthy is a controlling strategy. This is such a powerful finisher that single-handedly takes over a lot of games, but if you use the Flashback with Elspeth tokens, you are going to steal a lot of games.

It’s not going to come up often, but remember, you can use the ability multiple times. If you get some monstrous Nykthos going and can afford twelve mana, you can give your guys +4/+4 and go seriously crazy.

Spirit Bonds is another great way to take advantage of Nykthos mana, not to mention providing an army of tokens to pump.

Spirit Bonds is so good, I’m imagining it going in lots of random decks that aren’t even really doing much to build around it. For instance, how about G/W Aggro?

Maybe we’re supposed to trim Advent of the Wurms to make Spirit Bonds even stronger, but I’m not sure how much work we’re really supposed to do.

It’s pretty sweet that Boon Satyr lets us make a Spirit in response to a Doom Blade, so that we can surprise save something opponents thought we wouldn’t be able to.

G/W has always had plenty of mediocre options for one-drops, but M15 features a new one that seems like a pretty sizable upgrade:

With Temple Garden contributing, it’s pretty easy to make this guy a 2/2 80%+ of the time. What makes it so appealing is its ability to actually contribute to the team later in the game rather than just getting outclassed by everything (like Dryad Militant does, for instance). Five mana may seem like a lot, but the opportunity cost is very low and often the threat is more dangerous than actually activating it. Just think about it, every time they attack or block, they have to factor in all of your units threatening to grow. That is such a big impact from a one-drop. In this way, Sunblade Elf reminds me of Deathrite Shaman.

It’s kind of a funny twist to G/W, but what if we built around this card:

It’s kind of an Immortal Servitude, but it’s actually just so much easier to use.

This is a very rough take on the concept, but the main idea is pretty obvious. Satyr Wayfinder is a little bit of an oddball, but it is pretty sweet that he mills more creatures to Return back, not to mention letting us actually fuel big Returns without playing much mana in our deck.

This deck certainly doesn’t need to be just W/G, with black being a very obvious option to consider. Pack Rat, Pain Seer, Brain Maggot, and Lotleth Troll are all appealing targets, and Xathrid Necromancer is a great reward for dabbling in black. Pain Seer is particularly fun, since Return to the Ranks is a natural Inspired enabler (like all Convoke cards).

I wonder how few creatures you can play and have Spirit Bonds still worth it?

Extra tokens are always nice, but this build particularly appreciates the ability of Spirit Bond to protect its heavy hitters. Bile Blight, Silence the Believers, and Banishing Light have improved so much, while Hero’s Downfall has taken a hit. I wonder if we can actually start trimming Hero’s Downfalls?

New Planeswalkers? How about Nissa, since the new B/G Garruk hasn’t been spoiled yet?

This one is going to take some work, some thinking, but one obvious use is in a mono-green deck, where she can instant untap four Forests to make tons of mana. If you have a Market Festival on a Forest, Nissa immediately gives you enough mana to bridge into Garruk, Caller of Beasts!

This take on Eidolon of Blossoms is way too clunky, but there’s got to be something to Nissa in Mono-Green.

OK, I’m out for this week, but I’ll be in Portland this weekend doing commentary for the SCG Open, then returning Monday for more full-on brewing with M15. First though, a lot of people had great suggestions for the Modern Sliver decks. Here’s a couple more takes. It’s going to be very interesting to see what the six new Slivers in M15 bring to the table…

Any one-drop into any two-drop into any three-drop into any four-drop is game. Just saying.

Going the other way, here’s a more combo-riffic approach:

Amass an army, then sacrifice your Dormant Slivers to your Firewake Slivers and administer the beatdown!

Ok, it’s been fun. Really fun, in fact. Building decks with the new cards is the literal, actual best. Let me know what you want explored Monday, and we’ll do that!