Nyx Guided Tour

Find out which new cards from Journey into Nyx Carsten thinks have the most potential to see play in Standard, Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage.

The time has finally come again. Journey into Nyx has been completely spoiled. As has been becoming standard for the last couple of sets, though, we don’t see any obvious standout cards for the Eternal formats, mainly a couple of possible role players. So instead of doing a Legacy-focused brewing article like I normally would, I’ve decided to look at this set a little differently and provide you with a tourist guide for your voyage into Nyx, showing off what I consider the most enticing sights even if the potential for most of them lies in the smaller formats.

Opening The Guide

Welcome dear reader to the wonderful plane of Theros. This guide was written specifically to enlighten you about the most fascinating sights and wonders you will encounter on your travels through the wondrous abode of our great pantheon. May the light of brilliant Heliod guide your way and allow you to revel in the wonders the gods have created here!

Look at the beautiful garden around you, seemingly endless and combining the features of all the different landscapes imaginable. It is all the work of one of Kiora’s minor miracles: the Font of Fertility.

This little card that on first sight might compare badly to the work of Mirrodin artisans has potential in Standard Bant Control in my opinion, simply because as a work of the gods it allows you to ramp without being destroyed when the gods show their wrath and deliver their Supreme Verdict. It might suffer from the fact that you’ll rarely be able to crack it on turn 2 because you’re forced into playing so many tapped lands with all the Temples around. However, having the ability to ramp toward Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Sphinx’s Revelation in a way that won’t be killed by your own mass removal sounds powerful enough to at least try out.

Sadly, the gods are omniscient and aware of what happened with Lightning Rift during the Onslaught and taking precautions of not having "everything I do casts Shock" become a real thing again. This could have been a powerhouse if it was just a little cheaper, especially with the Temples around, but as is will probably remain a miracle to look at admiringly from afar instead of seeing any use.

The most important power of the gods has always been the ability to give life, so seeing the Rule of Law given mortal form is not surprising or unexpected. As far as actual tournament usage is concerned, however, there doesn’t seem to be a great way to use this effect in Standard—neither enabler nor prey—and in the larger formats Ethersworn Canonist being a mana cheaper is just too big a deal for the Eidolon to be allowed to show off its astonishing oratory skills.

Clearly Iroas and Mogis were inspired by the Furnace of Rath when contemplating what to dictate to their followers, resulting in this flame-filled miracle. The extra mana isn’t likely to help this be any more playable in the older formats than the original, but the flash does turn it into a potent sideboard card for the Standard R/W Burn deck against Sphinx’s Revelation decks. When they tap out for the Revelation, flash this in and you should be able to easily overcome the amount of life gained by control’s core card as long as they can’t instantly Detention Sphere it.

It seems that having a god’s shield is a straight upgrade to just being a True Believer but not having as much faith makes you much easier to kill. An intriguing development.

Note that Leyline of Sanctity has seen quite a bit of sideboard play in both Modern and Legacy, so the latest member of the hate bear family definitely has the potential to see play. At the same time, however, True Believer is a rare sight at best, and being even worse in combat doesn’t exactly help the Aegis. Being an Enlightened Tutor target on the other hand could be big enough to make this a one-of in the sideboard of Death and Taxes. When you’re already overloading the opponent’s creature removal, being able to shut off discard spells and Liliana of the Veil activations might be good enough if it comes with a free 2/1, and the Aegis sure does a number on Storm, especially if you decide to also run a couple of Mindbreak Trap.

Beware traveler—when the God of the Sea is angered, the effects manifest most strongly among those close to Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Somehow however a god’s Ire can not only strike mortals down, but it can also motivate them to do twice as much, a fascinating effect to observe for sure, especially on Voyaging Satyr and Kiora’s Follower but not those of the sea god herself.

The reason I’m talking about what looks at first like an overcosted Flood is simple—this, one of the ramp creatures just mentioned, and a Nykthos will allow you to untap your Nykthos for four mana. At its best that interaction allows you to produce infinite an arbitrarily large amount of mana of all colors your lands could produce in Standard. At that point the sky is the limit. Draw your deck with Sphinx’s Revelation or by tapping and untapping Sphinx’s Disciple, deploy all those cards at instant speed with Prophet of Kruphix, or just go ahead and Fireball people with Mistcutter Hydra if that floats your boat. The problem is that you really need your devotion to be to blue for this to work, which makes the combo rather awkward to pull off.

At the same time U/G Devotion decks have already been built around Nykthos, Voyaging Satyr, and Kiora’s Follower in the past and might really want a cheap permanent that gives you a solid mana sink for creature matchups as well as the option to just go off at times, allowing you to tap each of your blue sources for multiple green mana as soon as you have the loop going. Arbor Colossus and Sylvan Primordial sometimes just aren’t enough of an endgame after all. Playing everything you Garruk, Caller of Bests into or simply making a 30/30 Polukranos, World Eater on the other hand move things up another notch, not to mention that most Standard decks will have trouble beating you if the majority of their creatures end up being tapped every turn.

Moving into the rough mountain ranges of Theros, we see that the God of the Forge has finally seen fit to bestow wisdom and knowledge to his followers. Their impulsive nature might still be holding them back compared to the scientific-minded people of the sea, but the fiery passion with which they burn through their knowledge is awesome to behold.

The reason I want to talk about these cards is that I’m happy to see R&D is spreading the library manipulation love around. Sigiled Skink might be too low power to see play outside of Standard (if there), but giving red two versions of Ophidian is a promising precedent. Prophetic Flamespeaker in particular looks like it could be reasonably powerful in an aggressive red deck, be it by drawing burn to cast in Modern or possibly even Legacy—if this ever connects, you’re probably not coming back in all honesty—or just flipping over pump spells and more aggressive heroic creatures in something like Tom Ross’ old Standard Mono-Red Aggro deck.

However, anything that can cast it and runs enough pump spells to really abuse the double strike should be quite interested in the Flamespeaker. Like Mirran Crusader, it’s a double strike creature that by the looks of it is already powerful enough to play without ever getting pumped up, making it a brilliant inclusion in anything that can in fact do so, especially as it helps dig into things to pump it with.

The next part of our voyage takes us to a place where the powers of all the gods flow together, a land where mana flows like honey. Beware though—the powers unleashed here are dangerous to mortals, and every step on this sacred ground threatens to sear your soul.

City of Brass sure sounds more like a place than Mana Confluence does, but I’m not complaining about a version that does away with the awkwardness of allowing Rishadan Port to ping you. This is one card that will see Legacy play in Dredge and The Epic Storm—it is a strict if minor upgrade to City of Brass, after all, not to mention how it compares to Tarnished Citadel. It could play a similar role in Vintage, especially the Burning Long deck enabled by the unrestriction of Burning Wish. However, the presence of Oath of Druids means that both the traditional City of Brass and the new Mana Confluence are much less relevant there because Forbidden Orchard’s disadvantage is actually actively good for you, reducing the need for playable five-color lands compared to Legacy.

To enter the realm of dead, you first need to book passage and negotiate entry with Athreos, God of Passage. He firmly believes in levying taxes from those that pass his abode, though a minor payment in life force should be enough to get you through. Make sure you carry enough of his favored currency with you however. Otherwise you might be denied entry to the Underworld, or even worse your payment might qualify you for permanent residence there.

Athreos is aggressively costed enough that it could make it into Legacy if we actually killed creatures more often. Sadly, Swords to Plowshares and Terminus being two of the four most played removal spells makes it so that creatures usually choose exile or the library instead of heading for the graveyard, leaving Athreos without much of a job to do. In a format where most removal is affected by Athreos, however, he can be a ridiculous blowout, and I expect it to see maindeck and sideboard play in Standard in both B/W Devotion and white- or black-based aggressive decks as a tool to fight Supreme Verdict and the incessant spot removal of Mono-Black Devotion.

Athreos would be even more exciting if it could come down after a sweeper or a number of trades have been lined up on the board. What is that you’re saying—Athreos doesn’t have flash? Yes, so I’ve noticed. However, if we look toward Modern, there is that sweet little card called Aether Vial to not only provide instant speed deployment but also make it cost us no mana at all! Maybe Athreos slots into a disruptive Junk deck featuring Knight of the Reliquary; Tarmogoyf; and possibly even Doran, the Siege Tower, but ever since Pack Rat took off in Standard, I’ve wanted to see it Vialed into play on turn 3. Could Athreos help with that maybe?

Note that this list is meant mainly for illustrative purposes since I don’t have any experience with Modern, meaning it might be quite a ways of from the correct build. Being able to deploy Athreos on a board with creatures your opponent really wants to be dead sounds like a rather enticing prospect though.

The formalities dispensed with, we now enter the realm of Erebos, God of the Dead. Beware traveler—the sights of these tormented souls aren’t for the faint of heart. Just a glimpse of the thoughts of the damned might twist your mind, driving you to insanity and despair and forcing us to leave you in the cares of dark lord Erebos.

Man, am I sad Phyrexian Negator isn’t really a card any more. Turn 1 Deathrite Shaman, turn 2 Phyrexian Negator, turn 3 Mind Twist your hand is a pretty spicy sequence of plays. I’m only tormenting all of us with thoughts about this card in Legacy because the payoff can be so absurd. How exactly are you supposed to beat something aggressive if they take away your whole hand on turn 3? Maybe this is the power punch something like Demon Stompy needed to finally make it on the map.

Hit them hard with Chalice or Trinisphere early and deploy a threat, and when they’re finally starting to recover, take out their entire hand before casting your next threat, which will probably take the game home now that your opponent doesn’t have anything to do anymore. If there were fewer creatures in the format, I’d love Phyrexian Negator for this one, and I’d most likely have a playset of it in the sideboard. But maybe that’s just nostalgia speaking.

By the way, the interaction between this card and Desecration Demon might be strong enough to actually make it into Mono-Black Devotion sideboards in Standard, and I can totally see the G/B Dredge deck sacrificing a Nighthowlered Voyaging Satyr or a Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord to torment their opponent—Sphinx’s Revelation or not, having to discard seven plus cards is going to hurt!

Having left the devastation of the underworld behind you, our tour now continues in fairer surroundings. Follow this unassuming forest path and you’ll reach a grove blessed by Karametra, filled with the most gorgeous flowers all year round. If you’re lucky, you might even see its miraculous keeper flitting from blossom to blossom.

The first moment I saw Eidolon of Blossoms, I was quite excited. An Enchantress’s Presence that cantrips and works with Replenish? Enchantress, here I come! Sadly, however, I then realized that annoying 2/2 in the bottom right corner. As Verduran and Mesa Enchantress have taught us, building your deck around an engine that can be killed by Lightning Bolt and Doom Blade just isn’t going to work, at least not as long as it requires a significant commitment (like, say, playing 30 enchantments).

The fact that you’re paying four mana for your Enchantress here doesn’t help matters either.

So in spite of my hopes and dreams, I doubt this is going to have any impact in the older formats, and I also doubt an actual Enchantress deck is going to appear in Standard because of the Eidolon. If it plays any role at all, it’s in a deck that’s already somewhat interested in a 2/2 that cantrips and has a ton of enchantments to cast—something like Naya Hexproof. The deck is often happy to have anybody at all to put its pants on, and if you ever successfully start throwing Auras out while Eidolon of Blossoms is in play, you’re probably going to win that game.

Traveler, you are now nearing the end of your guided tour. We have reached Meletis, the city of heroes and scholars, oftentimes united in the same person. See the heroes walking the streets, united in their struggle to better themselves. The center of our attention will be the academia thaumaturgia, where heroes from all over Theros come together to form a band that will save the world.

Battlefield Thaumaturge is unlikely to become a Legacy powerhouse—we just don’t target creatures enough for it to matter. That being said, it’s also the card in this set with the most potential to do something actually broken. Don’t believe me? Look at Sapphire Medallion or the Familiar cycle. Reducing cost is dangerous territory. However, where those cards only made things cheaper by a single mana, Battlefield Thaumaturge has the potential to save three, four, or even more mana per spell. In short, by the numbers its ability is insane—you just need to choose enough targets.

There are two things that really make this card for me. The first is that it doesn’t matter what you target. While Thaumaturge is obviously meant as a heroic enabler, it also reduces the cost of any Doom Blade or Hero’s Downfall you happen to cast, allowing you to much easier keep the pace with the threats you’re trying to kill in the first place. It’s particularly good with multi-target removal spells like Flames of the Firebrand.

The second is that it does the job it was designed for incredibly well. In a dedicated heroic deck, Battlefield Thaumaturge into Glimpse the Sun God or Launch the Fleettriggers all your heroic creatures for a single white mana. In combination with Triton Fortune Hunter, we might actually get something that feels reasonably close to going off!

We’ve already seen a U/B Heroes deck do decently without Battlefield Thaumaturge in the past, and I expect it to be a huge upgrade there. But I am particularly enticed by imagining an aggressive U/W deck that fills the board with heroic creatures early and goes off with mass target spells to trigger them later, splashing a little bit of red to enable Arc Lightning, Flames of the Firebrand, and Aurelia’s Fury as additional mass target spells that can also get your guys through.

The idea here is to use Gridlock, Aurelia’s Fury, and Glimpse the Sun God to build your own Brave the Elements that also happens to trigger all your heroic abilities (cast it after declaring attackers). If you don’t hit a Battlefield Thaumaturge, you spend your first couple of turns playing heroes and then keep tapping out to either tap the opponent’s blockers or buff all your own guys—or do a little bit of both depending on the situation. Once Thaumaturge is ready, you get to attack all out every turn, paying just U, W or RW to tap down all your opponent’s creatures and trigger all your Heroes. Sounds rather impressive to be honest.

Maybe the red splash is overkill and the deck should just use Phalanx Leader and Gridlock or Launch the Fleet instead to fully focus on just flooding the board. On the other hand, maybe we should start U/R and just splash the white tap effects. Or maybe the correct call is something building on the established original U/B deck, just adding Thaumaturge and Gridlock to help with an engine -maybe you can even fuel a Sage of Hours that way, though I kind of doubt that. Either way, lots of opportunities await your heroes!

A final word of warning before you go exploring without the protection of your guide—beware when seeking nighttime amusement on Theros. While the local revels might sound enticing at first, some of the Eidolons have a very . . . special way to celebrate.

While not exciting in its own right—it’s just Pyrostatic Pillar with legs after all—Eidolon of the Great Revel is something that has been long due. I know a lot Legacy players that wonder why it wasn’t done before in fact. If hate bears of this power level keep spreading into red—especially at a RR cost—we might actually see aggressive red decks taking on more of a role in Legacy. This is an excellent card for burn ,which already sideboarded Pyrostatic Pillar in the past, but is even better in a slightly more creature-focused red deck, something that’s been absent from Legacy for a while now ever since the demise of Zoo.

Eidolon of the Great Revel will deal two damage to the opponent almost no matter what, and if they have to dig for removal first, it can rapidly take too much of a toll to come back from. Even if you and your opponent keep pace casting spells, though, the 2/2 body will already naturally help you to break the ability’s symmetry. At the same time we finally have a red card that’s actually red instead of just making U/R/x decks better because you clearly can’t splash this into a cantrip shell. Maybe this could go into my Naya Blitz port from a year ago as maindeck hate for both Delver decks and combo? Keeping the opponent from playing too many spells early sounds like a step in the right direction for that deck.

Traveler come thou to Theros, avoid the spite of Mogis at all cost. A god’s emotions have manifestation in the real world, and the Spite of Mogis is particularly destructive to those suffering it.

I haven’t read a word about Spite of Mogis so far, yet I feel this is the card I personally am most likely to sleeve up from this set. It’s a role player that actually might have a reasonably big impact on Legacy because it is so good in the Delver cantrip shell. In a deck that regularly expects to have Nimble Mongoose threshold by turn 3 or 4, Spite of Mogis will generally kill just about anything, up to and including a maximum-sized 8/9 Tarmogoyf by turn 6.

That means one big thing—red suddenly has its very own quasi Swords to Plowshares. Yes, Spite is a lot less consistently powerful than Swords to Plowshares is, but on the other hand, it also doesn’t require you to splash white and when it works is much better than the best removal spell ever printed (scry, no life, all that jazz). I’ll be surprised if we don’t see one or two of these make it into the maindeck of most RUG Delver decks in the long run, at least assuming they play out roughly like I imagine them to.

Enjoy Your Stay

And thus endeth our guided tour. We have visited the wonders of Nyx your faithful guide is familiar with and considers important. We hope you have enjoyed your Journey with us and would be happy to welcome you again aboard our tour in the future. Suggestions for improvements and additional sights worth visiting are always welcome. You an use the contact pergaments provided below.