Right about now I always forget that we’re settling into a new set. You look at the cards from the new set, and they seem like they’ve been there the whole time. I know you might hear things like "Bile Blight . . . oh yeah, a girl wrecked my aggro deck with that the other day" or "yep, you’ve got a Kiora; wonder if can I draw the Hero’s Downfall in three turns?" These cards are pretty familiar now. We’ve been brewing with them for a few weeks, and they’re starting to smooth over in our minds. The slag is floating to the bottom while we skim off the half dozen or so cards worth anything in Constructed Magic from the top.
News flash: still awesome.
That leaves a large percentage at the bottom of the barrel, and I personally don’t think that’s where they belong. I can guess that you don’t think so either, so let’s scoop our hands in there and find something interesting.
Magic is full of neat interactions, but I was particularly excited to play with this card in the Prerelease. It did decently well and found me a replacement card fairly frequently.
This guy looks fairly innocuous at first. Yeah, he’s an Augur of Bolas, but you have to spend an extra card on him to activate him. And he’s just a 1/3!
But wait a second; if you target him to get an enchantment, you can find another enchantment. Then you can target him with what you found and get another enchantment. Then you can find and cast another one. If the Auras are frequent and cheap enough, you can cast as many enchantments as you have mana to cast. He combos with himself!
While Ethereal Armor screams to be included in this deck, I figured that just white and blue wouldn’t be sufficient to get the results I wanted, so I dug into each other color option. Red had Madcap Skills, and black had Dark Favor for extra punch. But green provided a solid creature base and good enchantments too. Let’s reach for the stars!
- 2 Auramancer
- 1 Witchstalker
- 3 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Hopeful Eidolon
- 4 Hero of Iroas
- 4 Meletis Astronomer
- 3 Eidolon of Countless Battles
The line between enchantment and creature is blurred in this deck, but we’ll focus first on anything that can be a creature at all. Meletis Astronomer is at the forefront of the deck. His trigger is better than a draw trigger in this deck; he finds actual power that he can use on himself or a neighbor, though you’ll frequently just target him with what you find. The deck has 23 targets for his trigger, and in playtesting I think I missed once out of a couple dozen triggers. Frequently you’ll have a choice. Unlike Augur of Bolas, who could end up being a measly Lumengrid Warden when its trigger didn’t find anything, Meletis Astronomer gives you chance after chance to activate him, making him much more useful in the long game.
Hopeful Eidolon is a jack-of-all-trades in this deck. As a one-drop, you can suit it up with Ethereal Armor and hit for three lifelink damage the next turn or equip two Armors and send for seven damage. As an early creature, it also pads your creature count for the nefarious Devour Flesh, which can consume your enchantment-laden Astronomer in a jiffy. It also replaces two cards I’d normally play in this deck: Unflinching Courage and Gift of Orzhova. Both cards are stellar in white Aura decks, but Hopeful Eidolon provides the lifelink while also having the option to just kill your opponent. As you’ll see ahead, evasion isn’t too much of a concern.
Hero of Iroas is a bit of an auto four-of, reducing nearly every Aura to a single-digit cost. He’s a reasonable target for pumping himself, making a solid 17/17 on turn 3 (assuming you attach three Ethereal Armors and have a Hopeful Eidolon on 1.) We can assume that though because we’re reaching for the stars after all. Eidolon of Endless Battles in this deck has power and toughness equal to nonland permanents effectively. This level of power is exceptional, granting beefcake status to even the flimsiest token. Being able to withstand a sweeper if bestowed gives it a Voice of Resurgence token feel, but you can do a lot worse. And it synergizes with the deck’s strategy.
Fleecemane Lion was an addition green offered, and the efficient size and ability to indelibly protect itself from targeted spells and destruction in combat are essential when you’re investing with Auras. There’s still a lot of 2/2s floating around, and Fleecemane Lion handles them on time. Auramancer, a welcome reprint from Odyssey and Magic 2012, can breathe life back into a shattered wisp of Magic. Ethereal Armor is so powerful that I needed ways to copy it or easily recur it. Auramancer most of the time will act as Ethereal Armors five and six,, but she can also recover a shattered Eidolon (either one) or any other Aura, giving you the spark to start loading up your freshly cast Meletis Astronomer.
There is one Witchstalker in the maindeck. You rarely want more than one at a time, and you can seal the deal in a hustle with one. It is however difficult to cast, and a 3/3 for three is just so-so nowadays so the Wolf needs some help before it goes in pounding. If you’re asking, I just wish they’d reprinted Great Sable Stag; that, my friends, was a Magic card.
Auras & Ajani, Caller of the Pride
There are fifteen Auras that target a creature, one that doesn’t, and one nonenchantment noncreature permanent. First, Ethereal Armor needs no introduction. If you’ve ever moved in an Aura-based direction since Return to Ravnica dropped, you’ve grabbed your playset of Ghost Pants and jammed them in there. I can’t find a good reason to play any less than four, so here they are.
Aqueous Form is a pretty exciting Aura. Just one mana means that it’s easily cast on Meletis Astronomer after a trigger, and the scry is not irrelevant. The deck doesn’t need more than three or four lands reasonably, and it has no instants maindeck so there isn’t much reason not to load up a target and swing. Because the deck lacks actual draw power, the scry filters your draws a bit to help make up for that.
The next enchantment was the real reason I decided to move into green:
Beta watch out.
We don’t live in a world filled with sick curves into "Geist of Saint Traft into Rancor, Rancor, Ethereal Armor, kill you" anymore. Hexproof is an immensely powerful ability, and one that since its disappearance from innately powerful creatures has been sorely needed for this archetype to work. Alpha Authority provides these goods and services. Wait for the tap out and then Authority up.
Although the comparable Canopy Cover from Zendikar block is better by a mile, this is a nice stand-in, and the ability to be blocked by only one creature means that you’re able to attack a bit more safely without having to do the dreaded "combat math" for the gang block. Most times it won’t matter, as your Ethereal Armor will deter them from blocking or your Aqueous Form will slide it under the fence anyway.
Murder Investigation is a bit of a deep one.
I especially like the stars superimposed over top the moon.
There’s no shame if you had to hover over the card to remind yourself of what it does. Because of the nature of some global destruction, Auras can feel very weak. Murder Investigation is an insurance policy; investing in Ethereal Armor and bestow creatures is great, but you want something for your time and card disadvantage if something goes wrong. If your opponent destroys a Meletis Astronomer with two Ethereal Armors and a Murder Investigation, you’ll get a healthy seven tokens. If an Eidolon of Endless Battles was also attached, you’ll get twice that many and a 15/15 creature. Pretty neat, huh?
Nylea’s Presence and Ephara’s Enlightenment are test enchantments. I like Ephara’s Enlightenment, but it feels really silly if you have to cast it at full cost to get half a Spectral Flight. Nylea’s Presence offers fixing and it replaces itself when cast. I wasn’t sure if it was worth it, but I figured one was safe enough. Finally, Ajani, Caller of the Pride provides continuous pumps on a protected target or threatens a heart-stopping swing. A turn 4 kill with a flying double-striking Hero of Iroas loaded with a couple enchantments is pretty terrifying. Incrementally increasing the power of any creature, especially an evasive one, will finish your opponent soon enough.
The land base is pretty standard. Every land produces color, and only a few scry lands appear. As this is a time-sensitive deck, most of the lands in here come into play untapped. Moreover, with Meletis Astronomer’s advantage, scrying is not as relevant as it may be in another deck that doesn’t plumb the top three cards every other turn. Timing is more important. Target Meletis Astronomer first and then play the scry land if you wish. Otherwise you’re just playing a Guildgate.
Featured prominently is a gem I used in a Return to Ravnica Block deck: Guildscorn Ward. This is another one-mana enchantment to fan the Astronomer’s flame, but it also protects its target from a lot of really relevant spells and creatures, namely Detention Sphere; Abrupt Decay; Azorius Charm; Kiora, the Crashing Wave’s +1; Domri Rade’s fight ability; a fused Far // Away; Putrefy; and any Charm and even lets you sneak past Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Nightveil Specter, Burning-Tree Emissary, Voice of Resurgence, Frostburn Weird, and any other multicolored creature you can think of. It can trigger the Astronomer one more time or can be a defensive enchantment for holding back an opposing multicolored God.
Next is Spirit of the Labyrinth, who can be found with an Astronomer trigger and ties down control decks from going too crazy. It utterly invalidates Divination, Read the Bones, Underworld Connections (on their turn), Prime Speaker Zegana, and Urban Evolution, and it makes a Sphinx’s Revelation a very expensive cycle. Not too bad for a two-drop. More than that, it’s very aggressive; one Ethereal Armor or Aqueous Form can make this Spirit a very scary attacker. Suit it up with an Alpha Authority and watch a control deck crumble!
Indestructibility is a nice gem that resurfaced in Magic 2014. Hero of Iroas can suit himself up with this on turn 3, and on any target it acts as a great way to protect against sweeper effects and Mizzium Mortars style shenanigans. It can make any creature stonewall a God, and it can often protect the creature even if it can be targeted. There are matches where you’ll want both Indestructibility and Alpha Authority as effectively redundant effects; some decks have literally no way of killing a creature when it’s enchanted with this, and that’s worth a couple slots.
I added a singleton Simic Charm just for the heck of it. It acts as instant hexproof and adds a bit of a surprise factor. Every mode can be vital in a number of board states, and I like a single copy for just that reason.
I tested this one a bit over the past week or so and was very excited to win every match. I played against aggro, midrange, and a couple U/W Control decks. The deck did exceptionally well against aggro; if you can suit up any creature with a Hopeful Eidolon, you will win the day. In midrange matchups, Alpha Authority and/or Fleecemane Lion often invalidated their removal. The land base was perfect. I never flooded, never had a problem with colors, and always had right what I needed on time.
Sideboarding was actually pretty difficult; the sideboard I listed above was not very helpful overall, and I wanted more copies of things I didn’t have as many copies to add. Some cards sat there the whole time without use, and I felt like the way I made the sideboard inadvertently encouraged poor decisions. It needs some work to say the least.
This is definitely an all-in style deck, and I love those. One of my testing opponents described the deck as a "fairer version" of the highly polarizing Bant Hexproof deck from last year’s Standard, which I took as a compliment. I always want to make fair decks, and thankfully Wizards’ plan is to make decks fair in Standard these days. Well, that’s the hope at least.
I like the deck in this stage, but I definitely saw some places to improve it. I’d make these adjustments.
In the maindeck, I’d take out:
And add in:
In the sideboard, I’d bench:
And put in:
Simic Charm is a great option to protect your creatures and enchantments from removal. I also found that the +3/+3 would have frequently been relevant in game. Fiendslayer Paladin was always too small to do anything; Fabled Hero might have been even better.
I won’t pretend that I’m the only one working on a hexproof deck. I’ve heard people in my shop and community discuss the possibility of one, but I definitely think the all-in plan on Meletis Astronomer is the way to go. Playing cheap trigger-inducing enchantments allows you to have the fun and excitement of going semi-infinite (hint: semi-infinite is a nonsense term). It was a blast to play. Like, a blast. If you miss the Bant Hexproof days of smashing your opponent with a 17/17 flying, lifelinking, and trampling Geist but also want to be able to talk to your friends after the games are over, aim your telescope at this list.
If you’re in the mood for something else that’s a bit all in, here’s a fun creature-centric list I’ve been testing.
- 3 Borborygmos Enraged
- 3 Prime Speaker Zegana
- 2 Progenitor Mimic
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
- 1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Prophet of Kruphix
- 3 Kiora's Follower
- 1 Xenagos, God of Revels
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
There’s not a whole lot to this list, but it’s a laugh riot to play. 31 creatures + 4 Plasm Captures = one happy pilot. Using some of the best creatures and mana dorks the format has to offer, you can counter a turn 4 threat on time and cast any card in your hand when you untap. Borborygmos Enraged is always fun, as is Polukranos, World Eater (with monstrous mana ready) or a Prime Speaker Zegana with mana left over. Maybe you can just use the mana to power out a couple Nylea, God of the Hunt activations?
Either way, this gives you the best creatures to complement a ramp strategy. No planeswalkers, no removal—just countermagic and bruisers. The sideboard is also 100% creatures to board in as you see fit. I’ll tell you what: counter that first spell with Plasm Capture and you’ll never go back to a real deck again. Bear in mind that if you target a spell that can’t be countered such as Supreme Verdict or Mistcutter Hydra you still get to add the mana to your pool as part of Plasm Capture’s effect.
What about the Aura list? Is Bant correct? Maybe a fourth color can make an appearance on the back of Nylea’s Presence and/or a couple Sylvan Caryatids? What advantages of your build are you leveraging to create an impressive take on a concept like this? I’m looking forward to responding to you!