Speak to Me

Open Series grinder Anthony Lowry explores his process of developing a Prophetic Flamespeaker deck for the Week 1 Journey into Nyx metagame. Get inspiration for #SCGKNOX!

I’m writing this piece during the SCG Invitational Qualifier in New Jersey on Saturday. I haven’t had a chance to really look at coverage or work on the
format much, but Tom Ross’s article this past Friday was the only
weapon I needed.

The Player’s Championship hunt continues.

I was really high on Mana Confluence for almost all of last week. I mean, the card did everything I wanted it to do in all of my aggressive decks. It gave
me a way to cast Experiment One into Burning-Tree Emissary + Gore-House Chainwalker/Brushstrider, it let me reliably bloodrush or cast my Ghor-Clan
Rampagers, and it made me want to push the envelope on what I could do with my sideboard.

I was positive I had one of the better decks for the local Invitational Qualifier, and possibly even the SCG Open in Cincinnati.

On that Wednesday, everything felt great.

On Thursday, not so much.

And on Friday, I pretty much trashed it.

I got way too caught up not listening to myself. I became much less confident in my deckbuilding decisions, something very uncharacteristic of me. It’s
really easy to just listen to a bunch of people telling you to do a million different things to your deck, without asking yourself what you want to do first. Suggestions and second opinions are great, but you should always, always listen to yourself first. I didn’t do that, and I
was getting punished simply by losing time. I know myself well enough; when I really sit down and spend time building things, I consider almost everything
that most people suggest to me, so why was I not just going with my gut first? More embarrassingly, what took me so long to do that?

The first thing I realized was that Mana Confluence was not where I wanted to be at all. It’s great in decks like aggressive Naya decks that Brad Nelson
has been high on or midrange decks that can recoup the life loss with either inherent life gain, a huge power card that renders the life loss setback
obsolete, or both. Neither of those strategies were really calling my name though. I could see it being a ninth dual land if you really want it, but I’m
jumping ship. It’s not as good for me as I thought it’d be. I still think it’s insane and will be a major player going forward, but again, it wasn’t for

Prophetic Flamespeaker, however, is exactly the card for me.

I immediately knew that I wanted to build an aggressive deck around it, and I never, ever wanted Mana Confluence in the same deck as Prophetic Flamespeaker
for that tournament. Everyone else was going to do all of these awesome things, and being on the same level (or stooping to their level, depending on how
you look at it) was not something I was interested in. If I’m taking damage, they’re going to be doing it, not me.

I started with Tom Ross’s build:

I knew I wasn’t going to play anything close to his 75, mostly because I’m not as much of a genius as Tom, but also because his decks are mainly built for him. I knew that his shell was something I could work with though, so I did what I always do when building decks: have cards and lists all over
the place, and get into my little zone of “I know this all looks like a mess, but I’ll figure it out!”

3-4 Prophetic Flamespeaker: As I said, this was the card I wanted to build around. I debated whether I wanted three or four because of how bad the fourth
one seemed. The card is insane, but that doesn’t mean you always want four of them. Jace, Architect of Thought is still a thing, and it’s absolutely
miserable when you don’t have a way of pushing it past that. I’d probably be better served playing three with some other three-drops, depending on what
color I ultimately decide going with (green is the frontrunner), for coverage purposes more than anything.

7-10 pump spells, preferably those that also do something else: We don’t need that many pump spells to make Flamespeaker good, but the ones we do
have need to completely destroy them when given the opportunity. Even though Madcap Skills sometimes doesn’t have text on it other than when your opponent
is on the backfoot, and it’s pretty easy to play around when you’re trying to set it up with Prophetic Flamespeaker, it’s still the best option at that
cost. Armed // Dangerous is also in a similar camp, but has more of a push when you need it (though the cost for said push is expensive), so I wouldn’t
mind having something like that. Ghor-Clan Rampager, Titan’s Strength, and Mogis’s Warhound are the leading competitors, and it’s very possible we can get
all three in.

Burning-Tree Emissary: Because this card has been very good to me for an incredibly long time. It’d be foolish of me to not play a deck without my favorite
Frogmite variant.

0 Firefist Striker maindeck if we aren’t playing Chandra’s Phoenix: Without Phoenix, Firefist Striker gets unbelievably bad. It’s way too difficult to turn
on, and I wouldn’t want to be stuck with a Goblin Piker in my hand. I’d play Madcap Skills over this.

4 Titan’s Strength, 0 Rubblebelt Maaka: While the cards look very similar, the reason for running Titan’s Strength goes way beyond just the +3/+1. The
complexity of this card in different board states is not to be underestimated, and you’re able to gain a new element in sculpting a game state the way you
want. Defensively, you can gain protection from things like Last Breath, Shock, and Magma Jet. You can use it as a removal spell in conjunction with your
first strikers. The added scry allows you to have more control over what you get with a Prophetic Flamespeaker. If you’re tapped out and you scry into a
land after already playing one, you can leave it on top so you don’t get rid of potential gas further in your deck. You can use Titan’s Strength on your
upkeep to get more information and that’s a pretty attractive option when you know you’re going to get the damage through. The versatility is amazing, and
I will never, ever play less than four in this deck. Rubblebelt Maaka has the big benefit of being a creature and uncounterable, but when you already have
Ghor-Clan Rampager this becomes much less attractive, even with the difference in bloodrush mana cost.

With these points in mind, we can start building a bit:

The big thing for me is to have game against Jace, Architect of Thought and Supreme Verdict. This is why I went with Chandra’s Phoenix and Mogis’s
Warhound. Phoenix gives me a way to jump right back into the fray after a Verdict and Warhound gives my board state some more longevity, as well as being
another pump spell for Flamespeaker. Fanatic of Xenagos is better with your pump spells, but when everyone’s trying to run creatures into each other it’s
harder for me to justify it over Chandra’s Phoenix. I hated the fact that everyone was doing a clean swap and completely dropping the Phoenix, when I
actually think that Phoenix is still a great tool to have in this shell. You don’t need that many burn spells to make Phoenix useful, either. Many
red aggro decks pre-Journey into Nyx only had four or five ways to recur the Phoenix, and I don’t think we need many more. Maybe we can add a single
Searing Blood if we are that worried about it, but honestly, I’m not concerned.

Wait, didn’t you say that Firefist Striker is really bad without as many Haste creatures? Why aren’t you playing it now that you have Chandra’s

Mostly because we lack the other four to eight one-drops in Firedrinker Satyr and Foundry Street Denizen to really maximize it. As I said, Madcap Skills
gives us a similar function without the need to invest in a ton of board presence. I’m not overly interested in playing creatures that help the expected
decks get closer to killing me or a 1/1 that gets brick-walled by opposing Prophetic Flamespeakers, Boros Reckoners, and the like. They help Striker get
past those things, but I’m not interested in investing so many maindeck slots to that cause.

“But Magma Spray makes Chandra’s Phoenix unplayable!”

Except that no one is going to play that this weekend, and if they do, you got me! I’m not going to worry about something as trivial as that.

Eidolon of the Great Revel is not a particularly good card on the draw, or in a format where you aren’t really getting attritioned out by cheap spells
and/or cantrips, but I can’t stand Ash Zealot, and we aren’t really getting much better than that. If this gets to deal two damage, then it’s fine by me,
but if I ever draw two of these then I’m going to want to rip my eyes out. There isn’t another two drop that I want in its place; a maindeck Skylasher is
good against Mono-Blue Devotion, but Eidolon is also fine there, and I probably play Skylasher differently from most in the control matchup, dropping it
post-Supreme Verdict. Having one is good enough for me. I don’t expect much Mono-Black Devotion, where I think it’ll be best, but if that picks up, then
I’ll probably add a second.

“Well, wouldn’t you want to see it more often on the play if it’s good then?”

Not really? Just because a card is good on the play doesn’t mean that we should go and play more of them for that reason. That’s like saying a sideboard
card should be in the maindeck because you bring it in against a ton of matchups. The value of a card differs greatly with the context of how a deck is
built and operated, and in both cases, following that logic can prove way too linear and mess up the goal of a given deck.

Legion Loyalist is in the exact same boat as Eidolon of the Great Revel and probably a more elementary example. It can do a little bit more outside of its
job, which makes it worthy of a slot, but it’s the most odious feeling when you draw a second one. There also isn’t a better one-drop in that slot, as I
already ruled out Firedrinker Satyr and Foundry Street Denizen, while Experiment One compels me to play Mana Confluence, which defeats the purpose. Satyr
Hoplite doesn’t really work in a non-heroic shell, and I’m not as bold (in a good way) as Tom to play a single Akroan Crusader.

The sideboard is what it is, and doesn’t need much explaining. Big creatures? Boros Reckoner. Blue cards? Skylasher. Enchantments that can actually set you
back and/or kill you? Destructive Revelry. Small creatures? Searing Blood. What you take out changes every single game, and it’s mostly dependent on where
I foresee the game going. A few pointers on the overall sideboard considerations and cards I’m not opting to play:

Eidolon of the Great Revel can make another appearance in the sideboard if you expect more Black Devotion decks. This is probably the only place where I
don’t really mind having multiples.

– I don’t care that much about Blue Devotion. If I play against it, I will probably lose to it, and I’m okay with this. That is a risk I was willing to
take when I chose to play this deck on Saturday, and while I have some tools available to me to combat it, I’m not going to configure my deck to beat it.
You can’t beat everything, and this is certainly not the deck to try and do such a thing. If you really want to try and beat them, then the second
Legion Loyalist, the first Gruul Charm, a Seismic Stomp, or the fourth Skylasher are among your best bets.

– I don’t expect very many Chained to the Rocks, so Peak Eruption stays on the sidelines for this week. It could be included next week depending on how
things turn out in Cincinnati.

Burning Earth is pretty meh, especially since Eidolon of the Great Revel does a lot of work already. Maybe it’s possible that you can combine them for
extra angles of punishment, but three-color blue control decks are the only decks where I’m comfortable doing anything close to this.

– I think Gruul War Chant is a bit better than Chandra, Pyromaster this week, but being an enchantment certainly hurts it. All of your buffs become much
better when a War Chant resolves and Prophetic Flamespeaker benefits nicely too (like it needs any more help). Getting extra cards off Chandra makes it
much better against blue based and black based control. Neither makes the cut due to the expected lack of Monsters, the real tipping point of inclusion for
me, but things could always change.

– If Monsters does rise in popularity, then Harness by Force will absolutely be included.

– If Nyx-Fleece Ram gets more popular, then more Destructive Revelry will probably work out fine. I don’t think the card is particularly great against us,
since it’s so easy for us to push through it without overextending (another reason to play this deck in general, really). Also something to consider if you
expect more Naya Auras, which is a terrible matchup for you.

Sideboards, and decks in general, should always be considered on a tournament by tournament basis. What may work for one event may not work for
another. Stay updated, and never settle.

I’m pretty confident that this is very close to the best build for what I’m trying to do, and whenever I get this confident, I know I can make a deep run.
With a finals appearance in the last Super IQ I played in, my quest to obtain at least a bye for the Invitational in Columbus continues, and I don’t plan
on slowing down.

This season is mine, and I’m going to make it count.