With spoiler season in full swing for Journey into Nyx, we have quite a bit to talk about. As of writing this article, there are around twenty spoiled cards, and a few of them already have people talking. A lot of chatter about it already being better than Born of the Gods for Constructed seems aggressive, but at first glance I’m inclined to agree.
First of all, two Gods have been spoiled thus far. The Izzet God does not disappoint and addresses exactly what my concerns were for the God pertaining to the colors that rarely want to have creatures in play. I won’t go into great detail about why the card is good, as Patrick Sullivan already did a great job of that yesterday.
With that said, I do think Keranos could have a home in a number of control strategies, being the focal point of card advantage for colors that don’t have access to Sphinx’s Revelation. While Keranos might have potential to be the new splash for Mono-Blue Devotion, I don’t think it really fits into that archetype. You can’t do much with the extra lands that Keranos gives you, and having a constant source of removal or direct damage isn’t exactly what the deck is looking for.
If Keranos was just a straight personal Howling Mine, then we might have a different story.
Speaking of Howling Mine, we come to my favorite card spoiled so far, mostly because of the implications it brings for a new type of control deck.
While this card isn’t exactly heartwarming to most, I absolutely love it. It doesn’t have a lot of sweet applications in Standard, but it will make one of my favorite archetypes viable again! We haven’t had a Howling Mine effect in Standard for while, so it will be interesting to see just how good this version will be. Alongside Fog, which is still legal, we have the makings of a control deck that could choose to simply ignore the opponent. During last season’s Standard, Turbo Fog was a very real deck, and all I wanted was access to some sort of Howling Mine. Dictate of Kruphix is exactly that but with a significant upside.
The fact that it has flash is important for a few reasons. For one, Howling Mine was always a dangerous card because it gave your opponent an extra draw before you got one. This meant that after sideboard they could kill it and still gain a card out of the exchange. This is no longer true since you can just play it on their turn, ensuring you get the first card out of it. Secondly, in blue control decks cards that have flash are particularly powerful because they give you more options for when to cast them.
When your deck is full of Dissolve, Syncopate, and the like, you don’t always want to tap out in the early turns of the game to cast something like Howling Mine, but you will have perfect information before you deploy Dictate of Kruphix since you get to choose when you cast it. Alongside Sphinx’s Revelation, I think that Turbo Fog could be the real deal.
I wouldn’t recommend having Maze’s End be your kill condition, as having too many lands come into play tapped will often be a huge burden. Being a turn behind casting Supreme Verdict or Detention Sphere is rough against Pack Rat and Master of Waves, but you also have to play lands that are very incorrectly colored for casting your spells. Maze’s End has the awkward ability to just lose to itself if it doesn’t draw its marquee card in the early turns of the game as well.
For this deck, my vision is to grind the opponent out with Jace, Memory Adept and Elixir of Immortality. Yes, this means games will go long, but if you can play a control deck fast enough, that shouldn’t be a problem. Once you get to the point where you’re casting Sphinx’s Revelation every single turn, your opponent will likely get the message and pack it up for the next game. Heck, Reliquary Tower is legal and might actually make an appearance!
I don’t have a list hammered out just yet because building a deck like this requires a lot of finesse and perfect numbers for handling anything and everything. I fully expect singleton copies of Revoke Existence to make an appearance at some point, but I honestly just have no idea how many cards I want that say "prevent all damage." With aggressive red decks having access to Skullcrack as well as Thoughtseize running rampant, making one small mistake in deckbuilding could mean all the difference. This leads me to believe that I might need one or two more kill conditions since having your Elixir of Immortality hit by Thoughtseize is just disgusting. But for brainstorming’s sake, here is my first take on Dictate of Kruphix Fog.
While I’m not certain that Dictate of Kruphix will be the best Howling Mine variant yet, I’m confident that it will see play in this style of deck. The fact that many strategies have ways around Fog is troubling, but Dissolve and other counters should help alleviate that pain.
Mutavault is a big problem at the moment, and I’m even considering running more than a singleton Pithing Needle maindeck since it has applications against so many strategies. Most decks run either Mutavault or Elspeth, Sun’s Champion (or both), which can be troublesome, but you can also lock down an opposing Domri Rade, Xenagos, or even just Underworld Connections (this is less important, as you will be giving them extra cards via Dictate). Obzedat, Ghost Council might also be a problem, but we could get a new tool to handle it from Journey into Nyx that hasn’t been spoiled yet. Plus it isn’t seeing much play outside of the Brian Braun-Duin metagame.
The next card I wanted to discuss isn’t exactly exciting, but the addition of another aggressive creature for a tier 2 strategy might give it exactly the boost it needs.
If you read my article last week, you saw a couple different versions Mono-Black Aggro. Gnarled Scarhide gives you yet another reason to play this type of strategy, as this will be the first time in recent memory where an aggressive deck has access to three different one-drop creatures that all have two power. The best part about Gnarled Scarhide is that much like Spiteful Returned it’s a great early threat that allows you to do something useful with your mana in the late game.
Bestow is a powerful mechanic that gives you a lot of options in the late game. Alongside Mutavault it’s difficult to get truly flooded since many of your cards have alternate modes that give you something to do with that extra mana, but the early versions of these cards are not slouching. All of these bodies are perfectly fine on their own, but having the ability to do something more powerful as the game progresses is what makes this strategy truly awesome. Few aggro decks throughout Magic’s history have had access to cards that give you some of the best aggressive options in the late game combined with the elements of utility if you draw them late.
While Gnarled Scarhide might not look impressive on paper, I can assure you that an aggressive deck featuring Thoughtseize, Mutavault, and a gaggle of two-power creatures for one mana will be powerful, though maybe not always dominant. Mono-Blue Devotion and Mono-Black Devotion do have the tools necessary to interact with your deck favorably both pre- and post-board, but there will be spots where the deck will be great.
This version of the deck is consistent and hits very hard very early in the game. It focuses on early aggression and disruption without cute tricks like Boon of Erebos. In a world full of Bile Blight, Devour Flesh, and Detention Sphere, Boon of Erebos isn’t all that great. I liked it in theory last week, but testing has made me want to just fill my deck with more threats. Gnarled Scarhide gives me exactly what I want and helps fill out the curve nicely.
Pain Seer is still mediocre at best, but I think this version of the deck can make it into an actual threat. Cards like Mogis’s Marauder and Herald of Torment give you the ability to keep it attacking, even when your opponent could have a blocker for it. It’s obviously fantastic against a control deck but will rarely draw you more than a single card before they kill it with Detention Sphere or something similar.
Bile Blight is much worse than Lightning Strike for a strategy as aggressive as this, but the downside of splashing another color just for a burn spell and a two-drop creature is too high of a cost. In the long run, you’re going to lose more games to having lands come into play tapped or drawing a slew of red spells without a way to cast them. This mono-black version of the deck doesn’t have that problem, and I think Bile Blight is just fine in a world full of Pack Rat and Nightveil Specter.
The sideboard is a bit different than last time. For one, you don’t have the luxury of grinding out the green decks with removal and Lifebane Zombie, as your early threats won’t win the game going long. Lifebane Zombie is a value card that is designed to try to two for one the opponent, ultimately creating a game state that is advantageous for a control player. As an aggressive player, I don’t think Lifebane Zombie is better than either Mogis’s Marauder or Herald of Torment, as both of those cards have huge upsides when Lifebane Zombie’s ability isn’t relevant. Intimidate is obviously nice, but being able to give your entire team intimidate and swing for the win is crucial against stuff like Master of Waves.
Alongside Thoughtseize, we have the full complement of Duress out of the sideboard to help against control decks. We need to strip them of Jace, Architect of Thought; Supreme Verdict; and other important tools for interacting with us in the early game. Since it only costs one mana, we get to play a threat on turn 1 often followed by a discard spell and another threat on turn 2. These draws are absurdly difficult for control decks to beat and will lead to some easy games, though the matchup isn’t always a cakewalk. They have a lot of strong tools at their disposal, and they can definitely pick you apart if you aren’t interacting with them while applying pressure. This is one of the reasons why Thoughtseize is so good in the deck and why I think Duress will be solid.
More Like Pyreheart Wolf, Amirite?
We’ve seen Gods like this before that gave us hope for white aggressive decks, and I’m really hoping this is the one that makes the cut. Iroas is a gigantic body with two relevant abilities before it actually becomes active. Making combat difficult for the opponent is fantastic when your plan is to just flood the board and hope for the best.
I think that Iroas will be best in a white aggressive shell since you have access to Boros Reckoner and Precinct Captain to help turn him into a living breathing animal, but I could easily see Iroas making waves in R/W Devotion or something similar. Burning-Tree Emissary is a huge boon for devotion strategies since it ramps you quickly into Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx activations while simultaneously providing you the double red necessary to turn on your Gods. I’m not certain that Iroas is better than Purphoros, God of the Forge in that sort of shell which is why I think it’s more likely for Iroas find a home in a white-based deck than a red-based one.
The major problem with Iroas is that it feels powerful in a Mutavault deck but that forces you to play either Boros Reckoner or Mutavault. I think that Mutavault is actually just more powerful. Since you also want to play stuff like Ajani, Caller of the Pride and Spear of Heliod, Mutavault will give you some game against Supreme Verdict, hopefully resulting in enough noncreature permanents to turn Iroas into a threat.
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Boros Elite
- 4 Daring Skyjek
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 2 Iroas, God of Victory
While I’m not sure this list is good enough to combat Mono-Blue Devotion, I think it has the tools to beat Esper Control and Mono-Black Devotion. Cards like Master of Waves are a huge problem for these cheap creature strategies because they also have other tools to keep you on the back foot, such as Frostburn Weird and Nightveil Specter. Their one-drops usually trade with yours as well, meaning there will be plenty of times you don’t attack into their board so you can build it up for Iroas or just wait on an Ajani or Spear of Heliod.
Waiting to attack has its perks, but doing so will often lead to losing to Master of Waves. There aren’t a lot of cards that white decks can play to defend against it, meaning this strategy could be null and void before it even gets off the ground. The easiest route to victory generally starts with Brave the Elements, but you won’t always draw it in the correct spots.
As for the decklist itself, the Stomping Ground acts as an additional red source that can also cast Dryad Militant if that wasn’t exactly obvious, but it could lead to some awkward turn 3s featuring double white spells. Hopefully that won’t end up being an issue too often, but Mutavault means you have to gamble a little bit. I upped the land count to 24 so that you don’t have to rely on Mutavault too much to cast your more mana-intensive spells, but you will feel flooded at times. This is just a natural occurrence when playing more lands, but Mutavault and Temple of Triumph should help mitigate those scenarios.
Boros Charm seems like an obvious inclusion in the deck, giving you a way to protect yourself from Supreme Verdict while also finishing off the opponent when your early pressure gets them low enough. It can get stuck in your hand on occasion, but it’s powerful enough to justify splashing for alongside Iroas.
At the moment I’m incredibly excited to see what the new Standard will look like, as the current format keeps bouncing between Mono-Blue Devotion, Mono-Black Devotion, Esper Control, and big dumb green creature decks. Each week the best deck can easily change simply due to who’s piloting which one and how they construct their deck and sideboard to beat the others. With Journey into Nyx looming on the horizon, my personal hope is that Turbo Fog becomes a deck thanks to Dictate of Kruphix, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some other new strategies pop up. Wizards has a knack for making the third set of a block particularly powerful to shake things up, and I think that’s exactly what Journey into Nyx is going to do.
Be sure to check out the Premium Versus videos next week, as I’ll be battling with my first take on Turbo Fog as well as the Mono-Black Aggro deck. Let’s see just how frustrated I can make Brad!