Top Ten Journey into Nyx Cards: Day 1
5. Magma Spray
The first day, the first week a new set is legal, there is always a period of adjustment. The first cards to get used tend to be cards that immediately fit
into an existing archetype. Most of the successful decks tend to be existing metagame players.
In its first day, Journey into Nyx has already exceeded expectations, and quite frankly, expectations were not low. This weekend’s SCG Standard Open in Cincinnati featured eight different decks in the Top 8,
thirteen in the Top 16. Not only is that an incredible amount of diversity, many of these decks did not exist, at least not in notable numbers, prior to
Journey into Nyx.
● B/g Devotion
● Junk Midrange
● U/W/R Control
Amazing what three new lands can do for a format…
The top ten list from above contains the Journey into Nyx cards that Top 8’ed SCG Cincinnati, with honorable mentions to cards that appeared in the Top 16.
Cards are ranked in order of how many copies appeared in Top 16 lists, with highest finish the tie-breaker.
I found this to be an interesting mix of cards for a few reasons. Obviously, it’s no surprise to see Mana Confluence, Temple of Malady, and Temple of
Epiphany up there. What’s more interesting is the quantity of white cards:
Three red cards, two blue cards, two green cards, and interestingly enough, zero black cards. It’s not like black was underrepresented, either. A full half
of the Top 16 lists contained black cards, many of which were mono-black or nearly mono-black.
Perhaps this is just reflective of how much higher a bar there is for black cards to make it into constructed. I think it’s a really good sign, though.
There is no shortage of strong, appealing black cards in Journey into Nyx.
Having great black cards to work with that don’t just build the slightly overpowered mono-black decks from the previous format is great! It is really hard
to balance a third set and hit that sweet spot where there are a lot of awesome cards that pull you sideways and in new directions, overcoming the
challenge of a deep card pool, without just power-creeping.
Let’s take a look at the top-finishing decks, the impact Journey into Nyx has had so far, and what opportunities are evident as a result. What better place
to start than with the winner?
While Tenjum’s list features just one Journey into Nyx card, it is a vital one. The printing of a second good dual land for the color combination isn’t
just a power boost that puts B/g on equal footing with B/w and B/r (and B/u, when people want it). It also means B/g has consistency it never used to.
After all, Abrupt Decay, Golgari Charm, and Vraska the Unseen are so good, people have been trying to make B/g work even without Temple of Malady.
Sometimes you just play four Golgari Guildgates, a couple of basic Forests, and you just accept that your mana is not good.
And what’s important to note about Temple of Malady’s impact is that it means a lot more enchantment removal is going to get played. Plus, as if
Abrupt Decay, Golgari Charm, and Vraska weren’t enough, Banishing Light and Deicide are major players, and Destructive Revelry and Unravel the AEther are
sure to be on the rise.
While no B/G graveyard deck cracked the Top 16 this time, that is another archetype that received a major boost from Temple of Malady (and Mana
Confluence). I also kind of wonder if Temple of Malady might help spawn a BUG Control deck, perhaps with a Planeswalker-focused game-plan. For instance,
what about something like:
I just think it’d be real swell to have Kiora and Vraska fighting side-by-side, as both are a little underrated at the moment…
Anyway, there were a number of black decks besides just B/g. First, and most boringly, we have traditional Mono-Black, the only list in the Top 8 to
feature zero Journey into Nyx cards.
Nothing to report here. This list is as stock as they come. Sure he’s got 25 land, not 26. He’s on the Lifebane/Nightveil split, like so many others. These
aren’t exactly groundbreaking moves, but this deck works. It wins and needs to be respected.
B/W Midrange isn’t the most revolutionary deck, either, but there are a couple of Journey into Nyx cards in there mixing things up.
Deicide in the board is no surprise, and will likely be appearing in the main or board of every mid-range or control deck. Mana Confluence, on the other
hand, is a little more surprising. Can we really afford to take this kind of damage? Is it really doing more for us than an Orzhov Guildgate and a Plains?
Maybe, but with all these Underworld Connections, I’d think we’d really rather not just be spewing life points.
Take, for instance, the Junk Midrange deck that finished third. It has less Underworld Connections, a lot more life gain, more tapped lands already, and
actually uses Mana Confluence as a tri-land, not just a dual land. Even it uses just one copy, not wanting to just throw life points away.
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
- 2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
- 2 Archangel of Thune
- 1 Lifebane Zombie
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
This list is pretty sweet, featuring lots of really powerful cards that don’t normally get to fight side-by-side. It’s a little crowded at the five-spot
(seven five-drops?), but it does make excellent use of Ajani’s Impulse ability. You’re going to fairly consistently hit a high-impact card each time you
At least we do have Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix to make the mana come together, but I think I’d still consider replacing one of the fives with a
second Elspeth. She is just so good right now. As for four-drops, it may look like we’re a little short, but both Underworld Connections and Courser of
Kruphix are three-drops that are more powerful if played as four-drops (each giving you another card or chances at a card).
One of the nice things about both Abrupt Decay and Banishing Light are that they give us answers to enchantments without risking dead cards. It’ll be
interesting to see what influences these two cards have on the format. It’s pretty hard to not play permanents that cost 3 or less, and killing other
people’s Banishing Lights is often a great tempo play. Still, we do want answers to fatties and Planeswalkers, and there are only so many Hero’s Downfalls
we can play.
Yes, four, it’s just that we’d play more than that.
I’ll tell you what’s sweet, Archangel of Thune + fourteen lifegain cards!
Yeah, you know, activate Ajani’s -8 with Archangel of Thune in play, and it’s like you get his +1/+1 counter ability thrown in for free!
Just as Temple of Malady opens B/g up, so too does Temple of Epiphany for U/W/R. Esper has been at an advantage in the 3-color U/W/x control race thanks to
better mana. Now each color combination is on equal footing and we find out if red brings enough to the table to dethrone the existing boss control deck.
Keranos replacing AEtherling (maindeck) is totally reasonable, especially since we have both Banishing Light and Deicide to free it from Detention, if need
be. Not being able to wake Keranos up is not really that big of a deal, since he kills people in reasonable time from a distance.
1-Cost – If you’re ahead and just want a counterspell, Syncopate works. Otherwise, Quicken at least lets you cycle to dig to what you need, not to mention
letting you set up the instant speed sweeper blow-out. Magma Spray, Dispel, and Wear//Tear are all respectable options out of the board.
2-Cost – This is where the real toolbox comes in. Need to kill a creature? Turn//Burn. Need to kill an enchantment? Deicide. Need to find Supreme Verdict?
Izzet Charm lets you dig deeper. Celestial Flare is a fine option out of the board, and remember, you can find Wear//Tear as your two, if you want. I’m
kind of surprised to see neither a Gainsay, nor a Negate in the board. If I were experimenting with this sort of deck, I would definitely want at least one
3-Cost – The default target is a Sphinx’s Revelation to keep the card draw coming, but sometimes you just want a grip full of countermagic, so Dissolve and
Counterflux are always in play. Additionally, Turn//Burn counts as a three as well, should you want it.
One last note on O’Bryant’s sideboard: I love the quantity and diversity of threats allowing him to become more proactive.
That is a lot of powerful threats that add many dimensions to a deck with relatively narrow ways to close out the game maindeck. Interestingly, the Esper
list Michael Belfatto Top 8’ed with also features quite a diversity of threats…just maindeck!
Multiple AEtherlings alongside Blood Barons and Brimaz? He does have fewer Planeswalkers than most, but they are there adding an angle of attack.
Curiously, the card most loudly missing is Mutavault. While most Esper decks only feature two or three, Michael is packing Mana Confluence instead, so as
to support Hero’s Downfall, an option most Esper decks do not dare to use these days.
Another novel feature of Michael’s design is the use of just one Dissolve. Sure, there are the usual two Syncopates, but the miser’s Negate and the miser’s
Essence Scatter provide more countermagic at two, making room for Hero’s Downfall alongside Dissolve, Detention Sphere, Banishing Light, and Brimaz at
Just as we had a straightforward Mono-Black deck to provide a baseline for us to compare the B/g and B/w decks to, so to do we have a baseline for control,
in the form of finalist Eric Rill’s U/W Control list:
Banishing Light is nothing new, but Nyx-Fleece Ram is a pretty awesome new piece of technology that nearly single-handedly ends R/w Burn’s day in the sun.
As good as it is against R/w Burn, however, that’s nothing compared to how much the card demolishes red aggro. Not even Patrick Sullivan would want to play
red in a world full of these guys.
Finally, rounding out our Top 8, we have Matthew McCullough with R/G Monsters:
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
- 3 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 1 Xenagos, God of Revels
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
This strategy didn’t really gain a ton, though Magma Spray is a fine sideboard option and Harness by Force can be pretty awesome at breaking open mirrors.
Besides, there is little sweeter than stealing someone’s Nightveil Specter and feeding it to their Desecration Demon! Hell, you could even just steal the
Specter and the Demon and bash your opponent for about a million.
While there are none featured here, I would want to try some number of Golden Hinds. The games where you draw an accelerator go so much better
than the slow hands.
Interestingly, Jund Monsters is one of the few decks looking for black and green mana that isn’t very interested in Temple of Malady. Elvish Mystic makes
you want your green to come into play untapped and Courser of Kruphix makes you want to play your temples after you’ve cast it, meaning you generally want
red temples, not green ones.
I would like to take a moment to highlight briefly some of the other Journey into Nyx cards to crack the Top 16. Here’s James Grendell’s G/W Aggro deck:
We haven’t seen a lot of two-color aggro decks today, but I expect Mana Confluence to be fairly popular among those we do see. Getting a second dual land
that comes into play untapped on turn one is a big deal, and the format really isn’t all that aggressive at the moment.
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes is just an awesome card, and G/W makes particularly good use of the +1/+1 counter ability, letting it completely take over a board
quickly. It can be tempting to cut way down on spells like Advent of the Wurm because of Ajani, but why? Yes, every extra creature (vs. a spell) is another
increased percentage chance of hitting, but we’re not talking about much difference and Advent is really, really good. It does gets hit by Banishing Light
and Detention Sphere, but at least it usually gets at least one hit in first, and its hits are pretty damn hard.
Oppressive Rays out of the board gives us some nice tempo-based tools to combat other fast aggro decks. When put alongside Unflinching Courage and
Trostani, we’ve got a pretty good anti-aggro plan going.
Ajani’s Presence, on the other hand, is mostly an anti-control plan. We don’t have the extra mana laying around to Rootborn Defenses, so having some of our
anti-sweeper cards be able to be cashed in for just one mana to counter a Doom Blade is a pretty great deal.
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 2 Experiment One
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Kalonian Tusker
- 1 Polukranos, World Eater
- 4 Reverent Hunter
- 2 Nylea, God of the Hunt
- 3 Sylvan Caryatid
- 1 Arbor Colossus
- 3 Boon Satyr
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
Here, Setessan Tactics is a pseudo-mirror-breaker. It’s a way to end a creature stalemate (often Plague Winding opponents). Instead of being a
tempo-oriented reactive trick, it is a card advantage-producing proactive threat.
Finally, we come to old faithful. Thassa, God of the Sea…
- 2 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Frostburn Weird
- 4 Cloudfin Raptor
- 4 Nightveil Specter
- 4 Tidebinder Mage
- 4 Thassa, God of the Sea
- 4 Master of Waves
- 2 Hypnotic Siren
I suspect Judge’s Familiar’s days are numbered. Eric still has two, but it’s not clear card availability wasn’t an issue. Even if you only want two
Hypnotic Sirens, I kind of prefer Triton Shorestalker to the Owl.
Adding one Mana Confluence might not seem like that big a deal, but having slightly smoother mana and not having to play Guildgates is a very real thing.
All right, I have a flight to Atlanta to catch to meet up with the rest of the Pantheon and get down to business breaking block. Any suggestions?
As for Standard, what’ll be the next Journey into Nyx card to break through? Any of these, or perhaps something no one is expecting at all?
● Mogis’s Warhound
See you next week!