The Prophecy Fulfilled

Journey into Nyx has begun to reveal its true impact on the Standard metagame. Patrick Chapin, “The Innovator,” has a breakdown of the top decks from #SCGKNOX and explores the latest technology ahead of #SCGSTATES.

Spring 2014 State Championships

Sometimes a set’s impact is felt immediately, shaking things up the moment it’s legal.

Sometimes a set has layers and layers to uncover, leading to a format that evolves week to week.

The truly great sets are both…

Last week, we saw the Journey into Nyx Standard begin. Right away, the format began its transformation into a very different animal. Mana Confluence,
Temple of Malady, and Temple of Epiphany have changed what’s possible with mana. Deicide, Banishing Light, and the ability to use Abrupt Decay and Golgari
Charm have changed maindeck enchantment removal. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes and Keranos, God of Storms have added new card advantage engines. Nyx-Fleece Ram,
Magma Spray, Harness by Force, Setessan Tactics, and Oppressive Rays have added powerful new sideboard options. Hypnotic Siren even changes the face of the
most unchanging archetype of the past six months, Blue Devotion!

Despite all these changes, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet of the impact Journey into Nyx will have. With week two in the books, it’s a perfect
time to take a look at the most successful Journey into Nyx cards of the week, as well as new technology that has been developed in response to them.
Remember, it’s not just about new cards from the latest set. Technology can include cards that weren’t good before, but happen to match up well against (or
with) new cards, giving the card new reason to be played.

Last week’s event
was incredibly diverse with eight different archetypes in the Top 8, and thirteen in the Top 16. This week saw just seven archetypes in the Top 16, but this was hardly a
contracting of the metagame. In fact, the finals were between two decks that didn’t even show up last week!

Here’s a broad overview of the first two weeks’ winner’s circle metagame, weighted by finish, with the expected meta calculated by taking 67% this week’s
results, 33% last week’s.

Metagame Breakdown


SCG Cinci

SCG Knoxville

Expected Meta

B/G Devotion




R/W Burn




R/G/x Monsters




U/W Control




Naya Aggro












U/W/r Control




B/W Midrange




U/x Devotion




G/x Devotion




R/x Devotion




W/G Aggro




Black Devotion is clearly the deck to beat, at least out of the gate. While true Mono-Black is still a factor, the most common splash has quickly become
green thanks to Ma’Lady’s temple. Versatile enchantment removal like Abrupt Decay, Golgari Charm, and Vraska, the Unseen allow B/g to keep opposing
Underworld Connections off the table and their own on it (by destroying opposing Detention Sphere).

All in all, there isn’t much variety among the B/g Devotion decks, as evidenced by the three copies to top 8 this week. If you’ve got a Standard tournament
coming up, this has to be deck #1 in the testing gauntlet:

Yes, some people play Nightveil Specter. Some people cut the Golgari Guildgates for off-color Temples. (Do not play Mana Confluence in
this deck! You need to use your life total as a resource!)

OK, now that we’ve got the deck to beat out of the way, let’s take a look at the new kid on the block. Amusingly, the last time R/W Burn reared its head
was the last time Black Devotion was the deck to beat for a while…

R/W Burn was engineered to fight black decks, simple as that.

Thoughtseize, Underworld Connections, and Erebos, God of the Dead? How about some direct damage.

Gray Merchant? Skullcrack.

Tons of black removal? How about no good targets for it.

It’s even a burn deck that splashes Chained to the Rocks to deal with Desecration Demon (the best card in black decks against it).

Eidolon of the Great Revel is new technology that replaces Ash Zealot. You gotta respect the fearlessness of this build, featuring four Eidolon of the
Great Revel and the full four Mana Confluences. No pain, no gain!

What makes Eidolon of the Great Revel good? Obviously it’s a source of damage every turn (four damage a turn if they keep casting spells), but more
importantly, even if an opponent removes it, they are either taking two damage on the way, or their spending more than two mana (such as with Supreme
Verdict). Either way, the Burn player is coming out ahead.

The risk, of course, is that Eidolon of the Great Revel is pretty horrendous if you ever fall behind, but this build of R/W Burn is all-in from the get-go.

Get used to seeing Mana Confluence, as there is going to be a lot of it, at least until this summer (probably) brings a new set of dual lands. If it
doesn’t? Well, I guess this fall will be the turning point.

That’s why we’re in the spot we are, by the way. Remember, M14 had no dual lands…

Wild Guess, eh? I like that! The card is underrated, and with so little permission floating around, less risky than it has been in the past.

Looking at the sideboard, Dictate of the Twin Gods is a nasty surprise. It’s primarily a tool against decks that don’t do a lot of damage to you,
mitigating the risk of it backfiring. Esper and U/W Control, for instance, can’t really do a lot to punish you if you slam it down Turn 5. Now every burn
spell is super deadly!

Why not just play it maindeck? It’s super risky against opponents with creatures. Yes, you can flash it down on their end step, but it’s a lot riskier when
you can’t afford to let it sit in play, doubling every spell you play over several turns (since their creatures would do double damage).

It should be noted that Harness by Force is an easy upgrade over Act of Treason. The casting cost is no issue, and getting to steal two creatures is
absolutely incredible against R/G/x Monster decks.

For reference, here’s another take on R/w Burn, this time without Eidolon of the Great Revel:

While it’s too early to tell if R/W Burn will become a regular fixture in the metagame or is a bit more of a fad, my guess is that it will enjoy a similar
path as it did last season. Once it is a known element, its numbers will settle down, but every time Black Devotion rises up too far, R/W Burn will emerge
to knock it down a peg. Besides, Mana Confluence seems to be everywhere.

Speaking of Mana Confluence being everywhere, the latest deck to become a full-on four Mana Confluence deck is Jund Monsters.

Remember when people were brewing Theros decks before set’s release? I can’t even count how many decks started with two Thoughtseizes. Obviously two
Thoughtseize is right some percentage of time, but there is this initial fear that has people scared of taking too much damage. Yes, the format could turn
out very aggressive and punish you for it, but so often formats are not as aggressive as people initially speculate.

Mana Confluence has a similar sort of dynamic going on. People don’t want to take too much damage, but having consistent untapped mana is pretty sweet…

Of course, Jund Monsters wanting consistent untapped mana is hardly the most extreme we are going to see among Mana Confluence decks. Since the printing of
Mana Confluence, savvy theorists have predicted the emergence of fast aggro decks made possible by having another untapped “dual” (or tri-) land. This
week, we saw that prophecy come to fruition with Jamie Arnold’s Naya Aggro deck:

It has long been Zoo’s MO to play all the biggest bodies at each spot on the curve and just accept that they are taking a ton of damage from their lands.
As long as you can keep your opponent on the defensive, who cares?

Notice how this list actually has a ton of interaction (sixteen combat tricks maindeck!), yet zero dead removal cards against control. Ghor-Clan Rampager
and Selesyna Charm make it difficult to block Jamie’s creatures, while providing additional threats when he doesn’t have any. Boros Charm and Brave the
Elements can be used to protect his team from various removal spells, but both also serve as much needed reach to close games out.

The creature selection doesn’t have many surprises, though it is worth paying attention to the one-drop mix. Why Dryad Militant instead of Experiment One?
Boros Reckoner and basic Forest don’t get along and Jamie wanted to make sure he had at least fourteen ways to cast his one-drops on Turn 1 (Soldier of the
Pantheon thanks to Plains). Dryad Militant even has the superpower of being castable off Stomping Ground!

Jamie’s sideboard deserves a little extra consideration. First of all, a lot of people try to force Domri Rade into the maindeck. Jamie has moved it to the
sideboard, focusing the maindeck on maximizing aggression. The sideboard also includes the oldest trick in the book, Giant Growth!

The Zoo style of Naya deck is hardly the only Naya deck to step into the spotlight, thanks to the power of Mana Confluence. Jordan Marzec Top 16’ed with an
update to Naya Hexproof, a deck whose greatest weakness has historically been its manabase.

Bassara Tower Archer gives us a much-needed third true hexproof creature, removing our slavish need for Voice of Resurgence to try to “fake it.” Its
casting cost would have been a real pain if not for Mana Confluence coming to save the day. In fact, I’d go even further and just put the fourth in. You
absolutely cannot be manascrewed with a deck like this, or you’re dead. You even have eight lifelink enchantments to make up the life loss!

Deicide in the sideboard is to be expected, but more interesting is Ajani’s Presence, the cheapest way ever to make something indestructible. This card is
seriously sweet! My guess is that in the next year we see a lot of this card, and in fact, it starts showing up in the maindeck much more often, once Boros
Charm rotates out.

Holy Mantle, Batman!

That’s what I’m talking about! Old, forgotten cards showing up thanks to the new landscape. Yes, Holy Mantle has popped up from time to time in Hexproof
lists, but it has never been completely mainstream. Facing an opponent without black or Azorius removal? Hexproof creature into lifelink enchantment into
Holy Mantle and you’re basically unstoppable.

While much more on the Temple of Malady side of things than the Mana Confluence side, Junk is another deck made possible by the improvements to mana bases
from Journey into Nyx.

I don’t super-love this approach, which is basically just a collection of good cards in these colors; however, at least the card quality really is top
notch. It does sort of have a lot of the strengths of black devotion, while exploiting the superior green/white creature base. The mana base is painful,
but a full ten of its creatures gain life, so that’s not even an issue.

What cracks me up is the use of two different (and I mean totally different) Ajanis between the two lists. Ajani, Caller of the Pride is little more
aggressive than I’d want to be, not to mention not working with Blood Baron of Vizkopa. I think I’d rather be on the Ajani, Mentor of Heroes plan, like Ben
Dugan, though that is a lot of five-drops. Once we are shaving things like Archangels and Blood Barons, we are losing some of the selling point of the

I’ll tell you what these Junk decks really are, underneath.


No, not the color combination. The philosophy. They are a bunch of good cards, some removal, a light smattering of card advantage, but for the most part,
you just crash your good cards into theirs.

No need to be ashamed. Own it. Jund is one of the greatest strategies of all-time. Embrace it!

Good. Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you.

Finally, last, but not least, control. While U/W/r popped up last week, the old battle between U/W and U/W/B returned this week, with Esper coming out on

Deicide and Nyx-Fleece Ram have become Esper staples, with Banishing Light not an uncommon choice. Deicide just has so many applications, including hitting
Underworld Connections and Erebos (an improvement over Revoke Existence), while also putting a serious hurting on Thassa. Nyx-Fleece Ram, for its part,
helps combat the rising tide of R/w burn decks. Are they really going to keep Chained to the Rocks in against Esper? Yes, Fiendslayer Paladin is also an
option, but Nyx-Fleece Ram is just more reliable and coming down on two helps avoid the glutting at three Esper often encounters.

This list doesn’t really feature all that much Journey into Nyx. Banishing Light and Deicide are obviously standard fare. I have included this list because
I wanted to call attention to the super-sweet Savage Summoning sideboard plan.

When I first read the list, I wondered if this was one of those spots where someone sideboards a single off-color card they intend to leave on top of their
sideboard to try to throw opponents off before the match starts (suggesting they are playing R/G/x Monsters instead of U/W, for instance, to mess up
mulliganing decisions). After looking at the mana base more closely, however, it became clear that Lance really is going to cast Savage Summoning. What’s
he doing with it?

In control mirrors going long, you have plenty of time to just hang out and set up. Eventually, Savage Summoning allows you an uncounterable way to put an
Aetherling on the table during your opponent’s endstep. How can they beat that?

Whether or not this is a tactic that will continue to work now that the cat’s out of the bag is unclear; but it’s this sort of outside-the-box thinking
that can give savvy deckbuilders such an edge in the first month of a new format. Seen any sweet tech emerge in these first two weeks that people haven’t
been talking about yet?

OK, I gotta get back to testing with the rest of the Pantheon. The Pro Tour is just days away and this format isn’t going to break itself!

See you on the other side…

Spring 2014 State Championships