The Unsung Heroes Of Journey Into Nyx

2012 Florida State Champion Mark Nestico talks about some cards in Journey into Nyx that haven’t gotten much press yet but he sees potential in for Standard.

Let’s talk about decks, baby.

Let’s talk about you and me.

Let’s talk about all the bad decks that become good decks and what may be.

Let’s talk about decks.

I’d like to thank Salt-n-Pepa for that introduction.

You know, a lot of people are up in arms about some of the new cards that have been spoiled.

“I’ll gain 100 life.”

“Supreme Verdict me. I dare you.”

“God of Victory? Yeah! No freaking kidding.”

When I look at a set, I’m prone to viewing it from the bottom to the top. It’s the sole reason why I have been able to brew some of my most successful decks and make as many contributions to the format as possible. Something new is basically something flashy, and that gets a lot of attention. Planeswalkers and mythic rares are what people look to when they want to break the environment, but that’s not the wisest choice to make.

It’s often the things in plain sight that turn out to be the most prolific.

Let me tell you the story of a little card called Tarmogoyf.

If we talk about Goyf now, it is viewed as one of the best two-drops ever printed and arguably the most powerful creature ever created, only in competition with Dark Confidant.

How many of you played back then?

How many of you remember that it cost 50 cents when it was released?

A friend recently told me a story about how mad his pal was that he had to spend two dollars a piece on it when it was released. If he kept those copies of Tarmogoyf, his investment has grown over a hundred times. He probably didn’t. Why would he? It was trash back then.

Eventually people caught on, and Tarmogoyf blew up. Now it’s worth $200.

Moral of the story? You can’t write anything off.

When speculating, I look for cards that are going to have an immediate impact despite being the most innocuous.

Let’s look at my first example:

Flying Men.

Pay a single blue and you get a 1/1 flying creature. Doesn’t really seem like a powerhouse, does it?

The devil is in the details with this card because like they say, big things come in small packages. Mono-Blue Devotion has long lamented the inclusion of Judge’s Familiar. Sure, there are times where you play it and catch the Sphinx’s Revelation player off guard and get a huge tempo boost or counter that potentially devastating Hero’s Downfall, but let’s be realistic here—past turn 4 or 5, it’s a terrible draw. Tidebinder Mage can at least pull its weight in a lot of matches just by the sheer power of tapping down creatures, and Frostburn Weird has exactly what Sir Mix-a-Lot likes: a big butt.

Flying Siren Men however . . . that card has upside. For seven mana it becomes Control Magic, and that, my friends, is power. Of course it seems like a steep investment, but let’s get real here—late in the game you can bestow it, and stealing their Desecration Demon, Master of Waves, or Stormbreath Dragon is going to be a game winner. They kill the creature? Cool. You get your Hypnotic Siren back.

Remember when this deck played Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx? If it decides to go back to that classic build, there will be times when this card can be bestowed as early as turn 4, and that kind of tempo is insane. You can even play cards like Cyclonic Rift again!

Hypnotic Siren may not look like much, but I assure you this card is going to see a lot of play in Mono-Blue Devotion.

This is the next in a long proud line of Demons created with “drawbacks” meant to warn you away from playing them.

Recently Desecration Demon has broken that mold, but people still haven’t forgotten what Abyssal Persecutor did. Their wallets as well as their will to trust undercosted black creatures have still not recovered.

What makes this card different?

“Your turn.”

If this card said that it allowed an opponent to draw an extra card on their turn, we might have a problem. With cards like Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere running around giving them more ways to remove Master of the Feast, it wouldn’t be as grand a prospect, but it doesn’t.

Can you believe that? It doesn’t!

You’re playing black.

You’re playing Thoughtseize.

You’re playing Duress.

You’re playing a 5/5 flying creature for three mana.

They draw an answer? Cool. I’ll strip it from your hand. Attack. Take five.

With so many sorcery speed answers in this format, this Demon is going to cause a lot of life totals to drop drastically before it gets dealt with.

Remember Mono-Black Aggro? For a few weeks the deck was a major player, and then it just sort of vanished. Decks figured out how to beat it, and the creatures it was packing weren’t terribly impressive.

Until now!

Not only do you get Master of the Feast, but you also get this spicy little guy:

Not much needs to be said about this creature except that it’s incredible and will absolutely make the cut in Mono-Black Aggro. Another two-power one-mana creature is amazing. It can bestow your creature to punch through damage and battle against a Supreme Verdict, and it can be placed on that Polukranos, World Eater your opponent played to block, making it so it can’t. This deck will return to the limelight, and it’s all because of these two cards.

Just kidding!

Moving on.

For five mana you should feel like you’re getting something pretty special, and I think this card is one that people are going to overlook at first until the potential really starts to break through.

Constellation seems very boring at first. It’s an enters the battlefield effect that might have some upside, but it actually is going to take work to get any type of payoff in the long run, right?

Actually, I think that’s wrong.

Cards that give you something for free are notorious for being some of the most powerful in Magic history, and constellation gives you the opportunity to get a very strong effect for just playing cards you would probably play anyway. What’s a natural foil for Rock decks? Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

What does Doomwake Giant put the hammer to? Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

Let’s not scoff at the 4/5 body that comes with the package either because when this card enters play on turn 4—maybe off the back of a Sylvan Caryatid or Elvish Mystic—and is then followed up by a Courser of Kruphix or a Whip of Erebos, you’re looking at bad times for your opponent.

Theros block has brought us a ton of great enchantments that see play, including Gods that further your board. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if after casting the first Doomwake Giant, you could follow it up with a one-sided Infest that wrecks their half of the board and lets all your creatures run for the red zone.

Constellation is going to be real, folks. I personally feel this is the card that takes the place of Desecration Demon after rotation as the best fatty creature in black.

Whoa boy.

How this card was not Patrick Sullivan’s spoiler card I’ll never know.

A 1/3 double striker with trample for three mana might seem a little goofy, but this card is all business. I would be terrified if I was sitting across from it.

When Chandra’s Phoenix rotates, there is going to be a need for a three-drop in red, and this card makes the cut with a bullet. In a color that has the most removal spells because of the dual nature of burn, this creature will almost always hit if it’s not removed right away. The additional card it can generate coupled with how much damage it can pile on cannot be ignored.

This card with Titan’s Strength? Not only is it ten damage that tramples, but it will let you scry into a card to possibly play off of your library. Card advantage like that is what can make a red deck deadly.

Is it too slow? That is yet to be seen after Return to Ravnica rotates, but I could even see this card making an immediate splash in some decks. Sometimes your opponent won’t have an answer for it, and even Mono-Blue Devotion decks can’t just chump this creature with Frostburn Weird because it chews right through it with even the smallest amount of help.



Dry land is not a myth. I’ve seen it!

People don’t realize the power of the Temples, but think of how different Standard would be if we didn’t have them.

Would Esper Control be a deck? Jund Monsters? Naya Hexproof? Hell, even Mono-Black Devotion plays them just for the scry.

Finally having access to all Temples means that all bets are off and each tri-color deck out there can play up to twelve of them. Obviously that’s not always the right thing to do, but there are decks out there just begging for Temples.

Mono-Black Devotion splashing green for Abrupt Decay, Vraska the Unseen, and Gaze of Granite used to be a thing, but the mana was horrible. They actually had to play Temple of Mystery just for the green and the scry, but that wasn’t enough so the deck faded back into obscurity. Will it come back out of the woodwork because it gains Temple of Malady? Now all the things that made that deck good before make it better simply due to being able to do them with more consistency.

Is a deck like U/W/R Control going to be better now that it can do what Esper Control has done so effectively for the last few months? Ten or twelve Temples have served Esper very well, and now the U/W/R counterpart can do the same. The deck already boasted an excellent matchup against Mono-Black Devotion, and since it’s clearly not going anywhere, is U/W/R the kind of deck that’s going to flourish once it has the ability to play all on-color Temples?

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but pick up your sets as soon as possible because these Temples open up an entire world of deckbuilding.

I saved my favorite for last.

I want you to look at this deck:

A few months ago I wrote about how in love with this deck I was, and I really meant it.

I battled with this deck online for a solid week, and in doing so I learned what it was like to ride a rollercoaster without really being on one.

Some days it was unreal—I couldn’t lose a game. The stars would align, and my mana would always be perfect. I was already playing some of the most powerful cards in the format, so regardless of the matchup I always felt like I couldn’t lose. It was great!

Then there were what I like to call the “bad” days. I’d never draw a blue source or all my lands would come into play tapped, and my opponent would just beat the hell out of me.

I think a deck like this because of Mana Confluence could become a very serious contender once again.

Yes, the land causes you to lose life, but think of the tempo these kinds of decks lose to playing all their lands tapped. You take two damage from a shock land, but Mana Confluence lets you play two spells before you take the same amount of damage that a shock land would make you take if you played it untapped! When you’re playing a deck that has Blood Baron of Vizkopa or Obzedat, Ghost Council, the life loss should be something we can get back without too much trouble, but regardless this land lets you cast all of your spells. I’d rather cast them and die than sit there with them in my hand while my opponent kills me.

Aside from Esper Midrange, what about Naya Aggro?

Aaron Barich took this deck all the way to third place at #SCGDAL, but imagine what a deck like this could do with four lands that never come into play tapped and add any color of mana to your mana pool. Obviously it’s rare that you care about your life total, so for his deck 90 percent of the time Mana Confluence is going to be the kind of land that lets you cast all of your spells whenever you want. That makes this deck even more dangerous! I’d love to hear Aaron’s opinion on the subject.

Can you feel it?

Journey to Nyx is just around the corner. That feeling of an awesome Prerelease, cracking packs, building decks, and staying up until eight in the morning slinging spells just gets my blood pumping and reminds me of why I love Magic so much.

The best part? This is only a tip of the iceberg of new cards. We still have tons more to come!

Stay tuned, kiddies.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.

For now, though, I have some ice cream to eat. You see that picture of Master of the Feast?

I wanna be that guy for next Halloween. Wish me luck.

P.S. I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. One year ago I took this position with StarCityGames.com, and it has been one of the best years of my life. I haven’t done as well as I wish I had, but no matter what I’m going to keep busting my ass to give you the best content I can. You’ve all given me so much in return, and I can’t articulate enough to you how much it has all meant to me. Without a doubt you are the best readers on the planet, and you guys sure know how to make a bald guy happy. Let’s make the next year even better. Cheers!