Carrie On – Journeying into the Prerelease

The Journey into Nyx prerelease events are in the books. I’ve got to say, I had a lot of fun. The new cards have added a bit more depth making for a rich Limited environment.

Constellation is one of the new mechanics in Journey into Nyx. While many of the effects are powerful or interesting I wondered how difficult it might be to make them work in an actual deck. You have to have a high enough density of enchantments and then, are you running enchantments over better cards just to trigger the effects? If so, are they worth that?

Constellation decks were definitely an archetype. I think my favorite concoction was running two copies of Dictate of Kruphix, Thassa’s Devourer,and Floodtide Serpent. Floodtide Serpent is suddenly awesome in this deck as you get to keep triggering those constellation effects. When this deck assembled its pieces it was hilarious (well, for everyone except the opponent); however, its early game was a little unstable.

The very best constellation decks did, of course, have a copy of Eidolon of Blossoms. Cantripping every enchantment is ridiculous in Limited, and if you are getting any other constellation effects at the same time… well, I don’t rate your opponent’s chances after being buried by that kind of value. Eidolon of Blossoms is at least a 2/2 which is one of the easiest stat lines to remove in Theros block, so hopefully your deck contains some answers to it.

While there were plenty of decks based around constellation at the prerelease I think this might be a prerelease-only phenomenon. The prerelease packs were skewed (presumably because market research shows players like opening the new packs) away from a normal Sealed setup. Normally in full block Sealed you would receive 2 of each booster. Instead we received 2 Theros, 1 Born of the Gods, and 3 Journey into Nyx (one being the “seeded” booster). This will give you an artificially increased number of JOU cards giving a higher chance of a pool rich in constellation cards.

Constellation cards will still be incredibly relevant in a normal Sealed environment but I doubt you’ll see many decks entirely based on the strategy. It will definitely be a viable draft archetype: just enter pack 1 picking anything and everything that has a constellation effect then in packs 2 and 3 supplement with fixing (you are probably 3-color) and other enchantments. I’m certainly looking forward to trying this out.

The other new mechanic in JOU is strive. For me strive just didn’t turn out to be as good as constellation. The effects are very color heavy even when they are cheap, limiting you to just a few strive activations, I often found I was using them as just single target spells. The other problem was I just didn’t need to strive as I didn’t have enough heroic triggers to get value from.

I do however think this will work out better in a draft environment in heroic decks. There was a “design a card for Born of the Gods” competition held at a PTQ I attended before spoiler season for BNG started. The card I entered was one I had discussed with a group of friends:

“3{W}, Instant, Target any number of creatures.”

We had been discussing it out of curiosity. Because heroic decks often have 2 or 3 creatures they want to target at the same time we wondered how much a spell would cost that just lets you trigger heroic, with no additional effect. It’s always a shame to have to choose between Anax and Cymede or Phalanx Leader or Wingsteed Rider for those valuable targeted spells (But, I suppose if that’s your board state you do have to search pretty hard for anything to complain about).

With strive, you don’t have to choose. Turns out at least someone else was looking for the chance to target a couple of their heroic guys. Yes, we already had Coordinated Assault and friends but they are uncommon. The strive cards will flood the market for heroic decks.

I especially like Blinding Flare as you get to trigger heroic on your creatures while making your opponent unable to stop the assault. This does need a lot of Red mana though. I built a deck at the pre-release hoping to combine this with Anthousa but alas that particular synergy never came up.

Journey into Nyx has brought something very awesome for me: new toys for the graveyard. I always love a deck that can turn the graveyard into its own personal resource pretty much since Spider Spawning was a thing.

I want to share with you one of my decks for the prerelease:

This deck was insane. I got the nut draw of turn 3 Nyx Weaver, upkeep, mill 2 creatures, turn 4 Nemesis of Mortals. There aren’t many decks coming back from that. I will be first picking Nyx Weaver in draft every time. What makes this card so good is once you have milled your bomb or whatever you get to fish it out with his ability as well! So good. The fact that I got Pharika as well was pretty bonkers.

Personally I’m going to be drafting graveyard synergy decks a heck of a lot. Although Agent of Erebos is going to make me very sad if it ever comes up.

Another thought about the prerelease events in general is I’m really starting to dislike the “play with the promo” policy. It’s just boring seeing the same Limited bombs over and over again… especially if your pool is weak to one of them. If you have very few ways of dealing with a 2/4 flying lifelinker and you only play against “white” pools then, er, I hope you had fun. It takes so much variety out of the event. Plus when one or two of the cards are just better than the others it makes people want those colors and unhappy when they don’t get them. I can only speak for myself but I’d be happy to see them go.

Before I move on to specific cards that caught my interest I have one more general point for Theros block Limited now that JOU is out: maindeck plenty of enchantment removal.

After Born of the Gods was released, the number of enchantments likely to be played increased such that I would happily maindeck one piece of enchantment removal. With JOU there is now a whole lot more and some of it is really, really scary. Enchantment removal should never be dead in your hand and I would look to have 2 or 3 pieces where possible. Cards that can take out multiple like Consign to Dust are going to be especially good pickups.

On to JOU cards that I particularly noticed at the prerelease:

Sigiled Starfish. I mean, I knew this card would be sweet but it really is completely insane. A 0/3 can slow down a quick deck substantially and then it also provides insane card selection. It is probably one of the better commons in the set, especially in Sealed where the aggro decks are normally just that little bit slower. I don’t expect to see it get passed in draft very often.

Lagonna-Band Trailblazer did not look impressive on paper. LSV himself gave it 1.5 out of 5 in Limited. After playing against it this weekend I’d give it a 3. This is a very solid card. It’s very hard to remove, and so an excellent place to invest all those heroic triggers. It’s also incredibly frustrating in the aggressive mirror as you can’t kill it and you can’t get past it. I’m not saying it’s at the level of Akroan Skyguard or Wingsteed Rider in the heroic deck but it was certainly more relevant and playable than I expected it to be.

Staying with white, Akroan Mastiff is a beast (technically he’s a Hound but I’m thinking of starting a petition to get him errata’d). In a format focused a lot of the time on making one giant creature (heroic or monstrous) a tapper is a very, very powerful effect. Tappers have always been excellent in Limited but it feels even stronger in this set than normal. At 4 mana he is a little slow but so are monstrous creatures. I played against a deck with two, my life was miserable.

One white card that disappointed me was Sightless Brawler. I had an aggressive R/W deck so I hoped his downside would be minimal for me. It wasn’t. Perhaps I didn’t have enough low-cost creatures but it took forever to get him going and you can’t use the bestow to make one guy big enough to attack as he’s gotta have a friend. I would still play it but it’s really awkward.

I really like Humbler of Mortals. Unlike many of the constellation cards he  gives all your creatures trample. This allows the green deck to just push through with its monstrous creatures in the late game. He was especially fun with Pharika (she makes enchantment Snakes).

I chose black at one of my events which gave me the black promo card Doomwake Giant. I didn’t think this card would be all that good as generally removal like Magma Jet and Pharika’s Cure are mediocre because they can’t kill 3-toughness creatures. So what use would only -1/-1 be? Well it JOU introduced a few more 1-toughness creatures as I got quite a bit of value from this card. Plus you can pull tricks like playing it after combat when all their creatures are 1 point of damage from death or even before just to make their blocks miserable. I was genuinely surprised and pleased at the relevance of this card.

One final card to mention is Mogis’s Warhound. I really liked this card. It works so well on the cheap heroic creatures. I made use of it on an Akroan Crusader for a turn 4 kill. It would also work well on Lagonna-Band Trailblazer—having to attack each turn is not going to be a problem on a 3/7. I’m not saying the downside isn’t tricky but the aggressively-minded deck isn’t going to care. I thought it’d be good and it was better.

Overall I really enjoyed the prerelease. I feel Journey into Nyx added a lot of depth to the Limited format and I really look forward to drafting it in the weeks to come. What did you think? What cards impressed or disappointed you? Feel free to share your thoughts with me on Twitter @onionpixie and I will see you next week.

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