Frank Analysis – Nykthos Red and the Story of Kamiel

Pro Tour Theros has come and gone, and left us with exciting new decks and great stories. In this article, I will to tell the story of Kamiel and his Nykthos Red deck.

Kamiel Cornelissen is one of the best Magic players of all time, but he took a step back from the game several years ago. He hadn’t played a Pro Tour in years, but it’s always great when he’s around, so I was happy when I received a message from him that he wanted to attend the tournament in Dublin.

However, he had very little time available for testing: He was busy with his graduate studies and other pursuits in life, so the Saturday and Sunday of the prerelease weekend were the only days he could prepare. Since the prereleases in Eindhoven, my home town, are always attended by a host of experienced players, I invited Kamiel over to stay at my place for the weekend. This allowed him to get some decent experience with Theros Limited, while testing Standard in between rounds.

One of the decks that I brought with me was an initial build of the Nykthos Red deck that Team Channelfireball actually ended up playing at the tournament. It did well in our prerelease test session, and as Kamiel didn’t see a better deck online, he just took it to the Pro Tour. Despite literally doing all of his playtesting at the prerelease, and despite not changing a single card since then, he made it all the way to his sixth Pro Tour Top 8. This truly is a testament to his talent and skill.

I wouldn’t have arrived at Kamiel’s deck without a proper analysis of the pillars of the format and without comments from Shahar Shenhar, Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa, and Matt Nass pushing the initial deck in the right direction. To give you an idea of how it all came to be and to give a glimpse into the deck building and testing process, I will share some of the posts that I made in the Team Channelfireball forum.

An Analysis of the Pillars of Standard

On September 18, the Wednesday before the prerelease, I made the following post (slightly edited for clarity) to start off discussions in the team forum. The post below is a bit lengthy, but it illustrates my perspective on how to approach a brand new format.

Theros is in Gatherer, so long post incoming. Before building decks (for which I’ll start up some separate threads soon enough) I like to review the pillars of the format as a whole. It is useful to know the viability of mana ramp and countermagic, prevalence of sweepers, persistence of threats, etcetara. This gives an idea of what to expect, and the list below should give a handy reference for later.

===
MANA FIXING
===

– Ravnica duals
– Guildgates
– Scry lands for all Gatecrash guilds
– Keyrunes
– [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] and [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card] in red-green decks
– [card]Chromatic Lantern[/card]
– [card]Mana Bloom[/card] (Although Theros is an enchantment set, I don’t see any useful synergies for it, so I don’t think this is gonna cut it.)
– [card]Gatecreeper Vine[/card]
– [card]Nylea’s Presence[/card] (Note: aids devotion)
– [card]Axebane Guardian[/card] (along with Gatecreeper Vine, [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], and other Axebane Guardians. [card]Mnemonic Wall[/card] and [card]Returned Phalanx[/card] are also notable defenders.)
– [card]Verdant Haven[/card] (Note: aids devotion)
– [card]Lay of the Land[/card] and [card]Traveler’s Amulet[/card] (meh)
– [card]Prophetic Prism[/card]
– [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card] (For example, a R/W deck with an all-Mountain plus Nykthos draw could cast [card elspeth, sun’s champion]Elspeth[/card] if it has [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] in play, so it can count as fixing.)
– [card]Burnished Hart[/card] (Meh… Six mana total spread over two turns is almost certainly too expensive for a double [card]Rampant Growth[/card].)

Looking at the lands in particular, it will be possible to play 3-color decks, but at the cost of many come-in-play-tapped lands. How painful that is will depend on the speed of the format, but I am somewhat reluctant to go full-on 3-color. There’s also still [card]Burning Earth[/card] to punish greed.

===
RAMP
===

In my experience, it’s always good to get an overview of whether mana ramp is viable. Obviously there will be overlap with the “fixing” category.

– [card]Elvish Mystic[/card]
– [card]Gyre Sage[/card]
– [card]Voyaging Satyr[/card]
– [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card]
– [card]Zhur-Taa Druid[/card]
– [card]Axebane Guardian[/card]
– [card]Verdant Haven[/card]
– [card]Chromatic Lantern[/card]
– [card]Satyr Hedonist[/card]
– [card]Plasm Capture[/card] (“ramp”)
– [card]Karametra’s Acolyte[/card] (Seems too ambituous.)
– [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card]
– [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card]
– [card]Ordeal of Nylea[/card] (I checked whether there is anything like [card]Auratog[/card] that would let us sacrifice enchantments, but didn’t find anything, and doing it the fair way doesn’t seem worth it.)
– [card]Burnished Hart[/card] (The unplayable 6-mana double [card]Rampant Growth[/card])

Most of the ramp is centered in green. With [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] and [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], you can cast 4-drops on turn 3. Add in Xenagos or Nykthos and you can be activating monstrous (on, say, [card]Ember Swallower[/card], [card]Polukranos World Eater[/card], or [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]) early on. Such a deck could be decent. Unfortunately, all this ramp is creature-based, making this strategy vulnerable to sweepers.

Can Ramp be pushed further? The [card]Axebane Guardian[/card] approach could provide even more mana, but I’m not entirely sure what you’d want to ramp into now that [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] is gone. Maybe [card]Angel of Serenity[/card], [card]Armada Wurm[/card], or [card]Elspeth Sun’s Champion[/card] in white? [card]Ring of Three Wishes[/card]? [card]Sire of Insanity[/card] or [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card]? [card]Beck // Call[/card] or [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]? [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card] into [card]Borborygmos Enraged[/card] or [card]Ashen Rider[/card]? [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card] or [card]Clan Defiance[/card] or [card]Savageborn Hydra[/card]? Meh. Especially given that the ramp is vulnerable to sweepers, I’m not getting excited about a turbo-ramp archetype.

===
SWEEPERS
===

-Ratchet Bomb
-Mizzium Mortars
-Gaze of Granite
-Supreme Verdict
-Anger of the Gods
-Merciless Eviction
-Planar Cleansing
-Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
-Hythonia the Cruel
-Detention Sphere
-Aurelia’s Fury
-Flames of the Firebrand
-Curse of the Swine

Okay, the last five are stretching the definition of “sweeper” a bit, but they could affect multiple permanents at once. Anyway, it looks like there may be decent control strategies with sweepers lurking in Azorius and Red, as Supreme Verdict and Anger of the Gods seem to be the best of the bunch.

===
REMOVAL
===

The most important removal spells are below, sorted by category. Some cards appear in multiple categories.

Multi-purpose (does more than only killing creatures, making it better against creature-light control decks):
– [card]Abrupt Decay
– [card]Azorius Charm
– [card]Selesnya Charm
– [card]Detention Sphere
– [card]Orzhov Charm
– [card]Putrefy
– [card]Izzet Charm
– [card]Spear of Heliod [/card](I know, calling this “removal” is a stretch)
– [card]Banisher Priest[/card]
– [card]Renounce the Guilds[/card]
– [card]Dreadbore[/card]
– [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]
– [card]Glare of Heresy[/card] (Sideboard card)
– [card]Pithing Needle[/card] (shuts down Planeswalkers and stuff like Whip of Erebos)
– [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]
– [card]Gaze of Granite[/card]
– [card]Planar Cleansing[/card]
– [card]Merciless Eviction[/card]

Get rid of [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card], and [card]Experiment One[/card] permanently:
– [card]Last Breath[/card]
– [card]Banisher Priest[/card]
– [card]Detention Sphere[/card]
– [card]Turn // Burn[/card]
– [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card]
– [card]Glare of Heresy[/card]

Kill indestructible Gods:
– [card]Azorius Charm[/card]
– [card]Selesnya Charm[/card]
– [card]Detention Sphere[/card]
– [card]Banisher Priest[/card]
– [card]Fade into Antiquity[/card]
– [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card]
– [card]Glare of Heresy[/card]

Burn:
– [card]Shock[/card]
– [card]Spark Jolt[/card] (Kills most one-drops, but very narrow, seems worse than Shock)
– [card]Electrickery[/card] (See Spark Jolt … unless Young Pyromancer becomes a thing)
– [card]Izzet Staticaster[/card] (same)
– [card]Magma Jet[/card]
– [card]Lightning Strike[/card]
– [card]Warleader’s Helix[/card]

Other removal:
– [card]Celestial Flare[/card] (No [card geist of saint traft]Geists of Saint Traft[/card] or [card]Invisible Stalker[/card]s that you’d need edicts for, though it kills [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card], [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card], [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], and [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card])
– [card]Devour Flesh[/card]
– [card]Far // Away[/card]
– [card]Doom Blade[/card] (notably, doesn’t kill [card]Tormented Hero[/card], [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card], [card]Tymaret the Murder King[/card], [card]Dreg Mangler[/card], [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], [card]Desecration Demon[/card], [card]Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch[/card], [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card], and [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card])
– [card]Ultimate Price[/card] (compared to [card]Doom Blade[/card], it is able to kill [card]Tormented Hero[/card], [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], and [card]Desecration Demon[/card], but fails against [card]Frostburn Weird[/card], [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card], [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], and [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card])
– [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] (Instant [card]Vicious Hunger[/card]… possibly playable vs. mono-red)
– [card]Wring Flesh[/card]
– [card]Dark Betrayal[/card] (Narrow sideboard card.)

Looking at the sweepers and removal, it appears that a 3/5 creature would be well-positioned in this format. It doesn’t die to [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], [card]Anger of the Gods[/card], and other burn, nor is it affected by [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] or [card]Selesnya Charm[/card]. If the creature would be black, multicolored, and 4+ mana, it would also get around [card]Doom Blade[/card], [card]Ultimate Price[/card], and [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]. But that’s demanding too much. [card]Hundred-Handed One[/card], [card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card], and [card]Ember Swallower[/card] come closest. So, those creatures may be better than you might initially think. Then again, if you’re playing against Azorius, [card]Detention Sphere[/card] and [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] kill all of them regardless.

The removal seems pretty powerful, so expensive creatures without haste or enters-the-battlefield triggers (such as [card]Kalonian Hydra[/card]) may be ill-positioned. At least after sideboard.

Enchantment/artifact hate:
– [card]Golgari Charm[/card]
– [card]Wear // Tear[/card]
– [card]Keening Apparition[/card]
– [card]Sundering Growth[/card]
– [card]Destructive Revelry[/card]
– [card]Thoughtseize[/card] (in a way… at least it takes out the indestructible God enchantments)

===
WAYS TO GET AROUND SWEEPERS AND REMOVAL
===

There is no more [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card], [card]Thragtusk[/card], and so on. What do we have?

– [card]Brave the Elements[/card] (counters [card]Anger of the Gods[/card])
– [card]Pay no Heed[/card] (counters [card]Anger of the Gods[/card], also good vs [card]Boros Reckoner[/card])
– [card]Gods Willing[/card] (counters a removal spell)
– [card]Mending Touch[/card] (regenerate)
– [card]Experiment One[/card] (regenerate)
– [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] (can gain indestructible)
– [card]Golgari Charm[/card] (counters [card]Supreme Verdict[/card])
– [card]Lotleth Troll[/card] (regenerate)
– [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] (dies trigger)
– [card]Boros Charm[/card] (counters [card]Supreme Verdict[/card])
– [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card] (counters [card]Supreme Verdict[/card])
– [card]Boon Satyr[/card] (When it’s an aura, it sticks around as a 4/2 creature after a Wrath, right?)
– [card]Dark Prophecy[/card] (dies trigger)
– [card]Varolz, the Scar-Striped[/card] (regenerate)
– [card]Xatrid Necromancer[/card] (dies trigger. Relevant other Humans are [card]Young Pyromancer[/card]; [card]Experiment One[/card]; [card]Ash Zealot[/card]; [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card]; [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card]; [card]Firefist Striker[/card]; [card]Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch[/card]; [card]Omenspeaker[/card]; and [card]Tormented Hero[/card].)
– [card]Legion’s Initiative[/card] (counters [card]Supreme Verdict[/card])
– [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] (comes back from the graveyard)
– [card]Molten Birth[/card] (returns to your hand continually for lucksacks)
– [card]Rot Farm Skeleton[/card] (stretching it…)
– [card]Ready // Willing[/card] (counters [card]Supreme Verdict[/card])
– [card]Underworld Cerberus[/card] (dies trigger)
– Gods as they are indestructible

Notably, there are plenty of creatures that persist through removal and sweepers in Selesnya.

===
PERMANENT THREATS THAT SURVIVE WRATHS
===

Gods:
– [card]Heliod, God of the Sun[/card]
– [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card]
– [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card]
– [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card]
– [card]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/card]

Planeswalkers:
– [card]Ajani, Caller of the Pride[/card]
– [card]Domri Rade[/card]
– [card]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/card]
– [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card]
– [card]Gideon, Champion of Justice[/card]
– [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card]
– [card]Liliana of the Dark Realms[/card]
– [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card]
– [card]Ral Zarek[/card]
– [card]Jace, Memory Adept[/card]
– [card]Vraska the Unseen[/card]
– [card]Elpseth, Sun’s Champion[/card]
– [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card]

Good enchantments/artifacts:
– [card]Legion’s Initiative[/card]
– [card]Spear of Heliod[/card]
– [card]Bident of Thassa[/card]
– [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]
– [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]
– [card]Underworld Connections[/card]
– [card]Haunted Plate Mail [/card]
– [card]Assemble the Legion[/card]

===
CARD ADVANTAGE
===

Besides the sweepers and planeswalkers:

– [card]Chronicler of Heroes[/card] ([card]Experiment One[/card], [card]Cloudfin Raptor[/card], [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card], [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], [card]Gyre Sage[/card], [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], and [card]Ajani, Caller of the Pride[/card] are relevant creatures with +1/+1 counters.)
– [card]Dark Prophecy[/card] (don’t see it working yet…)
– [card]Divination[/card]
– [card]Read the Bones[/card]
– [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]
– [card]Underworld Connections[/card]
– [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card]
– [card]Steam Augury[/card]
– [card]Thoughtflare[/card]
– [card]Urban Evolution[/card]
– [card]Opportunity[/card]
– [card]Primeval Bounty[/card]

The best card drawer appears to be [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. Black and Izzet also have some decent cheap ones.

===
CREATURE ANALYSIS
===

A selection of the biggest/best creatures at all spots in the curve (many are left out for brevity):

1cc: [card]Experiment One[/card], [card]Elvish Mystic[/card], [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card], [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card], [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card], [card]Cloudfin Raptor[/card], [card]Judge’s Familiar[/card], [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card], [card]Dryad Militant[/card], [card]Tormented Hero[/card]. So, mostly a bunch of 2/1s.
2cc: [card]Ash Zealot[/card], [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], [card]Firefist Striker[/card], [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], [card]Frostburn Weird[/card], [card]Gyre Sage[/card], [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card], [card]Kalonian Tusker[/card], [card]Lotleth Troll[/card], [card]Omenspeaker[/card], [card]Precinct Captain[/card], [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], [card]Spike Jester[/card], [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card], [card]Tymaret the Murder King[/card], [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], [card]Young Pyromancer[/card]. So, there are a ton of good two-drops. Out of these creatures, [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], [card]Kalonian Tusker[/card], and [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] are the biggest; they live through [card]Shock[/card] and can profitably block the one-drops.
3cc: [card]Boon Satyr[/card], [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card], [card]Dreg Mangler[/card], [card]Frontline Medic[/card], [card]Hellhole Flailer[/card], [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], [card]Varolz, the Scar-Striped[/card], [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card]. A variety of creatures with some kind of utility, except for Loxodon Smiter, which is just a big creature, but the biggest of the bunch at 4/4. Smiter smashes all the 2-drops, but doesn’t trade with 4+ drops.
4cc: [card]Desecration Demon[/card], [card]Ember Swallower[/card], [card]Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch[/card], [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card], [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card]. Some big dudes here.
5cc: [card]Archangel of Thune[/card], [card]Kalonian Hydra[/card], [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card], [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card], [card]Shadowborn Demon[/card], [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card], [card]Prognostic Sphinx[/card].
6cc: [card]Aurelia, the Warleader[/card], [card]Aetherling[/card], [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card], [card]Sire of Insanity[/card], [card]Ruric Thar, the Unbowed[/card]

There is very little evasion. At 1-drops and 2-drops, there’s [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card] and [card]Firefist Striker[/card]. At creatures that cost 3 or more mana, there’s some flying/intimidate, but the majority still attacks over the ground. This means that creatures with evasion may be extra valuable and implies that a black/white human deck with [card]Cavalry Pegasus[/card] (and [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card] to guard against Wraths) could be decent.

Also, there are not many haste creatures. We used to have a ton of them in Standard ([card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card], [card]Flinthoof Boar[/card], [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card], [card]Hellrider[/card], [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card], and so on) but now, we only have [card]Ash Zealot[/card], [card]Spike Jester[/card], [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card], [card]Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch[/card], [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card], and [card]Aurelia, the Warleader[/card]. Plus [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]. This means that planeswalkers and sorcery-speed sweepers are better than before.

===
LIFEGAIN
===

There’s no more [card]Thragtusk[/card], but there’s still [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], [card]Gift of Orzhova[/card], [card]Unflinching Courage[/card], [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card], [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card], [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card], [card]Archangel of Thune[/card], [card]Whip of Erebos[/card], [card]Warleader’s Helix[/card], and [card]Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice[/card], amongst other cards. This means that it is difficult to battle with a mono-red deck designed to deal exactly 20 damage and that the “Your opponents can’t gain life” clause on [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card] can be relevant.

===
LAND DESTRUCTION
===

– [card]Bramblecrush[/card]
– [card]Encroaching Wastes[/card]
– [card]Catch // Release[/card] along with [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]
– [card]Peak Eruption[/card]
– [card]Ember Swallower[/card]

There does not appear to be any dedicated Land Destruction strategy possible, but this category is still relevant to keep in mind due to [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] and [card]Underworld Connections[/card]. Not very high on Chained to the Rocks due to [card]Peak Eruption[/card].

===
COUNTERMAGIC AND FLASH CARDS
===

– [card]Syncopate[/card]
– [card]Essence Scatter[/card]
– [card]Spell Rupture[/card]
– [card]Izzet Charm[/card]
– [card]Dissolve[/card]
– [card]Counterflux[/card]
– [card]Plasm Capture[/card]
– Sideboard options: [card]Annul[/card], [card]Dispel[/card], [card]Negate[/card], [card]Gainsay[/card]

Eh, the countersuite is fine. But I mainly like countermagic when it’s paired with other flash cards that you can play if the opponent doesn’t play a spell worth countering. Unfortunately, we have lost [card]Think Twice[/card], [card]Restoration Angel[/card], and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], which makes flash strategies less attractive. Instead, we have [card]Boon Satyr[/card], [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card], [card]Azorius Charm[/card], [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], instant-speed removal, and [card]Steam Augury[/card]. Unless you’re Bant or Izzet, there will be no flash strategy: tap-out control decks will likely be the way to go. Azorius can still play some countermagic, but likely won’t rely as hard on it.

At the same time, countermagic will be excellent against the diverse threats in the formats. As permanents, all these threats demand pretty specific answers. You need exactly [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] to deal with [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]; exactly [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] for [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] draws; exactly [card]Selesnya Charm[/card] to deal with the Gods; exactly [card]Putrefy[/card] to deal with the Gods’ weapons; exactly [card]Dreadbore[/card] for planewalkers; exactly [card]Celestial Flare[/card] to deal with [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] and [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card]; and exactly [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] for Obzedat and [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]. My use of the word “exactly” is a bit liberal—there are strong multipurpose cards that can deal with multiple types of threats—but you get the idea. I fear that, for this format in particular, finding the correct answers will be a major problem. If, as a control player, you find yourself without the specific card necessary for your situation you’ll likely end up getting run over. Countermagic (and, to a lesser extent, [card]Thoughtseize[/card], which doesn’t properly deal with topdecks in a control deck that wants to drag out the game) is still good for that reason. Moreover, against big spells such as [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card] and [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], countermagic is the only answer.

===
GRAVEYARD STRATEGIES
===

– Discard Setup: [card]Izzet Charm[/card], [card]Lotleth Troll[/card], [card]Pack Rat[/card], [card]Nivix Guildmage[/card], [card]Whispering Madness[/card] (along with [card]Notion Thief[/card]?), [card]Thoughtflare[/card]
– Mill setup: [card]Grisly Salvage[/card], [card]Commune with the Gods[/card] (note: finds [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]), [card]Dimir Charm[/card], [card]Drown in Filth[/card], [card]Pilfered Plans[/card], [card]Epic Experiment[/card] (into [card]Breaking // Entering[/card]?), [card]Undercity Informer[/card], [card]Jarad’s Orders[/card], [card]Steam Augury[/card], [card]Deadbridge Chant[/card].
– Profit?: [card]Immortal Servitude[/card], [card]Rescue from the Underworld[/card], [card]Spellheart Chimera[/card], [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], [card]Whip of Erebos[/card], [card]Tymaret the Murder King[/card], [card]Dreg Mangler[/card], [card]Nighthowler[/card], [card]Shadowborn Demon[/card], [card]Varolz, the Scar-Striped[/card], [card]Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord[/card], [card]Rot Farm Skeleton[/card], [card]Obzedat’s Aid[/card], [card]Underworld Cerberus[/card]

I’m not getting very excited yet. I am not convinced the payoff is there to make a G/B mill-reanimator deck, even if you try to turn the “downside” of [card]Rescue from the Underworld[/card] into an advantage by sacrificing stuff like [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] or [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]. I could enjoy the idea of an URB control/mid-range deck with some graveyard synergies ([card]Steam Augury[/card] and [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]) thrown in for value but not as the main focus of the deck. Maaaaaybe some kind of [card]Spellheart Chimera[/card] deck? One way or another, there’s [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] as a graveyard hate card, so I don’t have high hopes.

===
ENCHANTMENTS
===

Theros was supposed to be an enchantment set, right? Unfortunately, there are almost no cards that care about enchantments. [card]Ethereal Armor[/card], [card]Commune with the Gods[/card], [card]Oath of the Ancient Wood[/card], [card]Ajani’s Chosen[/card], and [card]Sphere of Safety[/card] are all I could find. So unless you believe that turn-2 [card]Mana Bloom[/card], turn-3 [card]Verdant Haven[/card], turn-4 [card]Sphere of Safety[/card], turn-5 [card]Commune with the Gods[/card] into another [card]Sphere of Safety[/card] is a viable plan, then forget about an enchantment theme deck…

===
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
===

– The best late-game seems to be in [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. I’d certainly build a UW control deck for a first gauntlet.
– The best creatures seem to be in Selesnya. I’d certainly include a midrange GW deck in a first gauntlet.
– Even though red decks could be built blazingly fast with tons of 1-drops and 2-drops, I’m not convinced that those decks will be good. There is [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] and [card]Anger of the Gods[/card]. There are many blockers that cost 2 or more mana that just brickwall red’s 2/1s and 2/2s and that have too much toughness for burn to clear the way. [card]Firefist Striker[/card] just dies to removal. And even though there is more burn than in Block Constructed, closing out the game with [card]Shock[/card] and [card]Magma Jet[/card] doesn’t seem all that strong. The burn is not the same quality as [card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/card], [card]Brimstone Volley[/card], or [card]Fireblast[/card]. And on top of that there’s also quite a bit of life gain. It may also be difficult to beat [card]Master of Waves[/card] or [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card] after sideboard. I really liked [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] in the previous Standard, but that was in a deck with [card]Champion of the Parish[/card], [card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card], [card]Lightning Mauler[/card], etc. Without good synergies, you’re left with a bunch of 2/1s and 2/2s, and I don’t believe that will be good enough. I do see potential for a more grindy red deck with less 1-drops and less 2-drops, but with Purphoros and his Hammer, and/or Chandra and her Phoenix instead.
– All in all, there is not a ton of synergy except for devotion. There is no combo deck unless I missed something. Mono-red super-fast aggro seems to be too weak at first glance. Hence, this is shaping up to be the midrangiest of midrange formats, dominated by mid-sized creatures and difficult-to-deal-with permanents such as Gods, planeswalkers, weapons, regenerating/persistent creatures, and so on.

Building Nykthos Red

Later that day, I started building various decks. On the red deck, I posted the following:

DECK: MONO-RED

So, this deck is quite a struggle to build. I could’ve gone the big way ([card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card], [card]Ember Swallower[/card], [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], [card]Anger of the Gods[/card], [card]Frostburn Weird[/card]) but I felt that it wouldn’t be fast/powerful enough. I also could’ve gone the the token way ([card]Molten Birth[/card], [card]Dynacharge[/card], [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card], [card]Tymaret the Murder King[/card]) but I felt that the synergies were not powerful enough and that it would be too vulnerable to sweepers.

So I went the old-school aggro way, featuring [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card]. Here’s what I came up with:

One-drops: 8
4 [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card]
4 [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card]

Two-drops: 12
4 [card]Firefist Striker[/card]
4 [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card]
2 [card]Ash Zealot[/card]
2 [card]Young Pyromancer[/card]

Three-drops: 6
4 [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card]
2 [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]

Four-drops: 4
2 [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card]
2 [card]Chandra Pyromaster[/card]

Burn: 7
3 [card]Shock[/card]
3 [card]Lightning Strike[/card]
1 [card]Magma Jet[/card]

Lands: 23
18 [card]Mountain[/card]
4 [card]Mutavault[/card]
1 [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nix[/card]

There are a ton of cards I also considered. My first build had several [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card] as additional 1-drops for better curve, a few [card]Gore-House Chainwalker[/card] for fast [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] starts, and a burn mix including [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]. (The burn mix moved around every minute. I’m still not sure which burn mix is the best… For now, I want to get past [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], so I have a bunch of [card]Lightning Strike[/card]s. I certainly want a number of [card]Shock[/card]s for mana-curve reasons, as well as at least one [card]Magma Jet[/card] as my 23.5th land for the 4-drops.)

But then I looked at my original deck again and it just seemed too weak: a bunch of awkward 1-drops and 2-drops, weak burn that is useless against Azorius control and that doesn’t turn on Purphoros, and no good late-game. To improve, I cut a burn spell, a one-drop, and a two-drop to add an additional Hammer, Purphoros, and Chandra (which I originally had as one-ofs) to give the deck a little more staying power. I’m not sure how good all of those cards really are, but I certainly want to try them out. And I added a miser’s Nyxthos for the random turn-3 Purphoros or insano [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card] pumps… though it might be worse than a Mountain in general.

Still, this deck currently seems horrendous. I don’t even like [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] all that much in a format with [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] and [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card]. With additional [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] or [card]Rubblebelt Maaka[/card], you could get past the bigger creatures, but they are dead/weak against Azorius control and don’t recur [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card]. With additional Purphoros, you’re better against sweepers, but it wrecks the mana curve, which may already be too high.

And this deck doesn’t feel right no matter how I build it. There’s a tension between [card]Ash Zealot[/card] and [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] due to devotion and [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] considerations. There’s a tension between instants and permanents due to Young Pyromancer and Purphoros. And if Purphoros turns out to be weaker than I hope, then the overall power level of this deck may not be good enough, and adding a second color may be necessary.

For sideboard (assuming we stay mono-red) I probably want some [card]Peak Eruption[/card] and [card]Burning Earth[/card]. Also [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] against [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card]. There’s also the option of going bigger, with 1-2 Mountain and then jamming [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card], [card]Ember Swallower[/card], [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], [card]Frostburn Weird[/card], and possibly [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] after sideboard.

This post set off a productive discussion with a number of team members. I reproduce their comments with their permission. It’s interesting to see the deck evolve and how none of us thought much of [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] at first.

Facebook discussion

Afterwards, I put the deck together (adding singletons of [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card], [card]Mutavault[/card], and [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] because I couldn’t resist a few one-ofs) and met up with Kamiel at the prerelease.

The Prerelease Test Session

After the prerelease weekend, I shared my testing experiences in the team forum. I honestly thought Big Red was an obvious deck that everyone at the Pro Tour would know about. I mean, I wrote an honest spoiler spotlight article praising [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card], and I expected everyone to put together Nykthos decks as well. I guess I was wrong there… Here’s the full post:

I played the Saturday and Sunday prerelease and took some Standard decks with me: Selesnya, Azorius, and Big Red. These decks all seem fairly obvious, so I wasn’t taking super-secret tech with me or anything. I tested against other good players from Eindhoven with previous Pro Tour experience (but who are not qualified for Dublin) and against Kamiel Cornelissen. (Kamiel is planning to play PT Dublin, but the only days he had available to prepare were this weekend. He is planning to just copy a Standard list from the internet and fly to Dublin on Thursday.)

The decks I brought:

BIG RED

[deck]4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Ash Zealot
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Boros Reckoner
2 Hammer of Purphoros
3 Purphoros, God of the Forge
3 Ember Swallower
1 Chandra Pyromaster
4 Frostbreath Dragon
4 Magma Jet
1 Mizzium Mortars
21 Mountain
4 Nyxthos, Shrine to Nix
1 Mutavault[/deck]

This deck was based on suggestions from Shahar, Matt, and PV. My version only contains 5 non-creature spells and 4 [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card]. This may look weird: no one-drops and no two-drop creatures that you can drop after a Burning-Tree Emissary, but it was still surprisingly good. Why? Here are some examples of games that happened:

Example 1:
Turn 2 [card]Frostburn Weird[/card]
Turn 3 [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], Nykthos, Chandra.

Example 2:
Turn 2 [card]Ash Zealot[/card]
Turn 3 [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] [falls to [card]Detention Sphere[/card]]
Turn 4 [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], Nykthos, [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]

Example 3:
Turn 2 [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], [card]Magma Jet[/card]

Example 4:
Turn 2 [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card]
Turn 3 [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]
Turn 4 Purphoros, attack

With Nykthos, BTE was insane.

SELESNYA

[deck]4 Elvish Mystic
4 Experiment One
2 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Fleecemane Lion
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Loxodon Smiter
3 Advent of the Wurm
4 Selesnya Charm
2 Boon Satyr
2 Polukranos World Eater
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
1 Spear of Heliod
8 Forest
8 Plains
4 Temple Garden
3 Selesnya Guildgate[/deck]

So, essentially the deck I posted earlier, except with an additional [card]Boon Satyr[/card] and Polunkranos based on suggestions by Pat.

BLUE/WHITE

[deck]4 Azorius Charm
1 Celestial Flare
1 Last Breath
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Syncopate
2 Essence Scatter
4 Detention Sphere
2 Dissolve
4 Supreme Verdict
3 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Haunted Plate Mail
1 Domestication
2 Aetherling
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
8 Island
7 Plains
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Mutavault[/deck]

Similar to Chapin’s Azorius deck, but with more win-conditions and less [card]Last Breath[/card].

OK, on to the results. Spoiler: Mono-red was the best deck of the ones I tested. It worked surprisingly smoothly and could do busted things with Nykthos.

Mono-red vs. Selesnya: 7-3

This matchup often turned into a board stall in which indestructibility ([card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], Purphoros) was important. [card]Ember Swallower[/card], Purphoros, and [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] were usually better than [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] and [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], though. The red cards (not just the creatures, but Chandra and [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] as well) just seemed to have more impact in the late-game. Besides, the green deck lacks an ability to deal with opposing permanents, which led to a game in which Nykthos was tapped for 14 mana… Yeah, that wasn’t fair. The games that Selesnya did manage to win were often on the back of a fast turn-2 [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] and/or a [card]Selesnya Charm[/card] on Purpohoros.

Looking ahead to post-sideboard games, I’d expect Selesnya to improve substantially with [card]Unflinching Courage[/card]. However, mono-red can add more [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] (which is easily overloaded with Nykthos) so I’m not sure who would be favored post-board.

Mono-red vs. Azorius: 6-4

Result felt representative. [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] was insane and won many games. Pro-white means that [card]Detention Sphere[/card] and [card]Azorius Charm[/card] cannot answer it. Both decks lost one game due to mana-screw, so that more or less cancels out. [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] and Detention Sphere were instrumental in giving wins to Azorius.

Looking ahead to post-sideboard games—which should be tested sooner rather than later, of course—I would guess that Azorius could bring in additional [card]Celestial Flare[/card] against the Dragon (though it’s still not exactly reliable) while mono-red can remove all the burn spells and add… dunno, a Chandra and 4 [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card], or something like that?

Selesnya vs. Azorius: 6-2

Azorius lost two games due to mana-stumbles, so the matchup shouldn’t be this lopsided. Nevertheless, Selesnya showed its capability of taking games with blazingly fast starts. [card]Experiment One[/card], [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], and [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card] are very good against [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. The green and white creatures were so good, Azorius even lost a game in which it resolved [card]Aetherling[/card].

Looking ahead to post-sideboard games, I’d expect Selesnya to change very little—maybe replace Polunkranos by a more efficient creature, or perhaps [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card]. Azorius can add a [card]Last Breath[/card] and/or [card]Domestication[/card] to deal with [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] and [card]Experiment One[/card]? Probably won’t change all that much.

===

Kamiel Cornelissen brought two decks as well. The first was a Simic deck based around [card]Vorel of the Hull Clade[/card]. This deck was horrendous and couldn’t win, so forget about that one. The second deck was a mono-blue [card thassa, god of the sea]Thassa[/card] deck with many devotion cards. I don’t recall the exact deck list, but it was something like this:

[deck]4 Cloudfin Raptor
2 Judge’s Familiar
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Tidebinder Mage
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Thassa, God of the Sea
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
4 Master of the Waves
2 Sensory Deprivation
2 Spell Rupture
2 Domestication
1 Nykthos
23 Island[/deck]

So, similar to PV’s mono-blue devotion deck, but without the white and with more devotion permanents. In the games with the above version, I noticed that getting to 5 devotion is already somewhat rare. This indicates that it will be very difficult to animate Thassa in PV’s deck that lacks [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card] and [card]Nightveil Specter[/card].

Mono-blue vs. Azorius: 0-6

Two losses were due to mulligans into oblivion, but overall this matchup does not seem good for mono-blue. Main reason: It is very difficult to beat [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. You lack speed so you give the opponent too much time to draw it, and you don’t have the ability to follow it up with a hasty Dragon when the opponent taps out, in contrast to mono-red. Cards like [card]Domestication[/card] and [card]Sensory Deprivation[/card] were obviously horrendous. [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card] and [card]Master of Waves[/card] were underwhelming as well. Maybe if you adjust the mono-blue deck and add [card]Aetherling[/card] along with more Nykthos, it could improve, but it seems tough.

Mono-blue vs. Selesnya: 3-3

[card]Domestication[/card], [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card], and [card]Master of Waves[/card] were very good. However, green-white can still have many fast draws. Polunkranos was excellent at dealing with [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card] and [card]Master of Waves[/card]. [card]Boon Satyr[/card] was a funky foil to [card]Domestication[/card].

Mono-blue vs. Mono-red: 3-5

Two of mono-blue’s wins were thanks to [card]Master of Waves[/card], which is obviously insane in this matchup. The other was thanks to fast Thassa beatdown. The remaining games were usually close, but the red cards just seemed more powerful than the blue ones overall.

Overall, the blue deck seemed nice in the three matchups I played, but it still didn’t post a good game record. The devotion theme with [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card] and [card]Master of Waves[/card] was responsible for winning most of the games. Nevertheless, many of the supporting cards (such as [card]Cloudfin Raptor[/card] and [card]Nightveil Specter[/card]) are weak. Not entirely sure how to solve this.

Deck improvement notes:

[-] Mono-blue: [card]Judge’s Familiar[/card], [card]Sensory Deprivation[/card], and [card]Spell Rupture[/card] were all pretty bad. Maybe Nykthos and Aetherling instead?
[-] Mono-red: Deck was excellent, wouldn’t change a card.
[-] Azorius: [card]Last Breath[/card], [card]Celestial Flare[/card], and [card]Haunted Plate Mail[/card] were mediocre maindeck cards. Not sure what to replace them with. Maybe a 2nd Elspeth because that one was quite good. Maybe a third color is necessary to ensure enough good cards. If you would want to stick to two colors, then I suggest +1 Island +1 Plains -2 Mutavault. Although Azorius also won a game thanks to Mutavault, two games were decided by a Mutavault-induced color-screw.
[-] Selesnya: [card]Spear of Heliod[/card] was better than Ajani, so I suggest +1 Spear -1 Ajani. [card]Boon Satyr[/card] was somewhat unimpressive overall; it’s not a bad card, but I was hoping for more and I could see cutting it. Polukranos was quite good; adding a third is not out of the question. [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] was weak because Selesnya has no removal cards; maybe adding additional [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card] is better? Or [card]Banisher Priest[/card] to give more interaction vs Purphoros, [card]Master of Waves[/card], etc. I’m still not sure what the best way to build Selesnya is. [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] and Polunkranos is quite solid in many games. In other games, I would’ve loved to have [card]Brave the Elements[/card] to break though in a board stall, but it doesn’t play well with Elvish Mystic and Polunkranos.

In hindsight, it’s interesting to read my reasoning for discarding the Mono-Blue Devotion deck that looked strikingly similar to the deck that won the Pro Tour. We should’ve tested and tuned it further.

The Aftermath

After the pre-release test session, Kamiel noted down the Red Nykthos deck list, and I wrote down a preliminary sideboard on a napkin at the restaurant. In the end, Kamiel didn’t change a single maindeck card since the prerelease.

Meanwhile, deckbuilding genius Josh Utter-Leyton saw how to improve the deck: He added [card]Domri Rade[/card] and [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] instead of [card]Magma Jet[/card] and [card]Ember Swallower[/card]. He also tweaked the sideboard. Here is what Team Channelfireball eventually registered at the Pro Tour:

[deck]Main Deck
2 Gruul Guildgate
11 Mountain
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Ash Zealot
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Fanatic of Mogis
3 Purphoros, God of the Forge
4 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Domri Rade
2 Hammer of Purphoros
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
Sideboard
4 Mizzium Mortars
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Shock
2 Ember Swallower
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Destructive Revelry
1 Ratchet Bomb[/deck]

[card]Domri Rade[/card] is an excellent card in this deck for several reasons: it is a permanent and thus a source for devotion; it is a threatening card-advantage machine against control decks; and its fight ability is excellent when combined with [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] of [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card].

[card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] is a card that I had initially glanced over, but it showed its power in the hands of Philip Bertorelli at the first StarCityGames Open. It can win games out of nowhere during board stalls, and serves as a [card]Flametongue Kavu[/card] for planeswalkers.

In testing, this deck had favorable matchups against UWx, Mono-Red Aggro, Selesnya, Naya, and Mono-Green Devotion. Here are some of the sideboard plans that I had with me during the Pro Tour, most of them courtesy of Josh Utter-Leyton:

Vs. UWx:
-4 [card]Boros Reckoner[/card]
+2 [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card]
+2 [card]Destructive Revelry[/card]

Vs. Mono-Red Aggro:
-2 [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]
-3 [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card]
-2 [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card]
-3 [card]Domri Rade[/card]
+4 [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]
+2 [card]Shock[/card]
+2 [card]Anger of the Gods[/card]
+2 [card]Ember Swallower[/card]

Vs. Selesnya:
-2 [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]
-3 [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card]
+2 [card]Ember Swallower[/card]
+2 [card]Anger of the Gods[/card]
+1 [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]

Vs. Naya:
-2 [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]
-4 [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card]
+2 [card]Ember Swallower[/card]
+4 [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]

Vs. Mono-Blue Devotion:
-2 [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card]
-2 [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]
-2 [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card]
-1 [card]Domri Rade[/card]
+2 [card]Anger of the Gods[/card]
+4 [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]
+1 [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]

Vs. Mono-Green Devotion:
-2 [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card]
-2 [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card]
-2 [card]Ash Zealot[/card]
+4 [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]
+2 [card]Anger of the Gods[/card]

Looking back, we misjudged the metagame. We expected twice as many decks with [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] and [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] (Esper, Azorius, UWR) as there actually were, and we didn’t anticipate the rise of Mono-Blue Devotion. The two maindeck [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card] were a concession to UWx control, but given the way the metagame shaped up, [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], [card]Magma Jet[/card], [card]Ember Swallower[/card], or [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] would probably have been better in those slots. By moving Xenagos to the sideboard, you can also cut a [card]Gruul Guildgate[/card] from the main deck to improve the mana base. Moreover, I would remove [card]Destructive Revelry[/card] from the sideboard because Guillame Wafo-Tapa’s Esper deck from the Top 8 only ran a single [card]Detention Sphere[/card]. Instead, I would suggest [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card]. Haste allows you to take out [card]Jace, Memory Adept[/card], and it is a potent threat against Mono-Blue Devotion when combined with [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card].

I couldn’t share the updated version with Kamiel or tell him what we played because he wasn’t part of the group of ChannelFireball players who met up earlier in Dublin to test Standard for several days. Kamiel knew that, and it was a fair agreement. Nevertheless, he cruised to the Top 8.

Kamiel sign

I cheered him on with a sign that fit the Greek mythology theme, but it was to no avail—he lost the quarterfinals to eventual champion Jeremy Dezani.

Given that Kamiel was the only Nykthos Red player who made it to the Top 8, does that mean that his version was better than the one with [card]Domri Rade[/card] and [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card]? In my opinion, the answer is “no.” I still like the additions made by Josh Utter-Leyton, and I would recommend the updated version for future events.

The deck is high-variance, but it’s a blast to play because the Nykthos draws are really busted. It really is a lot of fun, and I don’t think it will be a bad choice for Grand Prix Louisville. You would prefer to avoid [card]Master of Waves[/card], but you can still go over the top with [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] or clear the board with [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]. And the metagame may evolve to a point where people try to beat Mono-Blue Devotion with [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. Then, you can defeat the Esper players with difficult-to-answer planeswalkers, Hammers, and Gods, while pecking off their planeswalkers with [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] and [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card].

Or, if you are as good as Kamiel, it doesn’t really matter what you play—you just crush everyone anyway.

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