Silvestri Says – Journey into Spoilers

Last week I asked my readers what they wanted to see, and spoilers beat out judge stories, so this week I’ll be throwing my hat into the spoiler ring. Over the next few weeks I do plan on doing a judge article or perhaps even nesting a few stories in an otherwise normal article, but until then let’s start our Journey into Nyx!

Kruphix, God of Horizons

My initial impression is that this card was tailor-made for EDH players and Johnnys of all shapes and sizes. My second impression is that I will also have to issue many warnings to said players when they fail to keep clean records of what is in their mana pool and violate the player communication policy (Game Rules Violation) by not announcing it. To the notion that it makes Sphinx’s Revelation better, I have two questions.

1) Did Sphinx’s Revelation need the help?
A: No

2) Is there any guarantee you’ll be able to sink mana immediately after casting Kruphix ?
A: No.

My primary issue with Kruphix is that it doesn’t change anything, it merely acts as a win-more. There’s a slightly more interesting case to be made for straight UG decks, Nykthos can conceivably help cast Kruphix and sink mana in for future use on that same turn. In a devotion build this becomes a realistic endeavor and makes for a far more interesting card.

Given the dual-colored Gods’ history, this isn’t some slam dunk addition for a devotion deck. Consider that of all the gold Gods only Xenagos has seen any real level of play. Ephara was in a strong color combo with a scry land available and it drew you cards, yet barely saw any play and may only be a niche player for its current Standard lifespan. The other multicolored Gods have fallen flat completely and see no play, which should remind players just how high the bar is for these cards.

Pharika, God of Affliction

Pharika, on the other hand, is a card with a lot of upside on the cheap and less work to get a real reward. Being three mana in BG means it competes against fewer cards at that slot, and her ability can be used with minimal help. While the whole “owner” clause means you won’t be enjoying as many Sedge Scorpions as you’d like, just making a few 1/1 deathtouch blockers can easily turn the tide against creature decks. Against Supreme Verdict, it provides yet another weapon that can be implemented early and eventually forces a response from the opponent. A lot of Pharika’s value comes down to getting to attack with her, since her ability almost assures that you’ll win a race if they have to attack on the ground at all. Outside of Bile Blight, could you see a Pack Rat getting by a few of these? Doubtful.

Athreos, God of Passage

Athreos, God of Passage is another God with a ton of hype and this one for good reason. Atheros is the equivalent of The Raid for Magic cards. It’s awesome, straight to the point, all action, and made on a budget. Costing three mana saves the day again so Athreos can be cast on a reasonable curve and come online attacking just in time for a reasonable aggressive or midrange strategy. Better yet, BW provides a number of options, since the color combination offers the best devotion enablers between Boros Reckoner, Nightveil Specter, Precinct Captain, Lifebane Zombie, Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Obzedat, Ghost Council. Not only does Athreos have these advantages, they even threw in a relevant ability to really sell him.

Whenever another creature you own dies, return it to your hand unless target opponent pays 3 life.

I’m sure many people immediately thought of Xathrid Necromancer when they saw Athreos, and while I agree that’s a good starting point, he really bolsters any creature-based BW strategy. Breaking Esper’s reliance on Supreme Verdict is a huge boon to these decks and really scares me as an Esper player. The idea of paying 3  life so I don’t have to do deal with Brimaz multiple times feels like the punisher mechanic done right. It’s hard to say something else about Atheros that won’t be written multiple times before the card is even legal for play, so I’ll just say I’m on the bandwagon. 3 vs. 4 for Gods may just be as big of a deal as it currently is for planeswalkers in the 4 vs. 5 slot.

Here’s a sample starting list:

Eidolon of the Great Revel

Eidolon will probably see some play in aggressive red strategies and it doesn’t fit very well in the Burn deck except in those matchups where you’re already favored. The end.

Ok, ok. Right now isn’t the best metagame for Eidolon of the Great Revel. Most decks aren’t trying to get in the early game and the ones that do are probably only going to cast one or two spells before Eidolon is dealt with. On the plus side, a deck like Mono-U Devotion has no easy answer to the card and consists of 24+ spells at 3 CMC or less. Mono-Black Devotion can also have issues if they want to interact early, since we’ve seen a steady reduction of early removal spells that see play. If they don’t take it out early, odds are good you’ll get 4 to 6 damage before Eidolon is no longer an issue. However as people have been getting on the ball in dealing with red decks, more cards like Pharika’s Cure have come back to prominence, which hurts the overall playability of Eidolon.

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

The snap judgment when this card came out was that it is terrible casual-bait, and that +100 is the quintessential, “we need an ultimate and can’t be bothered to come up with a real one. Slap ‘gain life’ on there and RNG the amount.” While I’m usually on board with this plan* it just smacks of laziness when you see it on a planeswalker and not some throwaway mythic.

My new judgment after ruminating on the card for a bit is that the card still isn’t good enough to see play, but that at some point it was likely tested at 2WG and considered ridiculous. That’s the cost at which this card feels perfect, even if one of the abilities had to be turned into a 0 or the pump ability was toned down slightly. At five mana it competes with every other powerful card currently seeing play in Standard (Sphinx’s Revelation excluded) and is likely to just die to a relevant 4-drop.

*Fellow flavor connoisseur Michael Boland pointed out the Gods power and toughness as proof of that. Here are all the Gods P/T: 5/5, 6/5, 5/7, 5/6, 6/7, 7/5, 6/6 4/7, 6/5, 6/5, 5/5, 5/4, 7/4, 4/7, 6/5. How did they come up with these?

The best plan for Ajani is to pump up a hard-to-kill creature like Mutavault or Witchstalker and go to town. It does make nearly any creature an instant threat and dig for more guys in topdeck situations, but in any situation where you’re neutral or behind on board Ajani is likely worse than the majority of other planeswalkers or Gods you could play.

This has all the marks of a good card being introduced in a mature Standard format where it doesn’t have the raw power to make an impact. Ajani certainly isn’t the first planeswalker to suffer this fate and won’t be the last. Plenty of solid cards were close to unplayable simply because there was no good core for it or a better option already existed. I’ll be interested in this post-rotation, or with a cheaper GW option to help anchor the deck. Mana Confluence is going to have a bigger impact than Ajani for GW decks.

Mana Confluence

Speaking of Mana Confluence, seeing a City of Brass get so hyped up was pretty impressive. I do understand where some of the enthusiasm is coming from though. For being so deep into Standard season, we can barely support a single three-color deck and the dual-colored aggressive builds struggle for consistent mana. Everyone else has to double-dip on scry lands just to make ends meet.

Now we get to do something fun in decks that really wanted one more untapped land for consistency.

Suddenly decks like Rakdos Aggro and GW Monsters no longer suffer from untenable mana that require as much as luck as design to function properly. Looking at GW you have 12 GW sources before you even touch the basics, and only four as enter the battlefield tapped lands. If the color requirements are still too stringent you can cut back on Mutavault and eventually hit a ratio you’ll be happy with.

While the price early on might be a bit much for people to take, there’s no denying that Standard very much wanted a card like this. If you want to avoid using it, play any of the mono-colored decks or Esper Control, otherwise deal with the fact that you’ll probably want 2-4 of these. You also likely want to start with four and start downgrading from there unless you have a really strong grasp on what your curve and mana needs are. Don’t just netdeck somebody’s dual-colored aggro list and take their word for what the mana should look like.

Astral Sheep

And we end on a high-note with the card that launched a thousand puns. Red decks take a bit of a hit since this can effectively block every non-Chandra’s Phoenix card they commonly play. Worse still, the Sheep herder gets to gain a life every upkeep and incremental life gain is the bane of a Burn player’s existence. Not much else to say about the card,  other than it feels like one of the best sideboard cards released in recent memory.

Next week we’ll be focusing on what current decks will gain, and if any deserve a major revamp with Journey into Nyx.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: josh.silvestri@gmail.com

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