There is only one card I can even consider writing about for my spoiler spotlight: Athreos, God of Passage.
As you know from last week’s article I was very excited about the potential of this card and I have to say it has not disappointed. This card just screams “build with me!”
Let’s take a look.
He is cheap to play. With a converted mana cost of only 3, he joins Thassa among the lowest-costed Gods. One of the reasons Thassa was of immediate interest to players is, with a little bit of effort on your part, she is an indestructible 5/5 for 3! That’s insane! Athreos does need one more devotion from your other permanents to join the living (he provides 2 of his 7 devotion, whereas Thassa provided 1 of 5) and only has 4 toughness (a truly terrible down side on an indestructible creature…) but just the stats alone demand he be looked at closely.
In addition to just being an amazingly good value creature, his ability is also very interesting: whenever another creature you own dies, return it to your hand unless target opponent pays 3 life.
The first thing that springs to mind here is Wrath protection.
Why, yes opponent, you can cast Supreme Verdict and kill my board. Now, would you like me to be able to cast everything again or do you want to pay lots of life?
In an aggressive deck this effect is awesome. By the time your opponent has 4 mana, chances are you’ve done about 8 damage to them, and then they can’t really afford to not give you your stuff back. This is going to stretch their early game resource too thin, and they should crumble under your assault.
For one they have to have both the sweeper and the D. Sphere for this to work. Even if they do manage to deal with Athreos before using their sweeper this will probably delay them by a couple of turns. And a couple of turns is all an aggro deck needs against control. Tempo-wise, Athreos is a big problem for control decks.
Even against non-control decks the effect is relevant. You want to be constantly turning creatures sideways as an aggressive deck. If your opponent has a blocker, Athreos allows you to continue forcing damage through even if some of your creatures suicide.
The problem with BW and your recurring creatures is that if you don’t have enough mana to cast them again that turn, then it’s two turns before they are relevant again (due to summoning sickness). BW doesn’t tend to have many haste creatures—however, there is one very powerful creature to consider here: Mogis’s Marauder.
I doubt you would be allowed to get Marauder back from an Athreos trigger (unless your opponent has no other choice). However, it’s more likely that you use him in combination with a few re-acquired creatures as a surprise rush attack that catches your opponent by surprise.
Another card in Standard that needs serious consideration in the new light of Athreos: Xathrid Necromancer. Xathrid Necromancer never lived up to the hype that surrounded it. However, in combination with Athreos, you can really apply some pain to your opponent.
If you wanted to explore an aggressive deck with this card, I might start with something like this:
However, I am personally less interested in the Wrath protection aspect of this ability. What Athreos screamed to me was ARISTOCRATS!
I loved Aristocrats so much. The synergy, the triggers, and the amount of play it offered were awesome. It was a perfect sort of deck for me, I could outwit my opponent and grind out a victory one life-drain trigger at a time (well, sometimes there was one huge Boros Reckoner trigger but that was less often).
Aristocrats went through many iterations in Standard starting with its creation at PT Gatecrash, running through Blasphemous Act brews and out into Junk. At its core though was one principle: sacrifice creatures for value.
Blood Artist was particularly key to this strategy. The life drain helped you stay alive in so many games long enough to take over and he was responsible for a lot of the damage you dealt to your opponents. There is not currently a Blood Artist equivalent in Standard but we still haven’t seen the rest of the set.
Also, in some ways, Athreos can actually fill the Blood Artist slot. Yes, he does not do guaranteed damage, as they can simply choose to give you your creature back. But if you can combine that with value from the sacrifice then you still generate an advantage.
For example, you sacrifice a creature to Cartel Aristrocrat to give it protection from their blockers. You can then deal 2 damage with the Aristocrat. If they give you the creature back then you can recast it and do this again next turn. In this way you will chip away at their life total. Cartel Aristrocrat is also nice for the deck because she provides two devotion to Athreos.
But what if they pay the life? Well if we look back at Junk Aristocrats we remember that Varolz was the other sacrifice outlet and is still Standard legal. Now if they don’t let our creature recur, we can use it to make another of our creatures bigger thus finding another use. This deck is like the Magical version of recycling.
Also when looking a Junk I saw Voice of Resurgence, yet another excellent sacrifice choice that is still in Standard.
Anyway, I’ve left you with a first draft of Junk Artistocrats to start playing with. I am so excited about this card and you can trust that I will be brewing with it in the next couple of weeks. I hope this Spoiler Spotlight has got your cogs turning. Feel free to tweet your ideas @onionpixie or comment below and I will see you next week.