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Plenty of legitimate complaints about G/B's god have been made but they really sum up in two succinct statements: she doesn't do anything without investing MORE mana and she doesn't have a deck she fits into. As the guy that bought a playset at $40, then eight more at $56 I would like to share my reasoning. Before I jump right in let me preface this by saying I do not typically preorder cards. I don't trust most vendors to honor their prices when things turn against them and most of the time the house is going to win. That sounds a little too much like Vegas. I am somewhat tempted to try my hand at preordering foils from StarCityGames because they are the only game in town and they have a history of honoring prices. But being slow to that game cost me my foil playset of Dakra Mystic at $12. Still looks like a house-usually-wins situation to me anyway, especially as a retailer can mitigate their risk by offering virtual copies in limited supply until they "restock" at a higher price to test demand. In the trading world we call that walking up the bid.
So yeah, a new mechanic found its way into Journey into Nyx: Constellation. New mechanics always open up deck construction and provide speculators a great opportunity to play into the creative impulses of players. Remember when Devotion was spoiled? Boros Reckoner was already a thing, and having lived through an initial demand cycle saw some new life breathed into it. On the fringes, cards that never made the cut suddenly became very playable: Nightveil Specter, Burning-Tree Emissary, and Rubblebelt Raiders. From that starting point a new evaluation process should occur. What are the best Devotion mechanics to exploit, and what cards are available (on the cheap!) to help create the next big thing: Devotion decks.
A Recent History Lesson
At the time both blue and black devotion were favorites with red falling far behind the front runners. Blue was the early favorite thanks to Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea. Black Devotion had the benefit of lifegain via Grey Merchant and the best removal in the format to support a splashy Erebos, God of the Dead. Here Nightveil looks quite at home. Fortunes were made. Pack Rat was also a pretty obvious winner as it slid nicely into 2cc and read "discard a card: add one devotion. Being able to return stuff from the yard via Whip of Erebos gave Black Devotion what I considered to be an insurmountable edge.
Ok, I am not going to pretend buying cards as a spec for decks that don't exist isn't risky. It would be easier to just focus on cards you think fit into established archetypes across Magic's many formats. But the risks are outweighed by the potential rewards as long as your new mechanic can support a new archetype. Constellation is one such mechanic.
Constellation triggers whenever an enchantment enters the battlefield. There are thirteen cards in Nyx sporting the Constellation mechanic. Five of those cards are in green: Eidolon of Blossoms draws a card, Goldenhide Ox forces blocks, Humbler of Mortals gives all your creatures trample until end of turn, Oakheart Dryads gives +1/+1 to a single target until end of turn, and Strength from the Fallen as the only non-creature enchantment offers a single target +X/+X where X equals the number of creatures in your graveyard. Honestly, outside of Eidolon of Blossoms green's suite isn't that impressive. Of course green offers enchantment ramp in the set via Font of Fertility and the 1cc Renowned Weaver makes enchantment spiders with reach. Both Font and Weaver play really well with Reviving Melody. The Melody can return your sacrificed Font and the Weaver for just 3cc.
White only has one and a half Constellation cards. Harvestguard Alseids could take advantage of instant enchantments by making attackers or blockers impervious to damage in the combat step. Outside of Pharika, God of Affliction and the Renowned Weaver enabling that trick doesn't seem possible in Standard. The other half of white's foray into Constellation is the multicolored Underworld Coinsmith. For WB players get a 2/2 body that gains its controller life every time an enchantment enters the battlefield along side an ability that costs WB and one life to cause every opponent to lose one life. Both of these cards could merit consideration in a Constellation focused constructed deck but the Coinsmith seems like a more likely choice considering the wealth of 1cc white 0/4 bodies and Nyx's own Nyx-Fleeced Ram. At W1 the Nyx-Fleeced Ram offers great protection with its 0/5 body and gains life every turn while also giving you a Constellation trigger. Why I like more defensive creatures for a deck that abuses Constellation should be clear once we examine black's card pool.
Only green offers more cards with Constellation keywords than black, and the quality of black's Constellation triggers is much higher. The least exciting is Agent of Erebos. Paying four mana for a 2/2 that exiles a players graveyard on triggers is not that exciting. Deadbringer Lampads could save a struggling black seeded sealed pool from mediocrity by offering a decent body at 4/2 and evasion on triggers. Unfortunately at 5cc, this card is likely unplayable in constructed formats. Doomwake Giant on the other hand is a 5cc that functions as a one-sided sweeper on triggers. The 4/6 body can apply pressure after multiple triggers via Pharika clear a path. Surviving to turn five should be made easier with Grim Guardian. At 3cc, his 1/4 body isn't screaming value. Thankfully his Constellation trigger (each opponent loses one life) plays right into a grind out strategy. He would sit above Underworld Coinsmith and the Nyx-Fleeced Ram on curve.
Red and Blue offer a paltry amount to any constructed Constellation game plan. While blue's Whitewater Naiads outclasses Deadbringer Lampads in both body and (similar) effect, a Constellation deck already looks like it's supporting three colors. Adding blue for Dakra Mystic, Thassa's Devourer and Ashiok is tempting, but setting up for four colors behind the Mystic's disruption to potentially have a mill plan seems like more of a hindrance. Any three color, grindy deck is already leaning heavily on its land base. While I expect Mana Confluence to smooth out mana for three color decks, I am not interested in building in or speccing on a four color viable threat in Standard. Red offers Forgeborn Oreads, but double red in the casting cost make it unjustifiable in a deck running three or more colors. The ability to selectively dole out one point of damage to either creatures or players could be good enough to see some play in a W/R Heroic build that relied on auras to trigger Heroic.
What This All Means!
Ok. Wall of text. Let me try and tie this monster together: there is a control deck waiting to be built off the back of Constellation. It sits behind 0/X's, triggering Constellation effects that help deal damage, recover life and clear the opponents field. It leans heavily on green for it's enchantment producing Weavers and Pharikas. It also fixes mana via green enchantments, recovers spent/lost resources thanks to both Reviving Melody and Nyx Weaver. This deck is probably three colors, but I'll invest in it's strongest components and those are black and green.
Vraska is cheap, she has a home here and can deal with threats that get through deathtouch snakes and 1/4 walls. Pharika's instant enchantment making is worth investing in. I encourage readers to seek these out during prerelease as plenty of players will be disappointed they pulled this mythic. Keep in mind, I thought this card was worth my hundred bucks. I have a high tolerance for risk, but the pieces are all there for a good Constellation deck. That deck can easily deal with Pack Rat and can side in lifegain even if it is completely out of white via Grey Merchant. Surviving early flyers is accomplished by making enchantment spiders with the Renowned Weaver or playing Nyx Weaver. Both these cards trigger Constellation, can be recurred via Melody. Who's with me?
11 thoughts on “Insider: Why You’re Wrong About Pharika”
That same question has been buggin’ my mind lately, I’ve been trying this list for a few days now.. really liking it so far:
4 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Hydra Broodmaster
4 Nyx Weaver
2 Pharika, God of Affliction
1 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Courser of Kruphix
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Whip of Erebos
1 Abrupt Decay
3 Banishing Light
1 Mana Bloom
2 Sphere of Safety
1 Extinguish All Hope
1 Reviving Melody
1 Underworld Connections
2 Mana Confluence
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Temple of Plety
3 Temple of Silence
4 Temple of Malady
2 Temple Garden
1 Godless Shrine
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Sphere of Safety
3 Nyx-Fleece Ram
1 Blind Obedience
3 Brain Maggot
1 Vraska the Unseen
2 Grim Guardian
1 Extinguish All Hope
3 Mistcutter Hydra
I kept the Caryatids instead of the font because these can block and can turn into snakes, with 22 enchantments I think we’re good. then I have those big-nonenchantment threads. Hydra has been amazing at closing the game.
I’m just not sure if Renowned Weaver is good enough.
renowned weaver looks weak too imo. but i will test it. could run elvish mystic?
This is a great teaser article, but I would have loved a deck list and some explaination. Maybe that will come in the future?
right now i like: renowned weaver, thoughtseize, font of fertility, satyr wayfinder, mind maggots, grim guardian, reviving melody, pharika herself, nyx weaver, doomwake giant, vraska
this is a deck that can recure stuff out of the gy, deal with pack ratsand sweep after t5 to win. needs testing, can add ramp guys too as needed. elvish mystic is prob. better than renowned weaver for example…
Mathieu, I think the bigger implication is actually in modern. GB Obliterator can turn pharika on quite easily and making 1/1 deathtouch snakes is relevant, but grindy vs u/w/r meta
yeah, sounds good. swing t4 with oblit off elves deep shadow…
I predict a future article explaining where this went wrong, what killed the deck and in the end Pharika is $10 or less.
read my articles. i win more than i lose 🙂 feel free to click through to my seeking alpha site too.
I would be really cool if there was a team on here that playtested proxy cards before the release. if anyones in LA I would be up for trying that in the future.
also I like the self mill cards insted of the weaver. but either way agreed that Phrixa is better then where giveing it credit
ok ok I get it the wever gets you a card and an enchntment that with the enchantress nets you a card, I just have to get my head out of night howler attack one turn to win mode. and acept constilation as a real thing.
Would love to see a list put through its paces… hard to see it right now.