With the full Journey Into Nyx spoiler released, it's time to really get down to business. Outside of an Oblivion Ring "reprint" and a Deicidedly playable piece of enchantment hate (get it?), there's not a ton more going on in JOU than I discussed last week. I'm still liking the set quite a bit more than Born of the Gods, but ultimately I would have liked one or two more playables. Alas, this is not the time for wishing, it's the time for brewing.
Ignoring Mana Confluence is an impossibility. This card is generating a lot of buzz about new two, three or even four color decks- even a few dreamers looking to give Chromanticoring another try. Mana Confluence will add consistency to the Rakdos Spike Jester decks that have seen some success in Standard, the Golgari "Dredge" deck that Conley Woods introduced to the world, and the various flavors of Naya that pop up periodically. At this point in time I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to be paired against any three-color combination as the community works on solving the optimal home for Mana Confluence.
Personally, I have the fear. The benefits of Mana Confluence come at a very real cost, and I'm not talking about its pre-order price tag. I wouldn't be surprised to see Eidelon of the Great Revel dominate a Confluence-invested metagame, and Searing Blood is just a beating against aggressive decks with painful manabases. If I had to play a Mana Confluence deck, I'd be using it to cast this guy:
Better mana and another body is exactly what hexproof needed. Brad Nelson wrote this week Banishing Light will be a strong force against hexproof decks, but a sorcery speed answer to an aura is more akin to "not losing" than winning. I'd be more concerned about Deicide than anything, as it can actually removal Unflinching Courage before the monster bearing it ever connects, but even still the greatest obstacles will remain playing around Devour Flesh and Supreme Verdict.
Fortunately, Voice of Resurgence is still pretty good at combating edicts and wraths alike. It does open you up to Searing Blood to an extent, but in general the hands that beat most aggressive decks are going to have a tough time against a good draw from a hexproof deck. Unflinching Courage on a hexproof creature or against a tapped out opponent really does just steal a lot of games. Naya has been the preferred shard for such decks leading up to JOU, and I don't see this changing. If I had to register the deck tomorrow, I'd play something like this:
Most lists currently opt for maindeck Boros Charms and Chained to the Rocks, but I think that you're better off running a maindeck that is on a consistent game plan of "do better things than the opponent" and sideboarding in to the appropriate chunk of interaction for specific matchups. I'd take my list with a grain of salt, as this type of strategy has never been my wheelhouse, but I stand by the general point that I believe that Naya Hexproof gains the most from the addition of Mana Confluence.
Conversely, let's say that I don't want to play a Mana Confluence deck. Let's also assume that I don't want to keep playing Boros Burn. If I had to pick up such a deck, I would stand by my praise of Gnarled Scarhide and give Monoblack Aggro a go.
What we need to figure out then, is what Gnarled Scarhide does for the deck in order to determine what what cards should be cut from existing lists. What we gain is a third excellent one-drop and a third bestow creature. This means that we have two reasons to keep our curve as low as possible; we have a critical mass of early plays and many of our efficient beaters double as late-game spells. The cards from existing lists that have become suspect live at the top of the deck's curve.
These monsters are all-stars in the devotion-based Gray Merchant of Asphodel style deck that has been dominant in Standard, but they're both the kind of card that is befitting of a deck that looks to play long games. Not only is Desecration Demon expensive, but it's also considerably easier to deal with without a Gray Merchant followup. Simply tapping the demon for a couple turns is easy enough when the devotion that it adds doesn't matter. Lifebane Zombie is evasive, which is excellent, but an aggro deck really doesn't care too much about targetting the opponents hands- certainly not in search of creatures. A 3/1 fear for three is just a little too vulnerable and a little too slow.
This is my current build of Monoblack Aggro:
The Thoughtseize split probably looks weird, but in all honesty if the creatureless control decks weren't so good I'd have all four in the sideboard. Just as I said in regard to Lifebane Zombie, this deck plays the board, not the opponent's hand.
I've seen a lot of lists only running two Mogis's Marauder, which might have been right before but probably isn't with Gnarled Scarhide in the deck. The more efficient creatures in the deck, the more amazing Mogis's Marauder's ability to grant creatures haste becomes. With Desecration Demon and Lifebane Zombie cut from the deck, Mogis's Marauder becomes a lot more important, and it's definitely good enough. It's easily the best follow up to a turn two Pain Seer.
The sideboard probably needs work, but all of the cards are good. There are enough cards to board out all non-Hero's Downfall removal against control and additional removals for any flavor of opponent. Most notably, this sideboard leaves the deck pretty cold to Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and I wouldn't fault anybody for throwing some Devour Flesh into the mix.
The sideboard Desecration Demons might seem odd considering that I cut them from the maindeck, and I stand by not liking them there, but this deck really needs a plan against Burn. Everything but Herald of Torment dies to Searing Blood, and he's not exactly thrilling to have in play while you're getting Boros Charmed. Desecration Demon, alternatively, is. The alternative is Staff of the Death Magus, but I prefer Demon for the fact that he can actually win the game instead of just not losing.
This deck is fast, consistent, and powerful. I definitely see this or something close being excellent in the coming weeks, particularly if Mana Confluence is as popular as is being projected.
If we really want to punish painful manabases though, then I don't think that there's a better way than Eidolon of the Great Revel.
As I mentioned last week, simply shoehorning Eidolon into Red Devotion is an option, but if we're trying to punish greedy manabases then I believe the best option is to find a way to include Eidlon into an aggressive shell. A few weeks back Patrick Sullivan recommended this list for pre-JOU Standard:
In finding room for Eidolon of the Great Revel, I think it's most important to keep in mind that, as Sullivan pointed out in his article, this is a Burning-Tree Emissary deck. This being the case, cutting any of the two drops which can actually be cast off of Emissary mana seems loose.
In all likelihood, the removal spells, Chandra's Phoenix and Foundry Street Denizen are the only cards that could reasonably be removed. I see Eidolon as being funcionally similar to Phoenix in a deck that can't often buy Phoenix back, as most often it will get in a "free" shock. It has the downside of being pretty useless against Supreme Verdict, but the lower mana cost is enticing. Five or six spells sounds to be correct for this style of deck, and while Shock is easily the worst card in the 75 I won't deny the relevance of it costing one. I would recommend trying pushing one Mizzium Mortars to the board and cutting one Denizen and two Phoenix. Those changes would leave us with this:
The question here is whether this improves the deck or makes it worse. I can definitely see Eidolon damaging its controller more than the opponent in this shell, but if it damages the opponent enough it could easily not matter. At any rate, I will definitely be testing this one personally. I can't say if Eidolon is excellent or terrible, but I would have a hard time believing that it's anywhere between.
The decks that I discussed today all show a lot of potential in Ravnica-Theros Standard, but they're not the only options. Many players are showing interest in all three of the new gods as well as Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, and I wouldn't be surprised to see any of them in a winning list soon. I'm a bit skeptical on the lot, but they definitely offer new, unique avenues of play.
Honestly, I would be thrilled to see people prove any of the new gods competitive. My initial perception of Journey Into Nyx leads me to believe that all of the best cards from the set are reprints or close to it. Oblivion Ring was a far cry from the best card in Lorwyn, but it might steal the day in a set full of a lot of over-costed cardboard. The most disappointing aspect of the set from my perspective is that the build-around-me cards are just too expensive. I mean, why is Knowledge and Power so mana-intensive? Is it to stop people from even trying to have fun?
At any rate, my top five from Journey Into Nyx are Mana Conflunece, Gnarled Scarhide, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Banishing Light and Bassara Tower Archer. Agree? Disagree? Have a sweet Chromanticore list? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading.