Now that the full set has been revealed, check out Part 2 of this series!
We're not even half-way through spoiler season and Journey Into Nyx has already far surpassed its predecessor in card quality. Where Born of the Gods brought us Temple of Enlightenment and Bile Blight to combat aggressive decks, Journey Into Nyx is looking to add a significant power boost to aggressive strategies. With 51 cards spoiled at the time of this writing there are quite a lot that deserve specific attention, which our individual spoiler spotlights do an excellent job of, but there are a select few that I would like to offer a more in-depth look at.
This card is already getting more attention than any other card in the set, and in all likelihood will be the biggest card out of Journey Into Nyx. That said, I pretty strongly disagree with a $20+ price tag for this card.
For the purpose of this discussion, let's start with why the card is good. On the surface, we see that Mana Confluence is generally a "better" City of Brass. City already sees a healthy amount of play in non-Standard formats, so it's pretty clear to see that Mana Confluence will show up in these formats as well. That said, how popular are these decks in Modern and Legacy? When was the last time that a City of Brass deck was dominant? If Dredge were supported in Modern then this card would be in very high demand for the format, but as of now the decks that demand Cities/Confluences are pretty fringe. And as for Vintage, how much can you really expect the "dead" proxy-supported format to drive prices of non-foils? I mean, foils will certainly be very expensive for Legacy and Vintage related reasons, but I don't see either format as really driving prices of non-foils.
As for Standard, I have no illusions of this card not seeing heavy play. That said, comparisons of this card's anticipated popularity to that of Mutavault are exaggerated at best. Mutavault lives in decks that would like to turn lands into spells. It doesn't matter if the deck is aggressive or controlling, Mutavault will help you win or help keep you alive. The card has absurd versatility. Mana Confluence can really only live in multi-color decks that plan on dispatching opponents quickly. Not only are creatures absurdly efficient in this modern age of Magic, but the non-Shock burn spells in recent sets have a very high power level. How much damage can you really take off of your manabase while your opponent Boros Charms you?
Obviously Boros Charm is rotating, but even just looking at Theros there are excellent options for burn decks that will remain in Standard. Lightning Strike and Magma Jet are nothing to scoff at in terms of strict burn spells. Hammer of Purphoros, Fanatic of Mogis and Stormbreath Dragon aren't going anywhere either. Even for decks aggressive enough to warrant Mana Confluence, how awful must it feel to take one damage to cast your one drop and then have it die to Searing Blood?
The card is obviously good, and will certainly be played, but let's not pretend like it's all upside. I just can't imagine non-foil copies of this card maintaining their pre-order price tag. They're absolutely worth owning, but probably smart to wait on.
So, Gnarled Scarhide might be the most impactful non-land card out of Journey Into Nyx. For starters, this makes 12(!) two-power one drops for black aggressive decks. The last time that we had this threshold of playable one drops in black, Vampires was able to win its fair share of tournaments. And they had to do it with Pulse Tracker. If we really wanted to get crazy we could have 20(!!) two-power one drops in a two-color deck- likely powered by Mana Confluence.
Some players are already picking up Monoblack Aggro in place of the Gray Merchant fueled Devotion shell, but the strategy is generally accepted as the weaker of the two decks. Gnarled Scarhide might be exactly what the deck needed to push it over the top. In addition to being the deck's third two-power one drop and having the utility of the bestow mechanic, it can also be used in corner cases to remove blockers by bestowing onto opposing creatures.
Brad Nelson posted an interesting UW Control list featuring Dictate of Kruphix over Jace, Architect of Thought that he and Todd Anderson had been working in his article for SCG last week. I like the idea behind it, and I believe that it's only scratching the surface of the card's potential. You can also read Jason Alt's take on this new Howling Mine here.
Having flash and adding two devotion to blue strikes me as the most relevant aspect of this card. An empty board can turn into this and eight power of Master of Waves, and enchantments are excellent ways to enable any god.
Of course, if we are playing Howling Mine then filling our deck with efficient spells is going to be of the utmost importance. The idea of playing Dictate with the UR god in a burn shell has crossed my mind. Both effects would help to battle decks with counterspells and/or Duress, but they might just be too off-point and slow against aggressive strategies. Not to mention that the mana would be... awkward.
At any rate, I won't be surprised when this card sees play.
Speaking of burn, Spite of Mogis is a pretty interesting card. It occupies the same space as Chained to the Rocks, so I don't see it as being playable in Boros Burn. It also has the drawback of not being a "real" removal spell until later in the game. It does have the upside of "comboing" with Boros Reckoner though. In all likelihood this combination is too weak in a burn shell, but it could work in a controlling shell planning on playing long games with large graveyards. It wasn't that long ago that Gerry Thompson top 8'd a Pro Tour with Boros Reckoner and Harvest Pyre.
Even without the Boros Reckoner interaction I could see this being included in an Izzet burn deck as a replacement for Chained to the Rocks. I still don't know if there's enough incentive in that color pair to eschew Boros Charm, but it's on my radar. As of now the deck would probably just have to maindeck Skullcrack in the Charm slot, Ral Zarek over Warleader's Helix and Spite of Mogix over Chains and hope for the best. Keranos also has a place somewhere in the 75, though I don't feel confident in lowering the average damage count of the spells just for access to some slower, if higher impact spells. Perhaps Divination is worth a look, but there are plenty of cards to see before this call has to be made.
I'm pretty conflicted on this card. I can't imagine a world where this card doesn't see play, though finding the appropriate home is going to be a bit of work. I think that it takes a lot of gall to jam Eidolon in a Mana Confluence deck, and it clearly belongs in an aggressive shell. The most obvious home is to find space in Monored Aggro à la Patrick Sullivan Red or Boss Sligh. It will probably die immediately almost every time, but even then it eats a card in addition to Shocking. I haven't been a fan of this type of strategy in this Standard, but I can imagine that this update will make these decks more competitive.
The other deck that Eidolon could make a splash in is Red Devotion. This gives the deck access to 16 total RR two drops. It's a bit awkward to think about having Burning-Tree Emissary in the same midrange deck as Pyrostatic Pillar Bear, but I see potential there.
I would start with four of each of these and add 4 Eidolon of the Great Revel, some removal/Purphoros/his hammer to taste:
Access to the GB scryland is going to make Abrupt Decay more common, and therefor access to Chained to the Rocks less impactful, but I still believe white to be the appropriate splash. Chains are still the best answer to Master of Waves, large green monsters and sometimes the guy with Desecration Demon just doesn't have Abrupt Decay. Going blue for Turn // Burn is also serviceable though, and Ral Zarek + Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx sounds pretty absurd. Either way, the extra enabler will surely benefit the Red Devotion shell.
Journey Into Nyx is looking like a pretty awesome set to me. With about one-third of the set spoiled I'm seeing aggressive decks and Abrupt Decay as the big winners, though there's still plenty to be spoiled. Hopefully the set continues to deliver. And by that, I mean I'd be happy if there was one more playable burn spell.
Thanks for reading.