FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – LET’S TALK JOURNEY INTO NYX, PART 1

Greetings, readers! This week, I’m taking a lengthy break from the Top Soldiers Of series to start my string of content for Magic’s newest set, Journey Into Nyx. This week, I’ll be discussing the first wave of spoilers for the set, mostly covering their use in EDH.

In my article for Theros, I gave readers my thoughts on the mechanics from a flavor and worth perspective. Six months later, I’m going to summarize the already-introduced mechanics, as well as discuss the new mechanics Journey Into Nyx brings us. Let’s begin with:

Bestow

Bestow is a mechanic I think everyone underestimated at first; it felt overcosted in every iteration when I first saw the mechanic spoiled back in Theros, but obviously, the value of the Bestowed Aura becoming its creature form when the creature is no longer around to be enchanted by it had an unprecedented level of value associated with it, a value I’m sure none of us anticipated and ended up becoming oft-beloved; Bestow has grown on me immensely over the seasons, becoming one of my personal favorite mechanics, especially from a Limited perspective. From Eidolon of Countless Battles to Nighthowler to even Nyxborn Shieldmate, whether I’m playing Limited or EDH, Bestow was a mechanic I think WotC hit right out of the ball park.

We haven’t seen many amazing Bestow creatures come from the set thus far, but I’m hoping when the full set is spoiled we have at least one more winner ala Eidolon or Nighthowler. I realize I might be asking for a bit much, but I digress.

Devotion

Devotion has thus far only made its return in Journey Into Nyx in the form of the five remaining enemy-colored God cycle. Considering how rewarding it is to be devoted, given the power of some of the cards with the mechanic attached to them, I’d like to see them print at least one more powerful uncommon cycle for this mechanic. It certainly proved to be a better mechanic than its cousin, Chroma, simply because the wording of Chroma made designing cards for it restricting, which wasn’t the case with Devotion.

I’ve been spoiled by this mechanic, admittedly, having built a Purphoros, God of the Forge deck where Purph himself never becomes a creature, and having used Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Mogis’s Marauder all to great effect. I’ll be a bit disappointed if no devotion spells aside from the God cards wind up in Journey Into Nyx, because despite how powerful the cycle of God cards ended up being, I feel a mechanic with design space as good enough as devotion shouldn’t be shoehorned into a couple of dismissed cycles and power mythics to sell the block with.

Monstrosity

Monstrosity has made its return in Journey Into Nyx, having not been showcased in Born of the Gods. Despite its return, however, we’ve only seen the mechanic on two cards spoiled thus far; Ravenous Leucrocota here, and Hydra Broodmaster (who, by the way, is justifiably insane, just saying).

Monstrosity proved to be a powerful mechanic in Theros Limited, allowing you to stick just about any boring old curve-filler and have it turn into a potent finisher by the end of the game. As it turns out, most of the common monsters were solid, the uncommons bomby (aside from Sealock Monster, who was great post-board anyway), and the rares absurd. I don’t think that will change with Journey Into Nyx, which would be wonderful for Limited as someone who’s a fan of the mechanic. I like it when my Nessian Asp can beat just about everything you throw at it, personally.

Heroic

Heroic, my personal favorite mechanic in any Limited format ever, again makes its return in Journey Into Nyx, and if cards like Satyr Hoplite here are any indication, I’m going to once again thoroughly enjoy casting every creature with Heroic I can get my hands on. Heroic, like Monstrosity, makes your creatures more impressive. The fundamental difference between them, however, is that Heroic requires other cards to make their creatures impressive, while Monstrosity doesn’t. As a tradeoff, Heroic creatures often provide a moderate amount of early-game pressure that transitions into midgame superbombs if you have a good draw, whereas monsters tend to come out of the gate in the midgame and transition into lategame superstars. With the right draw, Heroic can come right out of the gates and blow your opponents out of the water before they have a chance to recover. That sort of aggressive start is something I really enjoy, so I look forward to see what’s in store for the mechanic for Journey into Nyx.

Inspired

A returning mechanic from Born of the Gods, Inspired has shown itself on two cards thus far in Journey Into Nyx, both cards on the radar of many an EDH player. Inspired was a rather simple mechanic, but it had a lot of power players in Born of the Gods Limited, between Deepwater Hypnotist, the cycle of token-makers, Kragma Butcher and Pain Seer.

Going forward, I’d like to see translated activated abilities move to Inspired creatures, such as a 3-mana Blinding Mage variant. The mechanic has a lot of room to grow, and I’d like to see perhaps a cycle or two devoted to it. It’s a mechanic I can also see coming back multiple times, as much like cycling or kicker, it’s really flavor-independent, I think.

Strive

Making its debut in Journey Into Nyx is the Strive mechanic, a mechanic obviously meant to be in tandem with Heroic, but it’s also a mechanic that allows specific targeted abilities to become far more powerful, which allows for some interesting cards to come of this.

My eagerness to test this mechanic is almost entirely contained in the Limited format, as I’m predictably and admittedly a massive fan of Heroic and Bestow, but there’s a cycle of rare Strive spells I’ve yet to really evaluate properly for EDH. I know Launch the Fleet will be a powerhouse in token shells, but the rest of the cycle is admittedly a tough call to judge. Perhaps next week, when I do the second half of my spoiler review, I’ll go into more detail about Strive. For now, it’s a mechanic that I know will be amazing in Limited, but its true worth past that has yet to be evaluated for me.

Constellation

Finally, the last mechanic I’m going to cover is the second mechanic introduced in Journey Into Nyx, the “Landfall for enchantments” Constellation mechanic. The mechanics are admittedly quite similar, but they’re quite different as well for a number of reasons. Like Inspired, Constellation is also quite a simple mechanic, but unlike Inspired, I think the flavor behind naming the mechanic Constellation shoehorns it to this set, which could wind up being the mechanic’s downfall. Time will tell.

Regardless, the difference between Constellation and Landfall is that Landfall cards would sit around and not do much until you wound up playing a land. Constellation’s printed cards thus far each do something on their own when they enter the battlefield, making them more useful than Landfall permanents in most situations. To add to that, in nearly every situation, your deck will contain more spells than lands, making Constellation an easier to trigger mechanic than Landfall overall. I’m looking forward to seeing some interesting effects with this mechanic; we all know a Sigil of the Empty Throne effect is going to happen, though, let’s be real.

Now that I’ve gone through the set’s mechanics, let’s move on to the good part: the cards. Like most of my reviews, I’ll speak from the perspective of the formats I understand best–EDH and Limited–and leave Standard reviews to Luis Scott-Vargas or some SCG “open circuit pro” you’re pointlessly throwing your money at. Let’s begin with the elephants in the room:

For years and years, I’ve wanted Orzhov to have a general who didn’t involve some dumb “spit out tokens and sacrifice them to do things” theme. While Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts was WotC’s attempt at deviating the color combination’s generals from that sort of strategy, Athreos is by far the attempt done right this time around, and when they do something right, boy, does WotC ever do a damn good job of it.

Athreos covers the biggest weakness of aggressive strategies–Wrath of God–by forcing the table to answer an oddly daunting question, if you’ve been playing your cards right; Do you wish to pay the toll? The best part is, if you wear your intentions on your sleeve, you don’t even have to force the player who Wrathed you to pay 15 or more life to not die over the next three turns; you can turn to another player and ask “Hey, do you mind if I kill this person?” The political ramifications of Athreos are simply sublime, and there are a number of fantastic plays you can make with his triggered ability, examples being Fleshbag Marauder and Shriekmaw; there’s a creature or two everyone will want off the table in some board states, enough so that they’ll let you continue to replay creatures like this until those threats are dealt with. You can even bargain to kill every other creature if the threat to the player you’re targeting with Athreos’ trigger doesn’t bother you, and bribe them with the promise that “I’ll eventually kill it, but for now I need to kill other things, so if you keep allowing me the power to kill it, I won’t kill anything of yours.”

It took me all of 4 hours to craft a deck for it, and Athreos will without a doubt be the focus of my next Let’s Build article later this month. I’ve done a lot of theorycrafting over the weekend on the optimal build for him, and I think I’ve come up with something good, but once I begin live testing, I’ll have a much better idea of how to run him. For now, I’ll say this; he’s by far one of the best of the entire fifteen God cards, being aggressively costed, incredibly easy to get seven devotion with, extremely fun to goldfish and frighteningly powerful. Expect to see me piloting Athreos soon.

Keranos, on the other hand, has an entirely different power that makes it one of the better Gods, and that’s its independence. Unlike, say, Purphoros, God of the Forge, who relies on creatures entirely to work, all Keranos requires you to have in your deck are lands and nonland cards, making it an ideal goodstuff general and an easy fit in any 99 that can obtain seven devotion to red and blue.

Another thing that makes Keranos very goodstuff in nature is the fact that min-maxing it is as simple as shoving a Sensei’s Divining Top into your deck and calling it a day. That’s not even necessary, either; simply leaving your draws to chance is perfectly acceptable, as Keranos inevitably gets you out of land clumps and turns all your spells, no matter how irrelevant, into Lightning Bolts. (Being unrestricted in targets is something that’s becoming oddly scarce for red these days, which makes the fact that you can dome a player for 3 quite relieving.) The only downside to playing Keranos, really, is the information you’re giving opponents on what you’re holding. That being said, if you’re playing Keranos, you’ve likely got a trick or two up your sleeve, anyway.

Pharika is being dismissed by the community as one of, if not the worst God, and I don’t quite understand why. I understand it doesn’t combo very well with cards like Nighthowler, Reassembling Skeleton and the like, but playing Pharika as a goodstuff general is honestly not the worst thing in the world. Besides, players who dismiss Pharika also dismiss her ability to be the subtle chessmaster of a board state.

A single creature in every graveyard gives Pharika near-universal dominance over a combat phase. Without evasion, first strike, or indestructibility, an opponent can’t favorably attack into two open mana without risking the death of their creature. Pharika is an absolute powerhouse on the political field, allowing you to save players and quell problem board states alike. You’d be surprised at how much a single activation to give an opponent a lethal blocker to a problem attacker can sway that opponent into not screwing with you. Politics are an important aspect of EDH no matter what anyone says, and underestimating what Pharika is capable of can seriously screw you over if you’re not careful. While she may not be the best general, arguably inferior to Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Varolz, the Scar-Striped and Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, Pharika has a lot of value as both a graveyard hate spell in the 99 and a political powerhouse.

When I first saw Iroas, despite having a deck in Boros colors, my first thought was “Is this even a real card in Limited?”, because literally, it isn’t. Iroas in Limited is unbelievably powerful just as a combination of Goblin War Drums and Dolmen Gate, but when you have the devotion to make it a creature, it becomes unfathomably hard for your opponent not to get buried by this thing. Your creatures can’t die unless your opponent uses some silly trick like Kiora’s Dismissal and blows you out (for the record, try to be mindful of this card; it’s pretty powerful and can seriously screw you if you’re not careful).

As far as EDH goes, Iroas adds to what Boros’ strengths are, but while it doesn’t make the color combination any more vulnerable to its weaknesses, it certainly doesn’t do much to help them overcome those weaknesses, either. Decks that want this still die incredibly hard to Wrath of God, and while Iroas himself doesn’t die, it doesn’t change the fact that he’ll arguably not be a creature when you get Wrathed out, leaving you largely in the same predicament whether or not Iroas dies to the Wrath. That being said, he does have 7 power on his own, and Aurelia, the Warleader is a great follow-up play that allows him very fast kills if enabled properly. You can throw a bunch of oddball permanents like Tajic, Blade of the Legion, Crescendo of War and True Conviction to make a deck just around Iroas, as he’s already quite difficult to block, and being indestructible, is hard to remove. I think his place is in the 99, but you can’t ignore the magic number 7.

Honestly, I’m rather pleased to see that Kruphix is not yet again another slam dunk super-broken Simic card, as in the advent of Prophet of Kruphix, it’s hard not to be playing Simic in some form or fashion these days. I feel WotC is giving the color combination too much power with both Return to Ravnica block and then one of the most powerful cards printed in the format for it, especially with my opinion on how blue has little counterplay options and very easy-to-print solutions that WotC just refuses to print (we just had Commander 2013 printed and there was almost nothing to counter any of the real problems plaguing the format printed there, instead just shoving True-Name Nemesis to make Legacy that much more unplayable and calling it a day).

That being said, while I believe the solution isn’t to print less powerful Simic cards by comparison (must I throw an argument of how power creep nearly destroyed Yu-Gi-Oh! here? I think just mentioning it makes people sour, to be honest.), making the Simic general not insanely busted is a small step in the right direction. Despite my claims making Kruphix look underwhelming, however, I believe he has his place. First of all, he’s a Reliquary Tower on his own, which is an oft-desired effect for most Simic decks. While the Upwelling effect can be glossed over easily because the mana it stores is colorless, there’s an inherent amount of power in the potential of eliminating colorless costs of your spells from the equation, made especially easy by the fact that so many Simic decks run Prophet of Kruphix as it is. I know my Maelstrom Wanderer deck will appreciate this effect, having an average CMC of almost 5, so while I think Kruphix is underwhelming overall in a color combination where the bar is set extremely high, he’s not entirely useless, and like Pharika, is too easily being written off, in my opinion.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

And there you have it, my thoughts on the mechanics and the God cards! I initially decided on a rare in each color to cover also, but I felt there aren’t enough rares in the set spoiled yet to talk about (and while some are splashy, most are just utterly underwhelming thus far, at least for EDH), so I think next week, I’ll have a lot more to cover.

Until then!
~L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2539

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Guidance:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2548

Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586

M14 –  http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508
Born of the Gods - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2800

Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2264

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617
Part 12 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2691
Part 13 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2822
Part 14 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2933

Let’s Talk M14:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2228

Let’s Talk Theros:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2362
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2378

Painting a Target:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2631

Planeswalking and You:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2184 

Resource Management:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2200

Stacking Up Commander 2013:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2561

The Slippery Slope:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2440

The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Bant - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2907
Boros – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2854
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Esper - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2957
Golgari - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2760
Grixis – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2984
Gruul - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2669
Izzet- http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2710 
Orzhov - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2681
Rakdos - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2663
Selesnya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2677
Simic - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2900

Trial & Error:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2089

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