Ahh, May and the onset of spring. In Canada it’s the time of year when the snow is all gone and we probably won’t get any more until at least the end of October. Maybe. We can start breathing deeply the air outside without fear of giving our lungs frostbite, and when we do take that breath we can smell the promise, the freshness, the new vigor of the season. Spoiler season.
When Born of the Gods was being previewed, I wrote an article about potential uses for the five new Gods in the set. I’ve played with four of the five and I can honestly say that, with the right build, all four are powerful cards with abilities that can swing the game heavily in your favour. I did build a deck with Phenax but I never got a chance to cast him, so I can’t say for sure that he follows suit. He probably does though.
With Journey into Nyx we got five more Gods, each with objectively powerful abilities that may or may not be good enough for competitive play. As always, I am more concerned with the power level at FNM and how much fun we can have with them while still having a chance to win matches. Let us dive right in!
[card]Iroas, God of Victory[/card]
“He’s a nonbo with [card]Boros Reckoner[/card].”
Shut up. Sure, the fact that Iroas prevents damage to attacking creatures does make [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] slightly worse, but Reckoner is still a very good card that almost dudeifies Iroas on his own. You’ll be seeing plenty of this guy in both red and white beatdown decks, and you will grow to hate him. Oh, and Reckoner will be right there alongside his God, adminstering beatdowns like never before.
I’m very bullish about this card, though it’s not terribly interesting in terms of the decks it encourages. People already playing white weenie or Boros devotion will horn this guy in without thinking twice. Those decks already played [card]Ash Zealot[/card], [card]Precinct Captain[/card], [card]Frostburn Weird[/card], Brimaz and yes, [card]Boros Reckoner[/card]. The devotion to turn this guy on should be trivial.
“But he’s a nonbo with the Reckoner! It’s so bad!”
Shut UP! Opponents still take damage if they try and burn out a Reckoner. He still attacks for 3. He’s still a great blocker against GR Monsters. Oh, and the games where you DON’T draw Iroas, Reckoner is still a nightmare to deal with. We haven’t even mentioned yet that Iroas makes everyone on your team hard to block, encouraging your opponent to commit more to the board in order to stay alive. Since you’re probably playing [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], that makes you very happy.
The one thing that Iroas does NOT do that RW decks needed him to do is provide any protection against sweepers. Without a [card]Boros Charm[/card], you’re still folding to [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] or overloaded [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]. You might even be folding to [card]Anger of the Gods[/card]. That’s something to consider when building around Iroas: he doesn’t actually shore up one of the glaring weaknesses of the archetype in the current metagame. He does, however, make it so that a single [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] or a single [card]Aetherling[/card] can’t bring you to a grinding halt.
The main thing I want to be doing with Iroas is giving him haste. That way we make sure that any potential [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] happens after our opponent has taken a bunch of damage. [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] into [card]Ash Zealot[/card] into [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] into Iroas is big game, and if you are holding a Reckoner the opponent’s Verdict doesn’t actually do anything.
The bottom line on Iroas is that he’s not subtle, he’s not quirky or a combo enabler. He smashes face, and he does it very well. You’ll win almost every combat step and unless the opponent can hit their sweeper or removal spells in a hurry, you will win the game too.
[card]Keranos, God of Storms[/card]
Whoa baby hello. Izzetophiles rejoice, you finally have a mythic worthy of playing in the type of deck you weird people seem to enjoy. Better yet, you finally have a card I want to play, which hasn’t happened in a while. Yes he costs 5, but the deck in which I envision him really doesn’t mind that at all.
We all know that slower, control-oriented decks thrive when they can make their land drops and keep threats off the board. Our new friend Kerry (that’s what we’re going to call him) can do both of those things, in combination with all the lovely scry effects to which you have access in Standard right now. He’s also quite capable of closing out a game once board control has been established. It’s not often that we get a card that not only helps you get control but also helps you win once you have control, but Kerry does it.
While most people will be looking to add white to their Kerry decks for [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] and [card]Detention Sphere[/card], I prefer black. No that’s not racist, before you set off that particular storm. Instead I want to pair Kerry with his sibling deity [card]Mogis, God of Slaughter[/card]. Between them they are quite adept at either keeping the board clear or dealing hefty chunks of damage to the dome each turn, while giving us access to a decent range of other cards to keep the cards flowing and the opposing side of the board empty.
My initial thought with Kerry was to add him to the Run DMC shell I wrote about, changing the white for blue. I’ve had a soft spot for that colour combination since Return to Ravnica hit and it’s been pretty successful for me. With access to [card]Breaking // Entering[/card] (something I have wanted to try since it came out), [card]Steam Augury[/card] and amazing removal to complement my [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]s, [card]Desecration Demon[/card]s and planeswalkers I can see the makings of exactly my type of deck. I might even want [card]Master of the Feast[/card] in here because of all the discard I can play, or even Rakdos himself as he combos so well with Kerry.
[deck title=Run DMC – Chris Lansdell]
4 Blood Crypt
4 Temple of Malice
3 Godless Shrine
1 Temple of Silence
2 Mogis, God of Slaughter
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Desecration Demon
1 Flame-Wreathed Phoenix
2 Rakdos’s Return
2 Mizzium Mortars
4 Hero’s Downfall
3 Anger of the Gods
2 Rakdos Keyrune
2 Underworld Connections
1 Liliana of the Dark Realms
2 Dark Betrayal
2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
2 Drown in Sorrow
3 Slaughter Games
1 Assemble the Legion
1 Revoke Existence
1 Lifebane Zombie
Thinking about it, Keranos has good synergy with things like [card]Stormcaller of Keranos[/card] (make sure you get exactly what you want with his upkeep ability), [card]Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius[/card] (draw a card on opponent’s turn too, plus 4 to devotion), Erebos (more draw!) and Thassa (more scry!). His ability might not seem like anything unique and combo-enabling, but I am more excited to play Kerry than anyone else in this article. Oh, and that art is GORGEOUS and I need to see it in foil.
[card]Kruphix, God of Horizons[/card]
Do you like mana? I like mana. I like making lots of it, but I think I would also like keeping lots of it. Kruphix is going to let me do that. I can see me doing a lot of things with this card. Where can I see it? Way off over there, in the distance. That line where sky meets earth.
OK, that was a little forced. I’ll try to stop the puns from getting out of hand, which conveniently is something Kruphix can help us with as well. Nothing gets out of hand unless we want it too, which will be great when we cast those huge [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]s. Well, you can. I probably won’t be doing that, it’s far too good.
The first place I wanted to put Kruphix was in Bant Triggermetra. Aside from completing the minor God trifecta in that deck, he also allows me to stockpile mana for things like…ummm…wait. No. It’s not good there.
[deck title=Bant Triggermetra – Chris Lansdell]
4 Temple Garden
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Breeding Pool
3 Temple of Mystery
3 Temple of Plenty
2 Temple of Enlightenment
3 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Scavenging Ooze
3 Courser of Kruphix
4 Boon Satyr
2 Ephara, God of the Polis
2 Horizon Chimera
1 Fathom Mage
2 Karametra, God of Harvests
3 Prophet of Kruphix
3 Archangel of Thune
1 Prime Speaker Zegana
2 Selesnya Charm
3 Detention Sphere
1 Detention Sphere
1 Selesnya Charm
2 Fiendslayer Paladin
2 Rootborn Defenses
1 Angel of Serenity
3 Mistcutter Hydra
2 Unravel the Aether
2 Lyev Skyknight
1 Arbor Colossus
Look, I can’t lie to you. I see almost nothing that I want to do with Kruphix. Sure we can hold our mana for big X spells, and we don’t have to worry about drawing too many cards and discarding…but so what? I had such high hopes for this god, as I think many people did, and instead we get a worse [card]Upwelling[/card]. I get that not every god will make me want to build around it, but this is literally the only one I can’t see a good use for. I feel like I’m letting you down, not coming up with goofy or fun uses for Kruphix, and I’m sorry. I just can’t with this card.
[card]Athreos, God of Passage[/card]
Everybody’s talkin’, all this stuff about him,
He just helps your dudes to live.
My hoots of derision,
It’s their prerogative!
All you young whippersnappers who don’t get that should watch this.
Look, Athreos is a very powerful card. I’m not debating that. The thing is, your opponent gets to choose. That means that in a crucial moment, you will never get the option that is best for you. Before you go singing the praises of Athreos from whatever elevated structure seems most approrpiate to you, remember that crucial fact.
The most obvious place to start with Athreos is in any deck that has a sacrifice outlet. In Standard that likely revolves around [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] and [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card], plus all the strong black and white creatures we currently have in Standard. There are no particularly broken combos that he enables here, at least not that I can see, but he will see plenty of play in a deck that is already a thing. That he slots in to most aggro decks very smoothly is a plus, and his mere presence on the battlefield makes a sweeper a dangerous path. Making the control deck spend an extra non-Wrath turn to deal with Athreos can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing.
I’m convinced that there’s a deck to be made with Athreos and [card]Tymaret, the Murder King[/card]. Two-drop sac outlets that can dome the opponent have been very dangerous before, and Tymaret is hard to permanently remove. Making the 2-point shot from his ability into a very tough choice for the opponent might be what Tymaret needs to get the royal push. There is a fringe RB (sometimes RBw) deck that runs Tymaret with [card]Trading Post[/card] and [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card] but it mostly relies on tokens for the damage. Perhaps that shifts with Athreos around, and adds something like [card]Immortal Servitude[/card].
What really excites me about Athreos is the potential Modern applications. I’m sure I’m not the first to identify how good he is in Soul Sisters, turning [card]Martyr of Sands[/card] into a lifegaining [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] while also making all their removal cost them three life. Although [card]Path to Exile[/card] is a real concern, we’ll already be splashing black for Athreos so [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] doesn’t seem to be a stretch. We can also add [card]Dark Confidant[/card] for card advantage. Conveniently both of those cards are Humans, along with almost every other card in the deck ([card]Serra Ascendant[/card], all the actual Soul Sisters, [card]Martyr of Sands[/card], even [card]Norin the Wary[/card] if you play that version). Both [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] and [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card] are happy to hear that.
One last interaction in Modern is possibly even more janky, but potentially very breakable. Cards like [card]Wild Cantor[/card] and [card]Satyr Hedonist[/card] that can be sacrificed for mana greater than or equal to their CMC become very interesting with Athreos, as the opponent cannot afford to let you have them back. If you add a [card]Tangleroot[/card] to the equation, you can actually make mana each time around the loop. [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] and [card]Grinning Ignus[/card] can also join the fun. The question then becomes “Now what?” We made our opponent pay 3 life a few times, but if he’s not dead does it even matter? We need to be doing something with those dead (and unimpressive) little dudes and/or the extra mana. That’s where I’m stumbling but maybe one of you fine people will be able to help me.
[card]Pharika, God of Affliction[/card]
Since when did ugly, pretentious MMA clothing need a God? Oh, that’s not what she does? OK, let me read this thing…
Really? People are complaining about this? First of all, who CARES if the opponent gets the tokens when you eat their yard? Would you rather they had a 1/1 deathtoucher or FREAKING GRISELBRAND? Maybe Ashen Rider? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Of course there’s no reason you actually have to use that ability, and instead you can just make your own Snakes.
The other big complaint I see about Pharika is that she doesn’t fit in the popular GB Dredge strategy that’s seeing Standard play right now. This is also false. Sure you’re not going to be cranking out dozens of tokens as that runs counter to your game plan, but you can sure as heck make a couple to take care of problem blockers or provide a body to wear [card]Nighthowler[/card] and/or [card]Herald of Torment[/card]. No it’s not the optimal way to use her, but I think she fits just fine.
Where I think Pharika will really shine is in a constellation-based strategy that can really abuse the instant-speed triggers Pharika provides. That deck likely runs [card]Doomwake Giant[/card], [card]Underworld Coinsmith[/card], [card]Odunos River Trawler[/card], [card]Eidolon of Blossoms[/card], [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] and possibly [card]Grim Guardian[/card]. Hell, let’s run Nyx Weaver and [card]Mana Bloom[/card] too. Pharika really helps the deck scale up with more triggers AND actual threats for a low mana cost.
If, like almost everyone in my local group, you think constellation isn’t good enough, I can see Pharika snaking her way into just a GB value deck. Cards like [card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card], Polukranos and [card]Desecration Demon[/card] do occasionally die, and Pharika lets us get extra value out of them when they do. The creatures we’d be playing in the deck are also fairly resilient and likely to be able to turn Pharika on for maximum beatdowns.
For some reason the Gods from Journey into Nyx excite me far less than the ones in Born of the Gods. Despite having two 3-drop Gods and three of my favourite colour combinations, the only one that really excites me is Keranos. I will be building around Pharika and possibly Athreos, but aggro decks aren’t really my style and Kruphix is rancid ass. There. I said it.
As always, thanks from dropping by. Brew on!