Journey into Nyx has been out for a month now, and recent tournament results give the impression that Standard is diverse and healthy. Looking at the decklists from the Japanese God of Standard tournament, Standard appears to be diverse: Black Devotion only took three of the Top 8 slots - each with a different splash. Monoblack Devotion has been the deck to beat for some time, and the deck's ability to lightly splash a color without changing the core of the deck makes it very hard to beat with a known quantity.
Abrupt Decay may become the best card in the mirror - after Nightveil Specter and Underworld Connections - in large because it kills those cards, in addition to Banishing Light out of the Bw version of the deck. Either way, Gray Merchant of Asphodel is only getting older and more tediously obnoxious with each cast, so I'm looking for a way out from playing endless mirror matches.
The deck is so powerful and hard to beat though, that several archetypes already exist designed to beat it. Decks like Monowhite Aggro and Burn look to blank the removal of the deck, killing a one mana creature that has already attacked twice is not a good use of Hero's Downfall - especially if a Brave the Elements, God's Willing, or Ajani's Presence counters it.
I want to beat Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and I don't want to do it by being all-in aggressive.
Finding an Engine
As I said last week, I'm convinced Thoughtseize is the best card in the format, and that's where I'm starting my decklist.
Next, I really want to try the graveyard package of the format, as Grisly Salvage, Commune with the Gods, and Satyr Wayfinder add a large amount of velocity to a deck - the ability to see so many cards in your deck each game, even if most of them go to the graveyard, is a powerful one.
4 Grisly Salvage
4 Commune with the Gods
4 Satyr Wayfinder
There are a handful of other cards which will let us self-mill, the best of which are probably Nyx Weaver, Kruphix's Insight, and potentially even Drown in Filth. From here I think we can go in a few different directions. We could go for a junk constellation deck, similar to the block decks with Eidolon of Blossoms. We could try to maximize cards like Nighthowler, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord and Nemesis of Mortals. There may be some aggro version of this type of deck which maximizes scavenge with cards like Lotleth Troll, Varolz, the Scar-Striped, or potentially even Slitherhead.
Either way, a BG deck that is filling its graveyard can get the most out of Deathrite Shaman, arguably the best one mana creature ever printed. With three abilities, it's comparable to casting a one mana planeswalker, and it's actually easier to cast than single-color one mana spells. It's banned in Modern, as fetchlands mean that Deathrite Shaman is (almost) always at least a Birds of Paradise. While it will never be as powerful in Standard as it is in Modern or Legacy, Deathrite Shaman is one of the biggest reasons to mill yourself.
4 Deathrite Shaman
Already we're at 20 cards. This will be the core of the deck, but that doesn't mean these cards are untouchable. For example - if we aren't making good use of the 1/1 creature, Satyr Wayfinder may be worse than other cards which will fill a similar role, even if they're slightly less efficient at filling the graveyard.
The Low-Mid of Midrange
From here, I want to figure out what decks I'm trying to beat. The meta I'm expecting consists of:
- Black Devotion (Monoblack, Bg, and Bw)
- Boros Burn
- Sylvan Caryatid / Courser of Kruphix Monsters
- Sphinx's Revelation Decks (Esper or Bant Planeswalkers)
- Monocolored Aggro
As an aside, I can't remember another time in Standard when there was a viable monocolored aggressive deck of each color. The power of Mutavault and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx means that it doesn't matter if you're playing with Loyal Pegasus, Gnarled Scarhide, Cloudfin Raptor, or either half of Burning-Tree Emissary. Your lands do a lot of the work for you, giving you explosive draws and resilient attackers.
If my main goal is to beat Monoblack Devotion while having game against Burn, I want a low curve with redundancy to give us resilience to removal. I want to play my own removal, and as many card advantage creatures as I can.
I started with four Elvish Mystic, but it's the worst of our one-drops and the deck isn't particularly threat-dense, meaning Deathrite Shaman and Thoughtseize (in this case, a threat, and a way to protect a threat) couldn't get cut. When playing against Lifebane Zombie, playing Grisly Salvage on your opponent's end step, or casting Commune with the Gods the turn you can cast Scavenging Ooze or Courser of Kruphix is important.
Initially, I had Nighthowler in the deck, but Scavenging Ooze and Nighthowler don't play nice together, and the lifegain of Ooze is needed for the burn match up.
The removal suite of three Abrupt Decay, two Ultimate Price and three Shadowborn Demon is aimed at stabilizing against the aggressive decks while remaining flexible to kill non creature permanents. A fourth copy of Abrupt Decay might be right, but I wanted at least two cards that killed Desecration Demon.
As for sideboarding, Golgari Charm has a lot of flexible modes, and may even be worth a slot in the main. Primarily for Supreme Verdict and aggressive decks with lots of one toughness creatures, it can kill a Detention Sphere or Banishing Light in a pinch. Unravel the AEther gives us more answers to Underworld Connections and Erebos, God of the Dead out of Black Devotion. Duress against Boros Burn will help us keep Scavenging Ooze and Courser of Kruphix in play, which are likely the only cards that matter.
This deck is weakest against the Sphinx's Revelation decks, as they have more removal than we have threats, and the top of our curve, Shadowborn Demon isn't doing much. They come out for Mistcutter Hydras.
A Starry Approach
I keep trying to build an Eidolon of Blossoms deck, but I can't quite seem to get the numbers right. I was looking at recent dailies to get ideas, and I found just what I was looking for.
Magic Online user lennit was playing something very similar to what I was looking for. While not playing Grisly Salvage, there is Satyr Wayfinder, Commune with the Gods, and a single Kruphix's Insight to dig through cards once Monoblack Devotion leaves both players in topdeck mode. Eidolon of Blossoms is slow, but powerful if you can provide enough targets for opposing removal, which this deck does well.
Mana Bloom serves many purposes in this deck: it ramps, it adds to devotion, and it triggers constellation - once a turn, if need be. Lennit is also making use of Mistcutter Hydra as a means to beating the Sphinx's Revelations of the format. As a threat, it also can't be targeted by Kiora, the Crashing Wave, who is typically effective at shutting down single large monsters that have already resolved. Skylasher does both of these things effectively as well, and makes for a good Boon Satyr target.
I was thinking of Nyx-Fleece Ram as the obvious go-to for life gain in a constellation deck, but the four copies of Nylea's Disciple in the sideboard are certainly worth looking at, especially if you don't need Banishing Light and can save yourself from splashing white.
Different Recipes to Brew
The biggest problem with brewing new decks is that it almost requires losing. A lot of losing. For every top tier deck out there, there are a thousand brews that didn't quite make it. Learning from other decks is crucial for getting past our own deck's flaws.
lennit's deck is almost monogreen; it doesn't play Thoughtseize, or Deathrite Shaman, or even Abrupt Decay in the main, cards that I was convinced I should be playing. There are less one-drops, but more permanents to play at every other spot on the curve. If your creatures and spells are redundant, and you don't need to protect one threat in particular, Thoughtseize does become worse. If this deck gets to a late game against Monoblack, it doesn't want to draw Thoughtseize, it just wants to keep drawing creatures and enchantments.
Throughout writing this article, I kept sketching lists with Slitherhead and Lotleth Troll in them, Nighthowler and Nyx Weaver. I still can't seem to find a list that even looks good on paper, the cards are just too weak on their own. Nyx Weaver in particular appears to have so much synergy with so much of the format, and so many little ways to get value, but it doesn't do enough of any one of those things to be worth it.
There is strength in the unexpected. The downside of playing Monoblack Devotion at this point, is that everyone who is well versed in Standard is going to know almost every card you're playing. Thoughtseize prevents surprises from going over well, but what if we played a deck that played like Monoblack for the first few turns, but cast spells that aren't Desecration Demon and Gray Merchant of Asphodel?
This deck seems worse against Burn than I'd like, but offers a lot of surprise potential. This deck is intrinsically weaker than Yuuya Watanabe's list, but offers some diversity from other, similar lists. It keeps the strength of the deck the same - Thoughtseize, removal, card draw; but is banking on your opponent having answers to Desecration Demon and Gray Merchant, not Vraska and Liliana.
Maybe Monoblack Devotion isn't enough of the meta right now to warrant drastic changes to try and break ahead, but it sure seems like every other match I play online is against Thoughtseize and Pack Rat.
If you guys have a list you think really crushes Monoblack, let me know in the comments and include what you think the deck's biggest weakness is. I'd love to test anything out that piques my interest.
Until Next Week,