Last week I discussed five decks that took advantage of Brimaz, King of Oreskos, including Monowhite, Boros, and Orzhov. This week I would like to discuss the options available for Azorius and Selesnya.
We'll start with Azorius Heroic, an updated version of the deck I discussed a few weeks ago here.
A Nashville friend of mine Devin Foglesong showed me this deck at Grand Prix Louisville and another mutual friend, Paul "P.J." Buck, has been tuning and having success with it, recently making Top 8 of the Knoxville SCG Classic tournament. It gains a few cards from Born of the Gods that may just put it over the top into legitimate competitive status.
The first addition it gets is Vanguard of Brimaz. This one works especially well with Phalanx Leader, producing tokens that will get larger with his bonus. These tokens also provide fodder for Dauntless Onslaught, or can chump block to win races while we attack with our large heroic creature.
The deck also gains Brimaz, King of Oreskos, a card that does not require spells to fight favorably in combat. Between this, Precinct Captain, Vanguard of Brimaz, a single instance of targeting Phalanx Leader can prove sufficient.
The deck also gets Temple of Enlightenment, which helps avoid man flood or can help dig for a land or spell when needed. It's a welcome addition that increases the deck's consistency and allows it to not have to play any Islands, which helps a lot with all the double white cost cards in the deck.
Perhaps the most exciting upgrade for this deck, however, is Ephara's Enlightenment. It targets, triggering heroic, then gives a +1/+1 counter, then returns to your hand whenever you play another creature. So it is essentially a reusable heroic enabler. Also did I mention it gives the creature evasion? It's basically Ajani, Caller of the Pride that triggers heroic, at least for this deck. The only downside is that it can't target Soldier of the Pantheon.
Brave the Elements could belong in this deck, but I chose to go the more linear heroic route instead. Spear of Heliod is also enticing with all the token generation in the deck. Soldier of the Pantheon may also prove worse than Dryad Militant, Boros Elite, or Judge's Familiar due to the lack of synergy with Ephara's Enlightenment, but I'm not sure yet. His protection ability will help a lot on defense and also forcing through damage. Triton Tactics is another card to consider in this deck. Out of the board Last Breath is also a card to consider.
Santiago Yerovi sent me this Azorius Devotion list, which is mostly similar to the ones that have been popping up recently, but with a few notable additions from Born of the Gods. I made a few small changes, replacing a pair of Sphinx's Revelations with two more Detention Spheres, but I mostly agree with the rest of his card choices. I also added a sideboard based on the one twister66 made Top 16 of an MTGO Premier Event with.
This deck can really utilize both sides of Brimaz, King of Oreskos. He is great on offense when you curve out with Soldier of the Pantheon into Precinct Captain, and he also adds nicely to your devotion count, setting up an even bigger follow-up turn. However, he is also a very formidable blocker, assuming the role Hundred-Handed One filled in twister66's list but cheaper and more efficiently.
Ephara, God of the Polis is a great way to draw cards and can also provide a huge body alongside Heliod in games that stall out. It works especially well with Detention Sphere, gaining two devotion instead of just one (like Heliod would).
Temple of Enlightenment will often dig for lands with this deck, but when you no longer need lands, it will essentially draw you an extra card by scrying the unneeded land to the bottom. It's also a dual land, which is exactly what the deck wanted more of anyway.
Archangel of Thune and Hundred-Handed One are cards to consider for this deck, as is Brave the Elements and Spear of Heliod.
Those are the two Azorius decks I wanted to share with you. Now let's discuss a few Selesnya builds that gain notable upgrades from Born of the Gods.
This deck is based on the version Patrick Chapin discussed in his article earlier in the week. It is designed to maximize the value of Brave the Elements. It eschews removal in favor of all out aggression and winning through Brave the Elements. It also has Selesnya Charm to act as a similar trick to win fights in combat and further force through damage: "Hey, there's no chump blocking in here bro! Trample you!" or "Whoa there, buddy, you're too big for the battlefield, let me go ahead and exile you!"
I have played a lot of Selesnya and Temple of Plenty is a huge upgrade over the Guildgate. The guild lacks card draw or card manipulation in a huge way, so adding this little bit of sifting goes a long way toward increasing the deck's consistency.
This deck was sent to me by a reader, Lean Baula. I made a few changes and I think it has potential. It will need some work (and a sideboard), but the general theme of the deck is fairly powerful.
Hero of Iroas makes Unflinching Courage and Holy Mantle easier to cast, and it also allows you to go crazy with Alpha Authority. I would consider Eidolon of Countless Battles in this deck as well. He will act as a de facto Voice of Resurgence against opposing Supreme Verdicts and can grow your creature to an enormous size alongside the token generation of Precinct Captain and Brimaz, King of Oreskos. I'm not sure what to run him over, but I'm fairly certain he belongs somewhere in this deck.
Hero of Leina Tower also looks interesting here with all the cheap auras and Gods Willing. I almost included it, yet again I wasn't sure what to cut. The deck wants a critical amount of creatures and spells that trigger heroic. Ethereal Armor works exceptionally well with the Hero, making it a huge first striker for really not that much mana.
It's possible that some hybrid combination of this auras deck and the heroic deck I'm about to discuss will prove the optimal configuration. I'm not yet sure which direction is more promising, and we won't know for sure until all the cards are revealed.
This is another Selesnya deck that needs some love to be competitive but that gains some upgrades from Born of the Gods.
Reap What Is Sown is the biggest reason to run this over Azorius Heroic. I'm not sure if it's worth it over what blue has to over, but it may prove to be. Being able to trigger heroic for three separate creature at instant speed while also leaving an additional +1/+1 counter on each of them can make for some monstrous blowouts that feel like a seven mana ultimatum straight out of Alara block. Imagine the following scenario:
You attack with Phalanx Leader, Vanguard of Brimaz, and Brimaz, King of Oreskos, triggering to make a token. Then after blocks you cast Reap What Is Sown, staggering the triggers such that you get another token (off the Vanguard), then each of your creatures get a +1/+1 counter from Phalanx Leader, and then the actual spell resolves, giving your original three creatures yet another +1/+1 counter. When the dust settles, you have a 3/3 Phalanx Leader, a 4/4 Vanguard of Brimaz, a 5/6 Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and a 2/2 cat Soldier Token attacking, in addition to 2/2 Cat Token that is not attacking. And these tokens and counters do not go away at end of turn! Also did I mention everyone except the Phalanx Leader also has vigilance? Yeah, this deck can play offense and defense quite well!
Another card this deck could make use of is Hero of Leina Tower. It looks like a one-drop, and it is, but it really doesn't start shining until later in the game. It's great to just throw it out there to start getting bonuses from Phalanx Leader, and then later on you target it with Gods Willing, tapping out to give it a bunch of +1/+1 counters, and attacking past creatures of the color you chose. It's essentially a build-your-own Mistcutter Hydra that you don't have to wait to cast, and for a turn you get to choose the color. I'm not 100% sold this one belongs in the deck, but it seems that targeting it a second time really makes this one a threat too powerful to leave out. It kind of reminds me of Scute Mob for some reason.Conclusions
The two Azorius decks discussed are on the verge of competitive. I would not be surprised at all if you win your FNM with either of those decks, even in the first week Born of the Gods is legal.
Among the Selesnya decks, the first one is the most competitive list. There is also an Advent of the Wurm style Selesnya deck, similar to my Pro Tour Dragon's Maze one, but the only notable upgrade to that deck is Temple of Plenty, so I'll hold off on that one until something new gets spoiled for it.
The other two Selesnya decks discussed are rougher lists that require a bit more tuning. There will likely be a few more cards to consider from the new set that have not yet been spoiled for those decks since they take advantage of some of the linear mechanics being pushed in the block.
Every deck discussed today has potential and most of which will likely gain significant upgrades in the third set as well, assuming they continue to push the same block mechanics in the third set. The heroic creatures are getting better, the bestow auras are getting stronger, more enablers are coming out, and in general all the pieces are slowly coming together for the heroic decks. It's only a matter of time before they start winning tournaments.
Similarly, White Devotion has been in the shadow of the other devotion strategies thus far, but Brimaz, King of Oreskos is likely to start changing things in that regard. I discussed a monowhite and an Orzhov version of White Devotion last week and this week I shared Azorius. It's unclear at this point which will prove most promising, but I'm fairly confident white devotion has the tools to finally succeed and I'm looking forward to seeing how it does in Standard once Born of the Gods becomes legal!
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on twitter