This week I'd like to discuss three cards that stand out to me as exceptionally powerful "build around" cards from Journey into Nyx. First let's talk about Godsend and why it's my favorite card spoiled so far, including a White Devotion list I feel it is best utilized in. Then let's take a look at a mostly red Boros Aggro deck featuring Eidolon of the Great Revel and Iroas, God of the Victory.

White Devotion

I've gotten the most questions about this card of any card from the set, so might as well start here.

My initial impression of the card is that it has a steep mana investment for an effect that can often be neutralized by a chump block each turn. Given this weakness of the card, I can imagine decks being built to compensate and to keep the card dominant.

One example is to use a creature that has vigilance and/or some other abilities, such as Brimaz, King of Oreskos. He becomes a 6/7 that can attack or block, and whenever it does, you get another token. Then if Brimaz later dies, you equip the token and suddently have a formidable 4/4 vigilance creature that Withstands nearly any sort of blocking configuration. The card must be at least decent if it forces opponents into chump blocking your 1/1 Cat Token while simultaneously keeping the opponent from being able to attack back for fear that the Cat Token will eat their best creature.

Another ability that works especially well with the equipment is lifelink. Since blocking the equipped creature is almost never profitable, it will often read "+3/+3 and unblockable". Hence the best plan for an opponent to usually resort to when facing this card is to race it. I can see this strategy working out a high percentage of the time since, as I said already, the mana investment is quite steep (6 total mana) and hence if racing is an option for the opponent, they will often be able to capitalize on the tempo gained from us spending all our resources setting up a Godsend-equipped creature. If the creature has lifelink, however, racing suddenly goes from a winning plan to a not so great plan.

When facing down lifelink, the opponent will then likely resort to the chump block strategy once again, which conveniently enough does not work so well against the lifelink plan either since the equipment's exile ability is optional ("you may exile"). So I guess their only legitimate plan to beat a deck filled with lifelink and vigilant creatures is to either kill all the creatures or to kill the equipment.

Killing all the creatures is going to be a difficult plan to implement if we run a high density of creatures, especially ones that are resistant to commonly played removal spells, such as Fiendslayer Paladin and/or Voice of Resurgence and whatnot. And if we have an equipment spell in play, we won't need to overextend into board sweepers. Hence killing our creatures en masse will also not be a reliable way to beat us.

So then how in the world does someone beat a Godsend?

Well, the only option left is to kill the Godsend.

And even though it dies to Detention Sphere, Revoke Existence, Unravel the AEther, Destructive Revelry, Wear // Tear, and various other cards, only Detention Sphere sees abundant play. The others only see fringe play, and mostly only in the sideboard as 1- or 2-ofs. So if the only way to beat Godsend is to Detention Sphere it, I guess that means we'll have to play enough other cards in our deck that force the opponent to use their Detention Sphere prematurely (such as Brimaz), or cards that deal directly with the Detention Sphere (such as Revoke Existence).

And what happens if we play such cards in our deck alongside our lifelink dudes and our vigilant dudes?

Yep, you guessed it…


Ok, clearly it is not actually unbeatable, but my point is that it is a very difficult Magic card to play against. And as I have already stated in my initial impression, the biggest hindrance is its steep cost to play and equip. So the question then is, "How do we get around this cost?"

The most straightforward answer to come to mind is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

Consider the following build:

Monowhite Devotion

4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Precinct Captain
3 Spirit of the Labyrinth
4 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Fiendslayer Paladin
3 Banisher Priest
2 Spear of Heliod
2 Godsend
2 Heliod, God of the Sun
1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
4 Brave the Elements
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
23 Plains
1 Banisher Priest
3 Boros Reckoner
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Celestial Flare
2 Renounce the Guilds
3 Archangel of Thune
2 Revoke Existence

In addition to Godsend, we have Celestial Flare and Renounce the Guilds to answer Blood Baron. We also have Brave the Elements to attack through it.

The deck really wants another good two-drop that costs WW instead of 1W, but the only other options in the format both have heroic, and we have no ways to target the guy. So hopefully another creature gets printed in Journey into Nyx to fill this deck out. Otherwise Spirit of the Labyrinth is the next best option. Either way, Godsend seems great in this deck and I'm looking forward to testing it out. It's also possible that splashing a second color is worth it off 4 Temples and 4 Shocklands.

The second card I'd like to discuss is Eidolon of the Great Revel and the deck I expect to be its best home.

Red Weenie (splash white, of course)

A common design theme we've seen in recent years is taking an enchantment and putting 2/2 in the lower right corner. Rule of Law became Ethersworn Canonist, Ivory Mask became True Believer, City of Solitude became Grand Abolisher, Blood Moon became Magus of the Moon, etc. Now Pyrostatic Pillar has become Eidolon of the Great Revel.

Eidolon has an interesting kind of anti-synergy built into it. On the one hand, you want to play as few low mana spells in your deck as possible so as to take a minimal amount of damage from its ability. Yet on the other hand if your deck is full of expensive cards, what use is a random Grizzly Bear to you? Moreover, how would you effectively capitalize on the shock for each of the opponent's spells unless you are somehow pressuring him with cheap creatures and/or burn spells?

Given this logic, it seems the best home for the Eidolon is in a deck that can take advantage of the body and also the damage inflicted by its ability, which means either a straight burn or a creature rush deck backed by burn. I'm inclined to the latter because how are you supposed to burn an opponent out if the Eidolon is damaging you every time you cast a burn spell? Warleader's Helix could work potentially, but the creature plan seems more promising since creatures are recurring sources of damage rather than a one-shot deal that would burn you and your opponent if you have Eidolon in play.

Consider the following:

Barely Boros (Red) Aggro

4 Boros Reckoner
4 Chained to the Rocks
4 Chandra's Phoenix
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Lightning Strike
10 Mountain
4 Mutavault
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Iroas, God of Victory
2 Warleader's Helix
1 Legion's Initiative
1 Boros Guildgate
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Ash Zealot
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Boros Charm
1 Legion's Initiative
4 Searing Blood
4 Act of Treason
2 Chandra, Pyromaster

In this deck the idea is to come out of the gates blazing fast with creatures. Eidolon fits nicely into this strategy for a few reasons. First off, it's a reasonably costed body to plug into the curve. Secondly, once on the battlefield, most spells that deal with it efficiently (outside of Supreme Verdict) will shock the opponent, which essentially makes him a shock at worst. This plays nicely into the end game of this deck, namely to burn the opponent out with Lightning Strikes and Warleader's Helix.

And if the burn plan isn't looking good, we have another end game plan:

If I am correct that the fast creature rush strategy is the best fit for Eidolon, then that will also likely mean that such a strategy will provide a perfect home for Iroas, God of Victory. Iroas wants permanents to increase his devotion so he can attack. Creatures accomplish this better than any other permanent because they combine well with his other abilities. The best way to use Iroas is to flood the board with creatures before plopping him down to immediately make combat difficult for the opponent. Then the following turn you would try to complete the devotion and attack with him.

In this deck we have a pretty solid curve leading up to Iroas:

1 mana

4 Firedrinker Satyr

4 Rakdos Cackler

2 mana

4 Ash Zealot

4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

3 mana

4 Chandra's Phoenix

4 Boros Reckoner

This heavy creature package makes Iroas especially good since it provides a ton of devotion to turn him on while also making his combat abilities relevant even when he is not yet active.

The other spells I chose to round out the deck have some specific purposes.

Chained to the Rocks, Lightning Strike, and Warleader's Helix can clear out opposing blockers, which can make Iroas that much more devastating. Helix and Lightning Strike can also work especially well with Eidolon of the Great Revel to finish off opponents that are forced to take more damage than expected from him. These burn spells also work nicely with Chandra's Phoenix.

Legion's Initiative was included as a singleton for a few reasons. First, it pumps all of our creatures, including pumping both sides of Boros Reckoner and Iroas, God of Victory. Secondly, it increases our devotion for Iroas without getting killed by Supreme Verdict. Furthermore, if we get to untap with it, it can effectively counter a Supreme Verdict. We run a second copy in the board for control matchups.

Also in the board for control decks we have 4 Boros Charms and a pair of Chandra, Pyromasters. The Boros Charms serve two purposes for this matchup usually. Their primary role is to counter a Supreme Verdict. Their secondary role is to go increase the threat of our burn plan by dealing 4 to the opponent. It is also worth noting that Iroas is a great creature to double strike with Boros Charm, suddenly dealing 14 damage instead of just 7 damage. I can see this being a blowout quite often. For instance, they tap out on their turn to cast a large Sphinx's Revelation, not wanting to let you untap and potentially Skullcrack in response. Then that gives us a window to play a Boros Reckoner or whatever to turn on Iroas and then we double strike him for the kill out of nowhere.

The one piece of anti-synergy with Iroas is that he prevents damage to Boros Reckoner. I take this to be a small price to pay, all things considered, given that the minotaur helps out so much with his devotion.

Chandra, Pyromaster is essentially a four-mana Underworld Connections against control decks, allowing us to keep pace with their card advantage long enough to finish them off.

Searing Blood is our best card against small creature decks, but it's pretty miserable against a fair number of the most popular decks and our main deck cannot afford to have its spells be low impact. Instead we chose the safer main deck options but still want the high impact of Searing Blood for the matchups where it really shines. Hence we left in the board.

Act of Treason was the final inclusion. It serves two purposes. Its primary role is to fight against Jund Monsters. I envision games typically going like this:

Us : dude, smash, dude, smash, dude, smash.

Them : Ramp spell, big monster.

Us : Steal your monster, smash for a million.

Them : Dead.

Notice the key play in the game involved stealing their monster. Hence 4 ways to do so are included in the sideboard.

The second function of Act of Treason is stealing Blood Baron of Vizkopa and other especially problematic creatures. Threaten effects work especially well in this deck because of the Goblin War Drums ability of Iroas. If the creature happens to be red, such as Stormbreath Dragon, it may even help us gain our seventh devotion to turn on Iroas, which is just that much more powerful an effect.

It's very possible that something else gets spoiled to include in this deck, but even as is, I can see this deck being competitive right out of the gates in week 1 of Journey into Nyx Standard.

Let me know what you think of these two decks in the comments section below. Is there a card I overlooked that would be awesome in one of them? Do you see a better use for one of the three cards highlighted today? Is there another card from Journey into Nyx you'd like my opinion on? Ask away! And I'll leave you with this final quote to ponder…

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey (into Nyx) that matters, in the end" - Ernest Hemmingway

Craig Wescoe

@Nacatls4Life on twitter