Initially when looking at Standard with Journey into Nyx it seems that a lot of the top decks haven't changed significantly. Sure, there are cards from Journey into Nyx that will see play in Standard, but the top decks are pretty well defined right now.
Most decks either got slightly worse or slightly better, but there has not been as much innovation as I would like to see up until this point. Naya Auras is one strategy that I do expect to see pick up in popularity.
One card that makes the deck significantly better is Bassara Tower Archer, which I expect will force people to respect hexproof as a major player in Standard. Having a two mana hexproof creature to go along with the existing Gladecover Scout and Witchstalker makes the deck much more consistent. Previously I would play entire games and just never find a hexproof creature. While upon first impression it's true that this guy is double green, and his stats aren't terribly exciting, he is exactly what hexproof strategies have been looking for.
Naya Auras has continued to put up good results despite not being played in high numbers. This past weekend I stumbled across a Naya Auras list piloted by Jordan Marzec to a Top 16 finish at StarCity Open Knoxville:
This is where I expect Naya Auras to go. The deck is able to incorporate Bassara Tower Archer by adopting Mana Confluence. Having double green on turn two is now much more realistic. This is exactly the type of deck that doesn't mind running Mana Confluence, because of how easy it is for the deck to gain life. Not only does this list have the traditional playset of Unflinching Courage but there are four Gift of Orzhova also!
I have not seen every list play Eidolon of Countless Battles, but it is very good because of its versatility. Having an enchantment that is good just for its bestow is great, and this is Eidolon of Countless Battles will get big just because of all the auras. There will be situations where Eidolon of Countless becomes a creature, and that can be very relevant depending on the situation and deck you are playing against. Just having a card with bestow in a hexproof deck feels like card advantage.
In the board there are also four copies of Holy Mantle to really put the deck over the top in the creature matchups. Whether this is good or not I'm not sure, but Holy Mantle is certainly not a card seeing very much play. There are also two copies of Deicide in the board, and I expect that to be a card that starts picking up in play. There are decks that it is obviously very strong against, and unfortunately it is actually very good against the Naya Auras deck. Ajani's Presence is also a sweet trick to have access to, as a way of saving your enchanted creature, though the strive usually isn't relevant, it is better than Mending Touch which used to be in that slot.
While Junk Midrange isn't exactly a new deck, it does seem to be picking up in play recently. There are a few different ways to go as far card selection. Here is a list that was a list piloted by Joel Sukhram this past weekend:
Advent of the Wurm is the first card that stands out to me in Joel's list. Advent of the Wurm is a card that I expected to see a ton of play after it was first released, and it really hasn't lived up to expectations. It certainly gains a lot of value because of the surprise factor here. Making a 5/5 with trample is a great way to suddenly kill a planeswalker, make an end of turn threat versus control, or just surprise your opponent by blocking with the Wurm Token.
Another card that interestingly enough hasn't been seeing too much play is Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Sure the card is very powerful, but it is a card that is desperate to find home. Brimaz, King of Oreskos reminds me a bit of Voice of Resurgence in Standard. The card will hold value as it does something uniquely powerful, yet none of the top tier decks are playing it. Most Junk Midrange lists don't have Brimaz, King of Oreskos but here we see three copies in the maindeck. I'm not sure how much I like the addition of Brimaz, King of Oreskos, though this version certainly does diversify its threats.
In addition, this is a spot where Banishing Light shines. While Banishing Light is competing with other quality removal spells, I do like running them in Junk Midrange, and two seems to be the right number. Just be wary of opposing Abrupt Decays blowing you out. This version has more white cards than most, and Ajani, Caller of Pride is a card that may seem a bit out of place, though it is hard for me to argue against adding a couple planeswalkers to a midrange deck, though I'm more of a fan of Elspeth, Sun's Champion here.
The cards that have been seeing the most play from Journey into Nyx are actually not spells. Mana Confluence has been seeing play in basically all decks, though I feel like currently it is being overplayed. In a deck like Junk Midrange I am happy to see that Mana Confluence only being played as a one-of, as it is a card that gets significantly worse in multiples. That being said Mana Confluence certainly is making the multicolor aggressive decks much more powerful. Here though Temple of Malady is of course the land that is most important from Journey into Nyx. Previously Temple of Enlightenment was the most played of the scry lands, though I expect Temple of Malady to challenge that title.
Another deck that is taking full advantage of Temple of Malady is Black Devotion. Sometimes adding a temple is enough to completely change the direction of a deck, and that's what we are seeing here. This past weekend the best performing version of Black Devotion included a green splash. Here is Alex Bertoncini's list:
Black Devotion splashing green is a deck that already existed before Journey into Nyx, but it suffered because of the need to play guildgates instead of scry lands. Scry lands are significantly better than guildgates, which has a lot to do with why the versions of black devotion splashing a color off a scry land have been having more success. This feels like a similar situation to when Black Devotion splashing red suddenly started picking up play after the printing of Temple of Malice. While the deck doesn't play a ton of green cards, the ones that it does play are very important.
Vraska the Unseen is a card I have a lot of love for, and it is a nice one-of. It provides a way of dealing with any sort of nonland threat, while being a card your opponent must answer. When casting Vraska the Unseen I usually find that it will kill something immediately when it first comes into play, and then if Vraska the Unseen is in play at the beginning of your next turn that is a great sign.
This version of Black Devotion is able to answer Underworld Connections without needing to play cards that can otherwise be awkward, like Revoke Existence or Deicide in the maindeck. Abrupt Decay is still one of the most versatile spells in Standard, and if I am playing a black/green based deck, you can bet there will be three or four copies. Alex elected to run three Abrupt Decay, and while it is hard to find a room for a fourth, I would advocate for playing the full amount.
Interestingly there are still a couple Golgari Guildgates in the deck, and I am fine with that. Being able to play Abrupt Decay on the second turn is very important, so having green mana early is definitely relevant. Golgari Charm out of the sideboard can also be aggressively used early for the sweeper effect, while of course being relevant for its other modes. It seems that Nightveil Specter is seeing less and less play, as Lifebane Zombie is getting better and better with all of the midrange green strategies popping up. I expect Black Devotion splashing green to become the most popular version of Black Devotion moving forward.
I mentioned earlier Voice of Resurgence and Advent of the Wurm not seeing much play, and that has a lot to do with the fact Selesnya Aggro has been underperforming. One of the reasons I think Selesnya Aggro has struggled so much is the lack of quality removal. Sure, Selesnya Charm can be used as a removal spell, and Banisher Priest had been seeing some play, but these are conditional pieces of removal. Now that Banishing Light has been printed it seems that even aggressive white strategies want to be playing the new Oblivion Ring. Here is a list played by Scott Melcalf this past weekend at the TCGplayer Open in Boxborough, MA:
In testing Banishing Light has made a big difference, but that's not the only card from Journey into Nyx that is very important for the deck. Mana Confluence really smoothes out the mana, and in an aggressive deck like this one I don't mind taking damage off land. In a deck with one-drops in different colors, to go along with multicolored two-drops, it is often correct to play a Mana Confluence early, as that is sometimes the only way to ensure you successfully curve out.
Mana Confluence isn't the only land that stands out, as Scott actually has a copy of Rogue's Passage in his deck. While I don't think playing Rogue's Passage is necessarily a good idea, I do like the innovation. These creatures are all fighting on the ground, and it is true that there is very little evasion, so Rogue's Passage can push through the last few points of damage. My issue is that playing Rogue's Passage in a deck with four Mana Confluence may be more likely to kill you than the opponent, from the extra damage taken from Mana Confluence.
Boon Satyr is another card I like, but doesn't necessarily work well with Mana Confluence, as five mana is a lot for this deck, though you can of course hard cast him for three. Boon Satyr also provides the deck a greater variety of ways to evolve Experiment One, at instant speed no less. Another card that really hasn't been seeing play, even in most versions of Selesnya Aggro, is Call of the Conclave. I like it as another two-drop threat, though I would like to see a couple Rootborn Defenses in the main rather than the board, to abuse Call of the Conclave.
A lot of what makes this sort of deck is the amount of tricks and flash cards the deck has access to, so it can be hard for your opponent to play around tricks. Gods Willing is in some lists, but I have yet to see anyone play around Gods Willing in constructed. I think Gods Willing is one of the most underrated tricks in Standard right now, as it is so cheap, and scrying is very relevant in aggressive decks with little deck manipulation.
Scott also runs Setessan Tactics in the board as a tricky sort of removal spell. Having ways to deal with opposing creatures is clearly a priority for the Selesnya Aggro deck and Journey into Nyx has provided a wide variety of ways to do this. While Banishing Light is the most apparent removal spell, there are also two copies of Oppressive Rays in the board, so Scott actually has added eight cards that are primarily removal spells to his 75, from Journey into Nyx.
Thanks for Reading!Seth Manfield