Breaking Through – A Brewer’s Guide to NPH

Now that New Phyrexia has officially been released to the masses by Wizards, it seems like it is time to have some fun with the set. Already some people have begun talking about the cards in great length, like Luis here at Channelfireball, or in my own set review, but it is often difficult to focus in on the applications many of these brew around me cards actually have. Some talk of various combos has already sprung up, which I will give my take on, but most of the combos and interesting cards have been left only for the forum dwellers to speculate on. Today, I would like to dive into some of the interesting combos and cards to come out of New Phyrexia and get the ball rolling about their constructed potential.

New Phyrexia

New Phyrexia is interesting in that it seems to have a higher than normal amount of brew-friendly cards. There are some obviously powerful cards as well, but much of the set is very subtle in its applications, appealing to the EDH crowd or the Johnnies out there. To provide an example, lets jump right into one of the more obvious interactions in the set:


First let’s just lay out how this interaction works for those not in the know, as even I was uncertain at first. Basically with Phyrexian Unlife forcing sources to deal damage to you in the form of poison counters once you have hit 0 life, and Melira stating that you cannot receive poison counters, you stop taking damage once at 0 and also receive no poison counters. This means that not only will you never die so long as the two remain in play together, but assuming you are not being forced to lose life, your life total will not change for the purposes of life gain at a later point or Platinum Angel.

Obviously this combo has some huge downsides to it. For starters, it is fragile. A bear with no protection for itself and an enchantment are a rough pair to keep around. Worship was awesome back in the day thanks to cards like Paladin en-Vec kolding entire strategies. In addition, Worship worked with any critters in play, making it less of a dedicated combo and more of a nice interaction in your deck. However, Worship never stopped you from dying to loss of life like Phyrexian Unlife does, so there is that.

The benefits of the combo are that one half of it almost acts like an Illusions of Grandeur did in the Donate decks. That is to say that if you are just digging for your Melira, you have a 3 mana enchantment that happens to gain you 10 life along the way. While this is not enough to sell the duo on its own, it is a nice bonus to pick up.

So how do we make this combo effective in Standard? Well the first component would be redundancy so that you can reliably get the combo going. While you need not get this combo in any sort of breakneck pace, you do need to get it before dying, but green has the tools to help that out. For starters, both Green Sun’s Zenith and Fauna Shaman find Melira, so she is covered nicely. The Unlife is a little trickier to find though. Basically, in order to have what amounts to extra copies of it floating around, you need to have black for either Liliana Vess or Diabolic Tutor, or blue for card filtering. Both offer protection in the form of discard spells or countermagic though, so that seems good. You could potentially avoid the actual blue cards and instead turn to Shrine of Piercing Vision, but even that wants you to include blue spells alongside it.

Beyond the natural protection that both of those colors provide, you need something to add prolonged safety for your Melira. Melira naturally protects herself against things like Black Sun’s Zenith or Contagion Clasp, so that is covered. To protect her further, you basically have the following options:


Now while none of those cards are that exciting currently, if any of them led toward winning the game, I don’t think you would mind running them. My favorite of those is Darksteel Plate, as it protects against everything including Day of Judgment while also protecting itself from everything not named Revoke Existence. With Beast Within being printed, the rest of those are potentially weak in the upcoming metagame so I would try the first, maybe as just a Stoneforge Mystic target, and see how that goes. The combo is certainly a decent one to think about, and does beat some decks on its own, so don’t just sleep on it because it looks a little janky.


This particular combo has been touched on by a few people already, so I will not be too long winded on the subject. For those not in the know, basically an Exarch that gets enchanted with Splinter Twin is able to make any amount of guys, all of which have haste and kills the opponent due to the Exarch trigger untapping the enchanted copy. In addition, you get to tap a land at the end of your opponent’s turn with the initial Exarch, helping power through counter magic.

Now one thing that has not been discussed to its fullest is how to best house this combo. Some suggest pairing it with other UR combos, like Pyromancer Ascension, but I think Standard is ill-equipped to handle one of these combos when built right, so the need for redundant combos is not as great unlike Extended from year’s past. Instead, I think people should be looking at cards like Reality Spasm, or potentially a black splash as a means to force through the combo. The combo is excellent in that is immune to Lightning Bolt and wins immediately, meaning your life total only matters if it hits 0 as you can wait out an aggro deck pretty well. This combo will be tried by many, so perfecting it is probably not on any one person’s agenda, but it is something to look at.

Jin-Gitaxias, Core Auger

This has to be my favorite card from the set just for its sheer power level alone. Yes it costs about a billion mana, but there are ways to work around that, and that is why we are discussing them. The obvious way to cheat this dude into play is with something like Mass Polymorph. My issue with this approach, is that Mass Polymorph should win the game after its cast, and not get a guy that will win you the game a few turns from now. For example, Iona, Emrakul, and Stormtide Leviathan win the game 99% of the time you fetch them up. Similarly, Terastodon plus some number of Massacre Wurms tends to win the game immediately. Getting a Jin-Gitaxias by his lonesome though does not. Perhaps backed by an Iona he is pretty sweet, but even then, against a Caw-Go deck do you name blue to stop Jace? Or White to stop Oust? Emrakul knows which one you name, but good ole Jin does not.

That said, there are also more conventional ways to power this guy out. Flash gives him the unique ability to be put into play off of a Sword of Feast and Famine trigger. All you need for this to happen is a solid 5 mana, which is easy enough. You have to assume that if a Sword is hitting, the coast is mostly clear, and then you essentially reap the rewards of 7 cards right away, not to mention the game ending effect if your opponent doesn’t get rid of him by the end of their draw step. Its not like casting this guy is completely unreasonable, as we have seen people sling around Kozilek or Iona the hard way before. This guy intrigues me and I will certainly experiment with him at some point.


Again, for the quick rundown. This combo works by getting a Bloodchief Ascension active and a Mind Crank in play. At that point, you get any card to go to an opponent’s graveyard and they subsequently mill their entire deck and lose 2 life for each milled card along the way.

This combo has a few people excited but I am actually here to debunk the combo. Since Bloodchief Ascension was released, there has been a card that killed immediately and usually for free alongside it in Archive Trap and yet the combo has literally done nothing. I do not see how adding a card like Mind Crank, which is worse when drawn by itself than an Archive Trap is, makes the combo any better. 26 life being lost and then gained by you is basically the exact same as 120 or however many cards they have left. It is cool that you can run out one piece of the combo at a time, but it seems like a lot of work and not really better than Archive Trap, at least enough so to be legitimate. I applaud the effort of anyone trying to make this work, but I fear that their efforts will prove fruitless.

Myr Superion

This guy might not be Tarmogoyf, but don’t sleep on him because I don’t think is too far off, at least in some areas. Remember, Tarmogoyf was usually only about a 3 power duder when he was running around the Standard format, sometimes being lucky enough to hit the 4th card type at times, but very rarely was he a 5/6. In addition, remember that while people look at Tarmogoyf as a 2 mana 4/5, he usually took time or work to make it to that mark so while the Superion might not come down on turn 2 very often, he will probably still reach the 5/6 mark faster than Goyf did as a turn 4 or 5 play.

As for casting this guy in the first place, there are actually quite a few clever ways to work him into play. The sickest has to be a turn 1 Joraga Treespeaker, as on turn 2 you get to level your Treespeaker and throw out the massive 5/6. This puts a ton of pressure on the opponent very quickly and pairs nicely with a Vengevine strategy. In addition to that though, there are a lot of 1 mana guys that make mana, like Llanowar Elves or Birds of Paradise, but remember that Arbor Elf doesn’t quite do the trick.

Moving up the casting cost train, we see things like Overgrown Battlement which can get this guy into play with just the aid of any other wall, which is not too difficult. At 3 mana, Mul-Daya Channelers, Elvish Archdruid, and Palladium Myr get this into play all by themselves, and Grand Architect pulls double duty by both casting this guy, and then steroiding him up to fight off Titans.

The trickiest way to get this guy out quickly mostly likely involves Eldrazi Spawn tokens in some fashion. You are still creating the mana off of a creature, so it most certainly works, and may make some of the less known Spawn producers Standard viable, like Spawning Breath, which I think has been fringe playable for some time now. Basically this guy is a lot of power in a cheap package and there are ways to get ti out more efficiently than the text would have you believe.

Wrap Up

There are obviously plenty of other cards that have gotten my brewer’s sense tingling, from stuff like Etched Monstrosity to Birthing Pod, but the above list is just some of the examples that have either gone untalked about or I simply felt I had something to contribute in regards to the discussion. Standard looks like it will be incorporating a bunch of new combo elements into the mix, which is awesome because for some time now we have had a control and aggro field, which Valakut playing the role of combo, but being so much more different to hate out than traditional combo is.

I expect the new interactions to both freshen Standard up and allow it to return to a more traditional paper-rock-scissors metagame, as it would seem like non-Valakut combo could have a good match up against Hawks with Swords. As always, thanks for reading and get to brewing!

Conley Woods

48 thoughts on “Breaking Through – A Brewer’s Guide to NPH”

  1. You missed the Soul Conduit + Phyrexian Unlife combo. (And of course, some way to run your life down to 0.)

  2. nest invader plus an elf/bop gets the myr into play turn 2, and lotus cobra does a pretty good job at getting 2 mana for a 5/6

  3. Unfortunately with Melira comes Dismember, so maybe the Darksteel Plate isn’t the best choice here – something granting shroud perhaps? Asceticism protects vs. Day of Judgment too but 5 is a lot of mana…

  4. I think Melira is going to be a lot more fun in extended rather than standard.

    With a sacrifice outlet (Viscera Seer): you have gain infinite life with Kitchen Finks, do infinite damage with Murderous Redcap, wipe away large chunks of their board with Kithkin Spellduster or Woodfall Primus, steal things from the yard with Puppeteer Clique, and draw your library with River Kelpie.

  5. damn it. i was hoping you wouldnt point out the superion. that was my super secret tech for my mono green lol though I suppose thinking you wouldnt look twice at a 2 mana 5/6 is pretty unrealistic. I think its sweet that he just fits into the deck without changing anything. I already was playing 4 nest invader, 8 1 mana dorks and some kozilek’s predators.

  6. An interesting thing about Myr Superion:

    Any first-turn Llanowar Elves or Birds of Paradise + Inkmoth Nexus lets you tap your 1st land to activate Nexus, then tap it and the manadork for two mana from creatures, meaning T2 Superion.

  7. Nest Invader -> Kozilek’s Predator -> Myr Superion puts him into play turn 3, alongside a 2/2 and 3/3. Seems pretty aggro

  8. @tagonte that doesn’t work, once you animate the nexus it’s sick and can no longer tap for mana

  9. Is no one going to point out that Phyrexian Unlife + Ad Nauseum = draw your whole deck? Surely that has to be broken in Extended! Brewers, get on this!

  10. Can you tap the nexus for mana, then animate it with your first turn land drop, and use the llanowar elves/birds to power it out? When added to your pool, the mana wasn’t from a creature, but it would be after animation? Maybe I’m worng. Hmmm…

  11. You mentioned that Superion is going to be solid in Vengevine strategies, and conveniently enough, both of those cards are also very good with Birthing Pod. Being able to Pod up a Superion and ignore his restriction seems pretty solid, and podding Vengevine into something (Acidic Slime?) before rebuying the Vengevine also seems great. You’d be running a ton of cheap mana guys for Superion anyway, which makes rebuying Vengevine easier.

    I would be interested in seeing if a G/W version of this deck might even be better than the straight green variant: it gives you Squadron Hawk, Kor Skyfisher and Blade Splicer, as well as a potential endgame Pod target in Sun Titan to rebuy yet more Pod targets, as well as the less synergistic but ubiquitous Stoneforge Mystic. (PodBlade? Who knows?)

  12. @Player: We’ll have to wait for the Comprehensive Rules update to know for sure. However, the Coldsnap FAQ states:

    When paying for {S}, it matters only if the permanent that produced
    the mana had the supertype snow at the time that mana was produced. If
    it did but subsequently lost the supertype, that mana can still be used
    to pay for {S}. On the other hand, if it wasn’t a snow permanent when it
    produced the mana but subsequently gained the supertype, that mana can’t
    be used to pay for {S}.

    By analogy, it seems likely that the Nexus would have to be a creature at the time the mana is produced in order for the mana to be spent on Myr Superion (so animating it afterward doesn’t help).

  13. I’m going to have to disagree with you on the Bloodchief combo, Conley. I have been brewing with a B/R deck that’s designed to get it out and power it up really quickly. Also, Gutshot is the PERFECT enabler of the combo once Ascension is powered up.

  14. Exarch/Splinter Twin will definitely make some waves. It’s an extremely efficient combo for standard environment and steals games out of nowhere.

  15. Conley, do Elvish/Simian Spirit Guides count as sources of mana for Myr Superion? There is no stipulation that the mana must be generated from the battlefield, and they are creature cards producing mana. If it works, that expands it’s possibilities a little. I see it as being a neat card for various format elves, but what do I know? =P

  16. @JaketheLate
    I would have to agree with Conley on the mindcrank+ascension since mindcrank isn’t all that different than archive trap and the trap is actually better considering all the search effects right now in standard. Plus what are the chances of you winning without the bloodchief ascension? It’s already quite hard getting it online even if you manage to land it turn one what with pierces and discards ruining your early burn. The deck also has a glaring weakness to leyline of sanctity and B/R doesn’t have an real answer to that. I would also imagine that you have goblin guide in your B/R deck but sadly with 8 slots of your deck dedicated to the combo your not nearly fast enough than a mono red deck for the card disadvantage to actually not matter and if you have tutors like liliana and the like then they’re just slow. If you on the other hand pack discard spells then you’ll have not enough space in your deck for burn to consistently get the ascension online.

    As much as I would like this combo to work competitively too there’s just too much that needs to go right for it to go off

  17. I’ve been testing a deck with shrine of burning rage in a mono red all burn deck with quest for the pure flame and 4 tezzeret’s gambit with goblin guide being the only creature and the deck shows real potential. The new volt charge + tezzeret’s gambit proliferate get quest online fast and get counters on shrine of burning rage to a ridiculous amount. The deck does get shut down though by leyline of sanctity and I am considering a green splash for answers to it.

  18. Melira + Darksteel plate doesn’t do anything against Jace tms and oust (both in caw blade). If the meta is not severely shifted that means it has a bad matchup vs the best deck, so things do not bode well for it.

  19. @Dman – ‘Creatures’ aren’t creatures unless they’re in play – they’re ‘creature cards’, which is technically different.

  20. Re: Myr Superion.

    A few other doodes work really well to ensure turn 2 myr. You forgot Lotus Cobra and Nest invader (eldrazi spawn tokens work too)

    mindcrank/ascension? you might as well play karn 2nd turn!

  21. you can activate nexus and then tap it for mana. its no different than activating nexus to trigger metalcraft for opal then tapping for mana

  22. Good article!

    Here is something to consider!
    Bloodcranck: Mindcrank does not make Bloodchief Ascension good, Volt Charge does. Mindcrank only makes our Johnny happy…

    Myr Superion: There are a few other ways to get out a superion on turn 2! Here’s my top 3 that seem possible for a good deck (and a janky one, for fun):
    T1 Land, Joraga Treespeaker
    T2 Land, level counter, Myr Superion

    T1 Land, Birds/Llanowar
    T2 Land, tap lands for Nest Invaders, sac Spawn and tap Birds for Myr Superion

    T1 Land, Birds/Llanowar
    T2 Tap Birds for Lotus Cobra, Fetchland, Myr Superion

    T1 Land, Birds
    T2 Land, Priest of Urabrask (3 mana 2/1 that adds RRR when it comes onto the battlefield), Myr Superion

    Melira: I think there is more then Unllife and poison hate to Melira, johnnywise. You pointed out she’s protected from Black Sun’s Zenith, but she actually encourages you to play with BSZ! How about Melira/Phyrexian Hydra? It’s only your opponent’s creatures that lose infect, a 7/7 infect for 5CMC and no more drawback seems good to me! And oh! the irony of the new Glistening Oil on Melira! There is also, but to a lesser extent, Phyrexian Vatmother and Sceptic Rats.

    Also, on a more jankier but still Johnny note…
    Near-Death Experience/Hex Parasite combo: Got both on the table and an uneven number of life? Just target a permanent, removing no counters and paying the phyrexian mana, to get down to 1 life on your opponent’s end step! Just watch out for red! πŸ˜‰

  23. Jonathan Sheets

    Being able to cast Jin off of a sword proc is a great point.

    I think Myr Superion is going to be sweet regardless of what turn you get to cast it on as long as you don’t have it stuck in your hand forever, so being able to cast it with Inkmoth Nexus/Mutavault is super relevant.

    I didn’t notice the Persist interaction with Mileria, that’s pretty sweet!

    Aside from Near Death Experience in standard, you can also use Hex Parasite and friends to power up Death’s Shadow.

    It’s nothing too exciting, but most of my brewing efforts have been involving Blade Splicer and Glimmerpoint Stag

  24. Although not a viable constructed strategy, Melira combos incredibly well with anything that has Persist. I’m excited to add her to my casual Persist deck.

  25. I realize it’s not a “good” card, but is Norn’s Annex not a perfect defense against Splinter/Exarch?

  26. Guys, does anyone know if Lotus Cobra mana can be used for Myr Superion? Technically speaking, it isn’t the creature producing the mana, but a triggered ability, so my guess is NO.

    If that doesn’t work, neither will Elvish/Simian Spirit Guide.

  27. @SomeNoob

    Lotus Cobra and Elvish/Simian Spirit Guide are not the same situation.

    Lotus Cobra’s triggered ability is making mana, and therefore a creature produced that mana. ESG/SSG are not creatures; they’re creature cards. They’re only creatures while they are in play as permanents. So they do not work.

  28. just an fyi. the correct card to birthing a vengavine into is revilark. birthing podding a revilark in a deck with no 6 drops is tech : )

    also, bonus points for turning a 2 drop int kitchen finks. kitchen finks is good for 2 4 drops, and it adds 1 phyrexian mana to your pool when it enters play (2 life)

  29. It would be nice if Superion made Vengevine decks fast enough for Valakut, thus bringing the Jace decks in check a little. Note that the classic Lotus Cobra play also works for Superion if need be. Needing lots of ramp dudes AND the cards for midrange/agro could be pretty rough though and may be a dealbreaker.

  30. You cant really just hope to win with a bunch of vanilla dudes, mana dorks, vengevine and myr superion, but considering the ammount of ramp you get from lotus cobra, birds of paradise, nest invaders and kozilek predators just pick a second color of your choice and add a few titans and you got yourself a deck, black or red seem nice since they offer removal and disruption

  31. personally, the unlife/melira combo is totally unexciting to me…I just don’t understand what you do with a life-count shut down when Jace still completely hoses you by (a) bouncing your dude and allowing an infect victory (b) drawing them enough cards to find an out and (c) going ultimate and blowing up your library regardless of life total. You cannot convince me that a combo that loses to all 3 of Jace’s abilities and has no way of getting rid of him is any good. I am a *huge* fan of the lockdown strategy, and I’ve been gunning for some kind of world queller ‘stax’ deck in standard since the beginning, but I don’t think this really qualifies as a way to get it done.

    Splinter twin, on the other hand, is a magnificent combo; it generates an instant ‘answer me or die’ condition, which is the bread and butter of a true combo deck, and the fact that pyromancer was a legitimate deck at the tail end of last year’s standard means that we already have a reliable, well-tested shell to play around with. I expect to see splinter twin having 1 representative in a lot of top 8s.

    I really like the superion, and I think he’s a lot better than he’s given credit for: Turn 1 birds, turn 2 nest invader, superion. That’s a VERY stacked board on VERY short notice, and I think superion is just what we needed to get eldrazi green back in business. The myr existence of superion can force your opponent to nuke every mana dork they see just on the off chance that you’ll cast a 5/6 out of nowhere, and, we musn’t forget, birthing pod warps any random dork in to a superion if it wants to. I don’t expect myr superion to hit $50 and change the course of MTG, but I do expect it to see quite a lot of play in random green aggro decks across formats (except type 1…but nothing is good enough for type 1)

  32. @Dan That’s cute until they play cards like Qasali Pridemage. Then you just die. Reminds me of the combo deck from last extended season with this, that card that says you can’t lose, and the conflagrates… sadly I can’t think of a way to use drawing this many cards for one turn in modern extended.

  33. @Babbs: Spell based combo that doesn’t win immediately is pretty bad…poooooooor little ad nauseum; it’s just an enabler for tendrils and does nothing by itself πŸ™

  34. I really like the idea of Priest of Urabrask paired with Myr Superion and am definitely looking forward to finally putting a red-ramping metalcraft deck together. No specifics yet … just bare ideas.

    Also, I keep thinking about the lonely Death’s Shadow. Between the Unlife and all of the new Phyrexian Mana powerhouse cards that are out there, there seems to be the potential for a very dangerous, but tightrope-ish, deck. A 13/13 black creature for one mana is pretty swell. The idea that you’re already dead, but not dead, just makes me warm and fuzzy all-over.

  35. Phyrexian unlife+ Melira seem like they would work great with repay in kind or brink of death or even soul conduit. I have a feeling there is some potential here.

  36. You mentioned that darksteel plates arent protecting themselves from revoke existance, but why dont cast revoke to remove the phyrexian unlife for the win? just for fun.

  37. what i like about the splintertwin exarch combo is the ability to drop the exarch with flash during your opponents end step when they are tapped out so you can combo off safely. if they have blue up you just play it safe so part of your combo doesnt end up countered. if they have black up you also wait till they are tapped out for fear of a go for the throat in response to splinter twin. and if they have red up you need not fear their lighning bolts the exarch is a 1/4. pretty resilient id say.

  38. Thanks for discussing the Melira/Phyrexian Unlife combo seriously. I’ve thought it looked fun and intriguing since day 1 of the leak. Always look forward to your brewing, because brewing is just about my favorite part of the game, and it is nice to see someone out there in the “pro” side of things take it seriously.

  39. One problem I foresee for the exarch/splintertwin combo is topor orb.
    It may become a standard piece of sideboard tech.

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  41. tommy (well, you call me dady)

    not sure if this is innovative or not. seems you are just repeating things that have either already been said, or just ripping off other peoples innovations and ideas. great job.

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