Carrie On – Star Gazing

One of the new mechanics in Journey into Nyx is constellation. Effects range from the uninspired “exile target player’s graveyard,” to solid “target creature gets +1/+1 to end of turn,” to amazing “draw a card.” In a set with a heavy contingent of enchantments you can use these cards in one of two ways in draft. You can take a couple of them and put them in your normal deck which will inherently have say 6 to 8 enchantments in it and thus get some value from them, or you can draft a deck specifically to trigger constellation as many times as possible. The latter is what I want to talk about today.

Drafting constellation reminds me of drafting decks like Spider Spawning in triple-Innistrad draft. Because you have a very particular goal that requires very specific pieces you have to do something a little unusual in every pack, normally from pick 1. You need to take not necessarily the strongest card, but the best card for your strategy. In many ways these sorts of decks are a really good exercise in card evaluation and in good drafting practice. After all, once you have established a strategy during a draft then you should adjust your picking order based on what your deck needs rather than what is technically strongest. If you are a green deck short on early plays and removal then you are going to have to turn down the Nemesis of Mortals for a Sedge Scorpion or Voyaging Satyr.

Drafting a strategy from pick 1 just makes you do this throughout. Of course there is a risk. If it’s not open (say, the person two seats upstream from you also decides to go this way) then you are going to have turned down some sweet picks for some moderate ones. It’s not the end of the world, though, and hopefully you can stay in one or both of your colors and still get some use from your picks.

I tried drafting constellation the other day. I opened a fairly underwhelming pack which was just the excuse I was looking for. The rare was Twinflame, which is a good card that I would be happy to first pick, but I’ve tread that ground already and was looking for something different. Nothing else was notable in the pack so I finally got to take a pick-1 Grim Guardian. This card is an important piece in a constellation deck. You are going to look to trigger constellation every turn and this will provide a way to turn that into victory. I took 3 over the first 4 packs, taking time out to pick up a Brain Maggot. Players still don’t seem to rate this card highly enough. They get the card back if they kill it but then they have used a removal spell on a 1/1, plus you get all that lovely information on turn 2 and hopefully ruined their curve. Just this weekend I watched it get played in the semifinals of a PTQ. It revealed a dubious keep from the opponent with no mana source for his second colour. The hand would have stalled for a while behind a Oakheart Dryads… except Brain Maggot took it away to ensure an easy victory.

If you want to draft constellation you should highly prioritize cards that have the word constellation on them in Pack 1 (you ain’t getting them any anywhere else!). There are some guidelines you should follow though.

There are a whole bunch of expensive constellation creatures. In draft I don’t even like Thoughtrender Lamia but you could pick one up very late in the pack as no one else wants it either. Honestly I haven’t played with this card or against it but generally discard effects aren’t very effective at 6 mana, even if you can trigger it once a turn. It could be a sideboard card against another slow deck.

I like to have a copy of Dreadbringer Lampads as it’s another way to provide damage while you stall out with Grim Guardians. However these will come to you very late as most decks want 0 or 1 and it’s a common, so you don’t need to take it over a Grim Guardian or a decent removal spell. You really don’t need an Agent of Erebos.

My attempt at constellation was black-based as I can’t imagine not having Grim Guardian. However you can end up going a number of directions with your second color. Whitewater Naiads is the rich man’s version of Dreadbringer Lampads, but you are very unlikely to be passed one. You could go super deep with Thassa’s Devourer, but if you are already pinging them to death with Grim Guardians then why also try to mill? Although as an aside, I had one of these at the prerelease and I was running a different filler 5-drop. When discussing my build with another player, they said something very important,“don’t underestimate the power of mill.” We weren’t talking about mill’s potential as a win condition here, but rather the potential to tilt your opponent when you mill their best card, one of the pieces of removal they need, or their fifth mana source. A good player will not see this milling as a threat and know they have plenty of other lands or answers to draw into, but others will start happily tilting and can hand you a game for free.

Personally I like to run green with my black. Oakheart Dryads makes for a fine early beater who plays well with Dreadbringer Lampads later on. Also if you can get a Nyx Weaver (which are currently going insanely late in drafts!) then you can consider the Strength from the Fallen strategy. Strength from the Fallen will go late as it is very specific: you need to be constellation and have a graveyard subtheme to make it playable.

Being aware of what constellation cards others will want and which they won’t is an important consideration when making your picks.

I don’t really like red or white with constellation, as their constellation cards aren’t as interesting. However, I can support white with a Coinsmith, 2 or 3 Grim Guardians and a Scholar of Athreos—who says you need to attack to win?

In packs 2 and 3 you have no constellation cards to pick up, but that doesn’t mean you go back to the best card for your colors. Enchantment cards go up in value significantly. Of particular value in pack 2 is the inspired cycle of creatures that can untap and make an enchantment creature for a cost. Forlorn Pseudamma is suddenly incredibly playable. It has evasion, so you can get in for damage against most of the field, and then you get to trigger constellation every turn. If you are in green/black then you may see Forlorn Pseudamma and Pheres-Band Raiders going late, but you can’t afford to risk them not wheeling—you have to take them on sight because they are such excellent enablers for the strategy.

You can go three-color in a constellation deck as conveniently much of the fixing is enchantment based. Market Festival, Nylea’s Presence, and Karametra’s Favor It can put a bit of a strain on your picks, though, if you need to take constellation and fixing in pack 1—so focus on the constellation elements and pick up any fixing as a freeroll in an otherwise weak or empty pack for you.

You can pick up extra value during drafting from your heavy enchantment strategy. Cards like Reviving Melody or Dawn to Dusk will definitely be 2-for-1s, and no other deck wants them because they’re not efficient enough as a 1-for-1. Also the Nyx Aura cycle is amazing. I especially like Nyx Infusion as Grim Guardians wear it well, and -2/-2 for 3 has always been on the edge of efficiency for black aura-based removal.

I tried this strategy last Friday and this is what I ended up with:

I had 5 constellation creatures: 3 Grim Guardians, 1 Dreadbringer Lampads and 1 Oakheart Dryads.

12 other enchantments (or sources of enchantments) and then 4 pieces of non-enchantment removal, Reviving Melody for some excellent value and a Scourge of Skola Vale which seems like an excellent use for a dying Grim Guardian. The Hydra was fantastic in this deck as many of my creatures have big butts.

The point of the exercise was to ask if I could force the deck. The deck worked, but on reflection I think you want an additional incentive to really go into it. I’m talking here about having one of the rare constellation cards, specifically Eidolon of Blossoms or Doomwake Giant. My deck worked fine but it didn’t have one of these powerhouses to make it really tick. Personally I don’t think I’ll draft it again unless I open or am passed one of these goodies.

I did discover a serious flaw in the constellation deck: there are a couple of cards that completely ruin you. I played against a deck with Leonin Iconoclast and, er, it destroyed me. You can’t just keep making 1/4s if they keep dying while your opponent grows a monster! It was very unfun as it got drawn both games and unless you have a removal spell ready you are pretty much screwed (assuming they have some enablers in hand). Consign to Dust is also very painful, but at least it costs a lot to get multiple things and only happens once… unless they return it with Mnemonic Wall (I may have done this against a constellation deck; they may have been sad).

Because constellation decks exist you should considering picking up theses pieces of hate when you can. They have general use against other decks too, but against constellation, they crush.

Constellation was definitely a fun deck to draft and play and I hope I get an Eidolon of Blossoms soon. If you don’t have one of the two rare bombs then you absolutely need to pick Grim Guardian above anything else if you want to go deep on this strategy. I enjoyed the game when I got all three out!

Have you drafted constellation? Do you do it differently? Feel free to share you strategies and success stories in the comments below or tweet them @onionpixie and I will see you same time next week.

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