Owen’s a Win – Brewing With Ephara

This week I’m going to try my hand at brewing with [ccProd]Ephara, God of the Polis[/ccProd]. When I first saw this card I got pretty excited—if you can meet her requirements she’s a 6/5 indestructible creature, and her passive ability incentivizes you to put more creatures into play and helps bridge the gap until you’re there. Historically, cards like this have always been great—powerful when you do a certain thing, and help you along the way to getting there. Here is what I came up with:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Daring Skyjek
4 Precinct Captain
4 Deputy of Acquittals
4 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Lyev Skyknight
4 Detention Sphere
3 Ephara, God of Polis
1 Rapid Hybridization
1 Cyclonic Rift
2 Domestication
4 Mutavault
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Azorious Guildgate
8 Plains
4 Island
4 Gainsay
4 Last Breath
2 Supreme Verdict
2 Domestication
2 Revoke Existence
1 Pithing Needle[/deck]

The most obvious shell for Ephara is white aggro. [card]Precinct Captain[/card] was tailor-made for this card—not only does it give you 2 devotion for two mana (a great deal), it also puts creatures to trigger her card drawing ability. It’s nice that if you have no cards in hand and you aren’t doing anything exciting that if you can get Precinct Captain through it’s going to give you a 1/1 and a card, turning him into a pseudo-[card]Thieving Magpie[/card].

[draft]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/draft]

Next I went for [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card]. It’s already well known that this card is incredible—it survives [card]Bile Blight[/card] and a ton of other removal spells in Standard. Not only does including this card in this deck make perfect sense because it’s totally awesome, but it also enables devotion as well as any other card and produces tokens!

If you attack with Brimaz and control Ephara, then you’ll be drawing a card on your opponent’s next turn, and if you block with Brimaz you’ll draw a card off Ephara as well. Since Ephara triggers on every upkeep, if you put creatures into play on your turn or your opponent’s turn you’re going to draw a card separately for each. You never draw a card for putting multiple creatures into play on the same turn, but you are rewarded for spacing out when the creatures come into play, and fills this role ideally. That by itself is some sick synergy and a reason to explore a deck like this.

[draft]Deputy of Acquittals[/draft]

This is the main reason I decided to try [card]Deputy of Acquittals[/card], which hasn’t seen any Constructed play until now. I like that, worst-case, you can jam it out there as a two-drop creature and get your beatdown on. I also like that he provides a good amount of devotion for such a cheap creature. Lastly, flash provides excellent synergy with Ephara. I play a [card]Daring Skyjek[/card] and draw a card, at the end of your turn I play a Deputy of Acquittals and return the Skyjek drawing a card. I get to untap and play the Skyjek again and draw a third card. It gets out of hand pretty quickly, but it’s just a small synergy you can put into an already existing strategy. I imagine the Deputy of Acquittals will catch many people by surprise when they time their [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] poorly and you’re able to save a creature from dying at instant speed. You can even rebuy [card]Lyev Skyknight[/card] and get in some extra detains if that’s called for.

[draft]Lyev Skyknight[/draft]

[card]Lyev Skyknight[/card] has proven himself a solid addition to a white aggressive deck that can support his tricky color requirements, as proven by the Esper Humans deck that took Standard by storm not too long ago. I included him in this deck for a couple reasons—he’s a cheap aggressive white creature and overall solid card, he prevents creatures from blocking to allow Brimaz and Precinct Captain to do their things, and is an excellent devotion enabler.

I chose not to play with [card]Brave the Elements[/card] because I’ve been extremely disappointed with it lately. It looks really impressive when it wins the game, and otherwise is totally useless. White decks that try to win the game with small creatures absolutely need to have a good opening, moreso than other decks. Having a card like Brave the Elements which rots in your opening hand and only wins the game against some devotion strategies when you’ve already had a good start is a lot to ask for. I also chose not to play with [card]Boros Elite[/card] in this list, because I’m shying away from the hyper-aggro starts and hoping for a more consistent approach that wins with good high-power cards backed up with [card]Detention Sphere[/card]s.

[draft]Detention Sphere[/draft]

[card]Detention Sphere[/card] is a ridiculously good Magic card. It just is. Its cost and ability are not within the typical power-level curve of Magic, in my opinion. It isn’t broken are super overpowered and you never hear people complain about it’s power level but it’s just a really strong card with a cheap cost. When I play against Esper Humans in standard with my mono black devotion list I usually side out all my [card]Pack Rat[/card]s because they’re just so embarrassing against Detention Sphere. Plus it makes you play the game in an awkward fashion where you never get to play out that 2nd [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] or [card]Desecration Demon[/card] that would normally lock up the game because the fear of getting two for one’d is too strong. That fear is reasonable too. I believe the single reason more decks in standard don’t play Detention Sphere is the lack of a UW scry land and those days are over. I expect more decks, especially midrange and aggro to be playing Detention Sphere from now on.

[draft]Ephara, God of the Polis[/draft]

[ccProd]Ephara[/ccProd] is such a good card, I feel you could just plug it into the already existing Mono-Blue Devotion and play Detention Sphere alongside it. With the new scry land and [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card], that’s plenty of sources for just a few splash cards. [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] goes a long way toward that devotion 7, and it’s worth the trouble.

[draft]Soldier of the Pantheon[/draft]

You can’t target [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card] with the [card]Deputy of Acquittals[/card] and that is annoying, but the good certainly outweighs the bad in this circumstance. Since its printing, Soldier of the Pantheon has been in all sorts of tier 1 decks. Paul Rietzl used Soldier of the Pantheon and Precinct Captain in a black-based midrange deck to make Top 8, and for as long as I can remember he’s been the best 1-drop for white weenie aggro decks. On top of that you’ll often see him in the sideboard of blue control decks. Soldier of the Pantheon is just an amazing card and doesn’t get the respect he deserves. I like that he broadens this deck’s curve and gives it more fast starts.

I’ll admit that this sideboard is a little thrown together, but it wouldn’t shock me if the optimal sideboard for a deck like this isn’t similar. [card]Gainsay[/card] is one of the best possible sideboard cards you can play, it may even be the single most played sideboard card in Standard given the amount of Blue Devotion and Azorius control decks in the format. Standard is going to be very hard for you if you’re playing a blue deck without Gainsay in the sideboard and you keep getting paired against blue decks that do have Gainsay. Your deck may be better against the field overall, but as long as it’s a popular card that other people choose to play, you’re stuck playing it too, or losing a lot.

[draft]Last Breath[/draft]

[card]Last Breath[/card] is another card that gets better and better reviews the more people play with it. Straight-up exiling [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], [card]Master of Waves[/card], and [card]Mutavault[/card]—the single most played creature in Standard—for two mana is too good to pass up. When I played a white weenie deck with [card]Brave the Elements[/card] and [card]Boros Charm[/card], I had a couple Last Breaths in my deck still, the drawback of giving them 4 life was well worth having an answer to one of the problem creatures that the deck would face. I imagine this deck cares less about the life than other white aggro decks do, so in that sense Last Breath is a free-roll.

To be honest I don’t like [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] here, I’ve never liked it in decks that are primarily composed of creatures. I have learned to just admit that I’m likely wrong about how I choose to build decks that have a bunch of creatures and wraths, and the Esper Humans deck I spoke about recently has run a couple main deck to great success—so I figured why not give it a try? I’m sure they will be total backbreakers against Blue Devotion or red/green monsters, and totally unexpected, so maybe for those reasons alone they warrant inclusion in the deck.

I think I’ve only just scratched the surface of what Ephara can do, and as Standard evolves I fully expect her to be a player. She seems like a perfect fit for a deck with [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card], or in a deck like the one I have described above. All the Gods, except poor Heliod, have seen Standard play and proven themselves to be total bombs in the late game. With the way we construct our various devotion decks, and how they play against each other on an even board, any God basically wins the game all by itself. We still play them in small numbers (except Thassa) because they’re weak when the creatures that activate them die to removal, and because it’s hard to turn them on in the early game. We still play them, despite all that, because they’re just so undercosted and they have such unique effects.

I feel Ephara is the best of the four new Gods printed in no small part because it’s the cheapest of them all. Thassa is by far the best of the old Gods as well and it’s the cheapest—this is no coincidence. Just like planeswalkers the Gods are all playable in their own way but the cheaper they are the stronger they become. Now I don’t expect Ephara to be as good as Thassa, Thassa is totally ridiculous and has built a deck basically all on its own, but there is no reason why we can’t start putting Ephara in blue/white decks and attacking for 6 with it out of nowhere.

As always I appreciate hearing feedback about my articles and the decks I post. Thought of a great card that would fit in this deck, want to see me brew with some of the other Gods? Feel free to let me know.

Owen Turtenwald
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