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Playing with Fire – Journey into Nyx Review

I hope that everyone enjoyed the spoiler season and prerelease events. Journey into Nyx is now live, so this week in Playing with Fire we’re going to delve into an assessment of the red cards from the spoiler and consider where they may see play. At the end of this article I will discuss some other cards from the spoiler that will impact Boros Burn (both good and bad), which, having now seen the entirety of the spoiler, I believe will still well positioned moving forward (so look forward to seeing me light people up on video soon).

Before we begin, I want to give a “best artwork” mention to Bearer of the Heavens—the card is unplayable but it sure does look incredible. Let us begin with the set’s new block mechanic, strive.

Strive Cards

Strive has already really impressed me with its design. I love that it scales well as games go long, that the spells are costed aggressively enough to see play. That they can be used to trigger your own heroic creatures is a nice feature. I would not be surprised if all of the following cards saw some play in Standard during their cycle:

Blinding Flare: This card seems completely fantastic for an aggressive, heroic-based red aggressive strategy, which is already an existing archetype in Block Constructed. The ability to Falter opposing creatures for only a single red mana each is already good enough to see play (since every creature that you allow to attack will be worth two or more damage), but Blinding Flare is better than that—you can target your own heroic creatures as circumstances dictate (or have both effects at the same time) which is obviously extremely powerful. This spell alone may be enough to push the red heroic archetype into competitiveness. This is my pick for breakout red card from the set.

Harness by Force: Red-based aggressive strategies love a good Threaten effect, and a strictly better Act of Treason is very welcome. Effects like this are already playable if the format supports it—there need to be decks playing large single creatures as blockers—which there definitely are right now. That the spell can be kicked once (I cannot imagine a board state where an opponent has three creatures for you to steal, you have the mana to do so, and you’re not already dead) is a substantial bonus—games can and will go long and anything that increases late game topdeck power is very welcome in an aggressive strategy. This card is fine on curve and great late so it is certain to see some play.

Twinflame: This is also a powerful effect, but after giving it some thought, may be weaker than Harness by Force (though it is a better heroic enabler, so there is that to consider as well). Putting 2 power haste into play for a single turn is not worth two mana (it would be barely worth one mana) so you would want the effect in a deck with much bigger bodies or powerful triggers to take advantage of. Fanatic of Mogis anybody? Twinflame is worth considering in the right deck—and might even be a spell that performs better in play than in theory—but seems a little underpowered for Constructed.

With these new spoils, I am very excited to see what sort of red heroic synergy deck can be built—we will probably get our first glimpse at the upcoming Block Constructed Pro Tour. Arena Athlete already saw some play and Dragon Mantle, Everflame Eidolon, and even Akroan Conscriptors are all worth consideration. Let us now turn our attention to the other interesting cards from the spoiler:

Dictate of the Twin Gods

There has been some excitement over this card and I cannot fathom why. At five mana, even with flash, this effect is very underwhelming. How much value are you expecting to gain from it, and against which decks? To come out ahead on the transaction you would need to be storing burn in hand before unleashing on your opponent; but as an experienced Burn Mage, I am well aware that hitting five mana at the right time is far from given and that even then, you can be awkwardly constrained on mana and unable to empty your hand quickly enough. It might be a viable card to help battle against Mono Black Devotion (I think it is too slow to sideboard against any aggressive deck, and too awkward against counterspells – they will assuredly have counters waiting if your storing spells in hand to get value from the Dictate) but we already have Assemble the Legion which wins by itself if you are in Boros colors, and if you are in Mono Red it is extremely unlikely that your deck will have the necessary spell density to want this effect.

Eidolon of the Great Revel

It is really hard to evaluate this card in a vacuum, but after talking to a lot of strong players I test with, we more or less came to the conclusion that there simply isn’t a home for Eidolon of the Great Revel, in any format. In Standard, it forces you into an extremely creature-dense strategy if you are to maindeck it, but those are not doing very well right now and will probably do even worse once the green-based aggressive strategies have their mana issues fixed with Mana Confluence. More or less you can expect to get a single trigger from the Eidolon when facing control—when they used a spell to kill it. That isn’t the worst. It compares favorably to a 2-power haste creature in that instance, so the card is worth testing, but that is a pretty low power ceiling. Eidolon of the Great Revel is substantially more powerful in Eternal formats, but there aren’t competitive decks that can make RR on turn two there. So while the Eidolon is good enough for those formats, he doesn’t have a home (yet!).

Knowledge and Power

Moving away from cards that fit into aggressive strategies for a moment, we come to the most interesting “build around” card from the set. Every block seems to have one of these now. Recent standouts included Burning Vengeance and Furnace Celebration. Interestingly, Knowledge and Power asks little more than for you to play cards that you would already want to play in a more controlling shell: scrylands and other scry effects like Magma Jet and Dissolve. It really is not my area of expertise to pontificate on what such decks may ultimately look like, but I will be certain to take an attempt or two to FNM (so everyone, consider yourselves on notice).

Magma Spray

Shock variants are always at least fringe playable. If the exile clause is relevant in the next format Magma Spray will see play, or perhaps if we do not get Shock in M15. However, not going upstairs is an enormous drawback so times would need to be desperate to see main deck play.

Mogis’s Warhound

Another card that helps to push red heroic as an archetype. As a creature, the Warhound is decidedly unimpressive, but sometimes you just need a body, or sometimes your opponent does not have blockers anyway. At three mana however, the bestow is extremely aggressively costed, functioning as 2 power of haste and insurance against removal. That is a really great deal and I expect to seeing a lot of this card during the next 18 months.

Prophetic Flamespeaker

I don’t know what to make of Prophetic Flamespeaker without thoroughly testing it. It is too hard to tell how good its version of red card draw really is. On one hand, Flamespeaker will help you hit your land drops, so even if the first time he connects you cannot make full use of the exiled cards, you likely will be able to the second time. More importantly, having played as much as I have with Chandra, Pyromaster, the necessity of casting the exiled spells that turn and with the mana available is a much smaller drawback than unfamiliar players may believe—combine this with the cool tricks you can do due to the interaction with double strike and trample and this is a card with an extremely high potential. Look forward to seeing whether or not he performs on video in the near future.

Satyr Hoplite

I suspect that Satyr Hoplite will be the final piece needed for a the red heroic archetype. Red decks already had access to two 2-power 1-drops in Rakdos Cackler and Firedrinker Satyr. Satyr Hoplite completes the triumvirate, allowing for even more aggressive starts. The archetype does not even need too many non-creature ways to trigger the Hoplite either. There are now enough cheap bestow creatures that scale well (Everflame Eidolon and the new Mogis’s Warhound) that will make the Hoplite very threatening.

Spite of Mogis

Spite of Mogis is pretty fantastic. Sure, it is unexciting early, but in the sort of deck that wants the effect (either Burn or some sort of UR deck) the graveyard will inevitably fill with many instants and sorceries and the card eventually becomes a one-mana Terminate with scry 1 attached. UR decks in particular can struggle against x/4 or larger creatures, so the fact that they cannot counter and Spite of Mogis offers a very easy and cheap solution. The card might even be playable in Burn in a small numbers, where it would compete with Mizzium Mortars—though the reliability of Mortars is likely to win out.

Iroas, God of Victory

I was disappointed when Iroas was spoiled. Simply, he is not good and the format would need to change substantially if he is to ever become playable. Boros Devotion decks are not seeing reduced play because they are not able to push damage through blockers, which is really all that Iroas helps with. Constructed is rarely defined by creature combat and with that in mind I cannot think of a recent metagame where an effect like Iroas would have seen play either. Is he really much of an upgrade over Gruul War Chant (which at least had the decency to boost your damage output)? I don’t foresee Iroas leading his troops to many victories.

Keranos, God of Storm

Keranos seems sweet. He is going to either draw you a second card every turn, or Bolt your opponent (or one of their creatures, in which case that is much better than drawing a card) and that sort of advantage is going to add up very quickly. UR decks are not readily going to be able to turn him into a creature often, but the amount of card advantage Keranos generates is sufficient compensation. Perhaps Keranos finds a home in UWR Control or maybe Mono-Blue Devotion now splashes red? Possibly Keranos is exactly what my Knowledge and Power deck needs! Regardless, the power ceiling of this card is quite high so I expect him to see some play, even with the prohibitive cost.

Boros Burn in Journey to Nyx Standard

The spoilers were a mixed bag for Boros Burn. The archetype did not pick up any more playable burn spells. I won’t lie, I was really hoping for a better Shock variant (in the same way that Galvanic Blast or Burst Lightning were better versions of Shock that played on the set’s mechanics).

Banishing Light probably sees play as a replacement for Chained to the Rocks in the main deck, seeing as it hits everything (notably Jace, Architect of Thought) and most of the usual targets were three or more mana anyway. Deicide is a nice sideboard option, though it will take substantial testing before we know whether the higher cost and upside is worth it compared to the alternatives (the answer may change week to week). That is really it insofar as obvious inclusions I am afraid—though as I mentioned, I am quite keen to test Prophetic Flamespeaker.

Every spoiler I get messages asking whether the sky is falling on account of whatever new anti-red card Wizards have dreamed up. This season I have had a bunch of questions about Aegis of the Gods (not an issue, seriously, Burn kills little creatures very easily) and Nyx-Fleece Ram (potentially a problem). The thing is, so long as Burn is not a mainstay of the format, players will not be able to justify sideboarding hate cards for the archetype, so you will know if they are coming. Furthermore, it is unlikely that either card is as difficult to beat as Fiendslayer Paladin and Burn continued to thrive when that card was seeing sideboard play. If all else fails, Glare of Heresy is an excellent option and will even have splash-hate against any new BW decks that pop up.

So what do the readers think? How do you think red aggro fares under Journey into Nyx? What brews do you have? Please feel free to share them in the comments. Until next time.

– Zemanjaski

 

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