Journey into Nyx is a great set. Ever since the first few cards were spoiled, people already started to identify cards that would be great in the existing decks and cards that would spawn entirely new archetypes. In the midst of all those very exciting things, one card has gone largely unnoticed, though it is a quite powerful effect that most colors haven’t seen in a very long time. That card is Hall of Triumph.
We’ve had cards like Hall of Triumph before, most recently in white. Glorious Anthem, Crusade, Honor of the Pure, Spear of Heliod, those have all seen play and Spear of Heliod still does and is still great. Hall of Triumph pales in comparison to those, because it costs three mana, it’s legendary, and it doesn’t do anything else. For white decks, the only way you’d want Hall of Triumph is if you want more Glorious Anthems than you already have. In that way, Hall of Triumph doesn’t seem very exciting.
It is, however, very exciting, because the other colors don’t have anything like that. Black had Bad Moon before—that card was quite good back when it was legal in 1850. Green had Gaea’s Anthem, but that was never spectacular. Red has to go all the way back to Unlimited to find something similar in Gauntlet of Might. And blue has, as far as I know, never had something that does what Hall of Triumph does for less than five mana. Ok, I’m lying—it had Grand Architect—but that was a creature (so much more easily killed) and, more importantly, when Grand Architect existed blue didn’t even have any playable creatures. Blue getting a Glorious Anthem is the equivalent of white getting a Counterspell, of black getting a Rampant Growth—it is not supposed to happen, it’s not what the color does, but it did just happen, and it happened at a time where the color can make the most use of it—which is why it’s surprising to me that I have not seen anyone trying to exploit that.
Another thing going on for Hall of Triumph, other than being unique, is that Standard is, perhaps, the best it’s ever been for this kind of effect. The format, right now, is mostly geared toward permanents—a factor of devotion existing and of spells, as a whole, not being great. Most of those permanents are creatures. Rather than trying to stop you from playing creatures, your opponent will play his own creatures. You will both get all your things in play and then whoever does better with that will win. This is exactly the kind of format where a card like Hall of Triumph shines. There are also multiple good 1-drops in every color, which makes the “dream” start of: turn 1 guy, turn 2 guy + guy, turn 3 Anthem possible in any deck you’d like to play it in.
This is also the format that has Jace, Architect of Thought and Supreme Verdict—a combination that is usually devastating against aggro decks but that Hall of Triumph helps combat spectacularly by making sure you can still threaten Jace (or their life total) without exposing all your creatures to Wrath. Supreme Verdict is still going to be good in a deck that wants to play a bunch of creatures, of course, but when I play Esper the card that annoys me the most out of white decks is Spear of Heliod and the prospect of every color getting one is frightening.
Most Hall of Triumph decks are, by definition, going to be heavily creature-based and dense on their main color. They also need to have the ability to operate without a Hall of Triumph. The card is legendary and you cannot play four, so you can’t guarantee that you will draw it. You have to make sure you can win even when you don’t. In particular, I’d like to exploit decks that contain a bunch of small, cheap creatures—token makers preferably—because it’s much better to have two 1/1s than a 2/2 when you are playing an Anthem.
Here’s how I think you should build the aggro decks in each color:
As you might have noticed from my introduction, blue is the color I’m most excited to pair Hall of Triumph with. I think it’s a great fit in Standard for two reasons: first, the blue decks in Standard want to play many permanents. Their good cards are devotion-based, which means they are already operating under the premise that they will have a lot of creatures and those creatures will remain in play—the ideal scenario for Hall of Triumph. Most of those creatures are cheap and many are fliers, which is again the perfect scenario for the Anthem. Second, it has Master of Waves. Master of Waves and Hall are a “nombo” in the sense that it doesn’t help with devotion in any way, but they are an amazing combo because it means you no longer need Master of Waves to survive. We tend to think that, if Master dies, then the tokens will die. This is usually the case, but it will not be the case if you have Hall of Triumph in play—the tokens aren’t actually tied to the Master, they just have 0 toughness.
Once you can keep the tokens in play, then Master becomes much more powerful than it already is. A curve of turn one Judge’s Familiar into turn two Tidebinder Mage, turn three Nightveil Specter, turn four Master will give you seven tokens, and a total of 21 power if Master survives. A curve of Judge’s Familiar into Tidebinder Mage into Hall of Triumph into Master will give you only four tokens, but that’s 20 power worth of creatures anyway. If they manage to kill Master, though, then the first scenario only leaves you with 5 power in play. The second scenario, however, leaves you with 13 power in play—a much more significant number. And it’s only getting better, as it improves every creature you subsequently play.
I think Hall of Triumph is a perfect fit for the Mono-Blue deck that already exists. This is how I’d build it:
Mono-Blue Devotion also gets another upgrade: Hypnotic Siren. Triton Shorestalker is also a possibility in place of Judge’s Familiar. I actually don’t know which configuration of one-drops is better. I’m pretty sure you want some Sirens, but not four. I’m inclined to think that Judge’s Familiar is better than Shorestalker. Judge’s Familiar is one of those cards where you never know how good it is, but your opponent sure does because he can’t cast a spell (and of course since he’s not actually going to run the spell into your Judge’s Familiar you never get to see how much it’s impacting the game), but it’s possible that flying is just not what it used to be and the Triton is better. Dakra Mystic is also a possibility and, though a good card overall, I don’t think it’s what this deck really wants.
We have a black devotion deck in Standard, but it certainly doesn’t want an Anthem effect. Mono-Black Aggro, however, certainly does want it. The deck has plenty of small, cheap creatures, and not much else going for it—a Bad Moon is definitely the kind of card that it wants.
I think there are two approaches you can take: Humans, or not. Xathrid Necromancer is a great combo with Hall of Triumph and a good card overall, so I think it should be included in the deck; It is not, however, necessary, and you can easily build a version that has Lifebane Zombie instead. This is what I’d play:
Another option is to just make the deck faster, and remove the Necromancers for Spiteful Returned or perhaps a Lifebane Zombie or two; I’d certainly try both versions.
This deck got insane improvements from Journey into Nyx, and they all fit quite well with Hall of Triumph. 1-drop into two 1-drops is already great, but with Hall of Triumph it becomes just obnoxious—your opponent can’t even block with Sylvan Caryatid! Hall of Triumph also works extremely well with Brain Maggot, because it turns the body into something that actually deals damage and the Maggot, in turn, makes sure the coast is clear for you to overextend, which is what you want to do when you have Hall. This deck is fast, it has disruption, it can play more removal if it wants, and it has the ability to win the late game with its bestow cards. I’d be surprised if Mono-Black Aggro wasn’t a tier 1 deck in the next Standard format and I’d also be surprised if it didn’t want Hall of Triumph.
White decks already play Spear of Heliod, and I think it’s likely they might want one or two Hall of Triumphs. Though Spear is a much better card (and pumps your non-white creatures too, mainly Mutavault), I could see splitting them up a bit if you want more of that effect—two Spears and one Hall, for example, is very likely better than 3 Spears, because being able to play a second one is huge. However, rather than just replacing Spears with Halls in a normal white deck, I feel like we could maybe try to build a deck around the fact that you now have more Glorious Anthems. This is what I would try:
The idea here is to get a bunch of tokens into play with Brimaz, Precinct Captain and Launch the Fleet, and then use your many Anthem effects to make those tokens big. Launch the Fleet is somewhat of a win-more card, but if you are making 3/3s instead of 1/1s then it’s suddenly a game-winner, and there’s nothing wrong with just paying one or two mana to make one or two tokens if you don’t have anything else going on. Another possible approach would be to have Vanguard of Brimaz, though then you’d need some more heroic enablers which is awkward because you already want to play so many Anthems and because of that you need a lot of creatures.
I see two ways to build Red Hall of Triumph decks; one is simply to play a good red deck and add Hall of Triumph to it, because it’s definitely going to have a lot of creatures. Burning-Tree Emissary in particular is super good with Hall of Triumph, because it makes your explosive draws even more explosive. I suggested something similar when I first talked about Prophetic Flamespeaker:
The second approach is to play a deck more dedicated to it, with token-makers so that you benefit even more from the bonus. There are currently two playable red token makers: Akroan Crusader and Young Pyromancer.
The main issue with those two cards is that they require other things to work; Akroan Crusader needs things that target it, and Young Pyromancer needs spells, and I don’t think there’s any Red card that does that while also being a creature – there’s no Launch the Fleet and there’s no Dragon Fodder (there is Molten Birth, but we’re not playing that, it’s too expensive). As such, you need to balance your deck very carefully so that you have creatures and enablers. I think the Akroan Crusader approach is generally better than the Young Pyromancer approach, so I’d try something like this:
This deck doesn’t have many ways to target, but it doesn’t need much to work; if you ever make one token with Akroan Crusader, then it’s already ahead of the curve, and with Dynacharge and Hall you make pretty good use of the random bodies. It’s also capable of some very quick starts, since it has 18 one-drops and four Burning-Tree Emissaries, so the likelihood you’ll have three creatures in play by turn 2 is huge, which makes Dynacharge and Hall pretty powerful. Imagine this sequence:
t1 Rakdos Cackler
t2 Burning-Tree Emissary, Akroan Crusader. Attack for 2.
t3 Hall of Triumph, attack for 8.
t4 Titan’s Strength, attack for 13. Or t4 Dynacharge, attack for 14. Or Titan’s Strength + Dynacharge, attack for 21!
In those sequences, most of the cards are really replaceable—basically any combination of 1-drops does it, and the goldfish for this deck is really close to turn four.
This deck is a little too all-in for me, however. I’d prefer something a little slower that could make use of Prophetic Flamespeaker, which is awesome with pump effects:
I feel like this deck still has a powerful enough early-game—it’s not as fast as the previous deck, but its cards are better. It’s possible removal is good, but I think the enchantments do enough for you, especially with Flamespeaker, that you don’t really need it, and often having a way to target your Arena Athlete is going to be better than Shocking a blocker anyway.
Green is, I feel, the worst color for Hall of Triumph, since it doesn’t have token makers and its good creatures are the big ones, not the small ones. It’s much better to turn 1/1s into 2/2s than it is to turn 3/3s into 4/4s. The green deck is the only one in which Hall of Triumph feels forced—it’s the only one of those five which I am building just to see if I can, without any expectations that it might work, whereas I truly believe the other four have every attribute of a legit deck and I will be trying them out competitively.
That said, might as well try coming up with something. I think the best shell is green aggro, with many 1-drops, since turn three Hall with three creatures in play is still your best bet, and there are a surprising number of good one-drops in green, we just never play them:
As I said, this last build is just an experiment to see what the best Hall of Triumph Green deck could be, but I don’t think it turned out very good and I’m open to any ideas that anyone has.
Well, that’s what I got for today. I hope I’ve managed to convince you that Hall of Triumph is a powerful card and has a place in today’s Standard!
See you next week,