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Spoiler Spotlight – Spear of Heliod

spearofheliod

There are no real Anthem effects available in Standard except for Spear of Heliod. In fact, the few that do exist are either restrictive in what they pump ([card]Phantom General[/card]) or have a triggering mechanism that will never see play ([card]Path of Bravery[/card]). That leaves a hole in the traditional aggro metagame where white swarm decks don’t have the typical army pump they’ve enjoyed in almost every Standard.

Spear of Heliod seeks to fill that hole and does so by stapling another ability onto [card]Glorious Anthem[/card], which was already a playable card. Adding upsides to a former staple simply help its playability in an increasingly competitive format. Let’s take a look at the additional ability on Spear of Heliod.

1{W}{W}, {T}: Destroy target creature that dealt damage to you this turn.

This ability seems rather out of place for an aggro strategy, but it does allow you to win races without wasting precious removal (of which white is in short supply). Later in the game, if midrange wants to try and race, you can absorb one or two large hits in exchange for killing off one of their threats. If the opponent chooses not to engage in a race with you and sticks to the defensive, then you can leverage your removal or any evasion ([card]Brave the Elements[/card] anyone?) against them far more efficiently.

It doesn’t make a major difference against the bulk of strategies, but midrange loses one of its best angle of attack. Surviving the early onslaught and then clobbering you before you can swarm, or stalling before hitting all your small creatures with [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] was a common line. While Bonfire is gone, [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] may serve the same purpose, so forcing them into this role with an active Spear is a nice bonus. Against normal aggro you often won’t want to hold three mana open, but it could come up if decks have a handful of threats that are just better than others.

Combined with the move back to mono-colored aggro or aggressive plans with light splashes there’s a good chance Spear will see play. Let’s take a quick look at a few sample decks you could easily slot Spear into.

[deck]4 Boros Elite
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Imposing Sovereign
3 Daring Skyjek
4 Precinct Captain
4 Banisher Priest
3 Frontline Medic
2 Boros Reckoner
2 Heliod, God of the Sun
4 Brave the Elements
4 Spear of Heliod
19 Plains
3 Mutavault[/deck]

This is a very basic WW build, with resilience between [card]Brave the Elements[/card] and [card]Frontline Medic[/card], along with the ability to take advantage of Heliod for a longer game. While white definitely has some great one- and three-drops, the two slot is sorely lacking after [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card]. [card]Precinct Captain[/card] isn’t bad, and yet it pales in comparison to any of the Selesnya creatures, is worse at token generating than [card]Young Pyromancer[/card], and let’s not get started on creatures like [card]Daring Skyjek[/card] and [card]Fencing Ace[/card]. Maybe [card]Keening Apparition[/card] is the proper play if enough enchantments make an impact…

Let’s see if we can do better.

[deck]4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Dryad Militant
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Fleecemane Lion
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Banisher Priest
4 Loxodon Smiter
1 Advent of the Wurm
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Spear of Helios
4 Temple Garden
3 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Forest
12 Plains[/deck]

This is a deck with a bit more play to it than the former and takes full advantage of [card]Selesnya Charm[/card]. Right now I think the best reason to play GW isn’t [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] or any Theros card, it’s how well positioned [card]Selesnya Charm[/card] is. Not only does it deal with all the God cards, but it provides just enough of a pump to beat the majority of creatures that can’t be exiled. Otherwise you get a big upgrade in the creature base, meaning less reliance on Spear at the cost of worse mana.

Of course, you could do what all Anthem effects strive for in life—see play in a token deck.

[deck]4 Young Pyromancer
4 Precinct Captain
4 Molten Birth
3 Hive Stirrings
4 Goblin Rally
4 Spear of Helios
3 Purphoros, God of the Forge
3 Righteous Charge
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Mizzium Mortars
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Boros Guildgate
4 Mountain
6 Plains
2 Mutavault[/deck]

I already miss [card]Intangible Virtue[/card] and what it lets me do with token decks. Purphoros is a nice consolation prize though, because even without turning him on, both abilities are on full display in this deck. Win a few [card]Molten Birth[/card] flips and suddenly the board and life totals can change in a real hurry. [card]Goblin Rally[/card] plus Purphoros is a big game, and the rest of the token generators all gain from having access to mass pump in the deck. Elspeth gives the deck at least some shot at winning a long game and while [card]Assemble the Legion[/card] may be better suited, I’d have to try it and see.

I eschewed running Hammer of Purphoros, since the token generators cost more than previous versions of the archetype, so sacrificing lands is no longer an easy choice. I could still see bringing it in against control since you can try to overwhelm their counter defenses, and giving all your tokens haste can get out of hand quickly when combined with pump. It certainly makes a major difference against planeswalkers. Speaking of which, [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] is probably the biggest issue for this type of deck, and a major barrier to its viability. The Gods may be enough to make a difference, but I suspect this is a deck that’ll have more game once more sets are released.

Spear of Heliod fills the role of [card]Glorious Anthem[/card] and its second ability may make it the best of its kind. Considering the power down going on throughout Standard, that’ll likely give it some room to play. I think the card has gotten a bum rap for being the least exciting (or confusing) of the God weapons, and will make a tournament impact at some point.

-Josh Silvestri
Email me at: [email protected]

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