Players piloting this deck: Patrick Chapin (1st)
When starting to test Theros Block Constructed, you build the mono-colored decks first. Red and black are both good. White is fine, but not quite good enough. Blue just does not work as there are no reasonable cards to enable devotion for Thassa and Master of Waves. Once you get to green, you can hardly look past Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix. While these are perfectly fine in a mono-colored deck, they open the door to adding additional colors. Our first build was green/black. Hero’s Downfall and Thoughtseize are obvious. But it was Silence the Believers that quickly proved to be an all-star in the format. First of all, it shuts down any deck based on bestow/heroic, and in the mid-to-late game the option to take out two or three creatures just ends games. Especially other midrange decks with cards like Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon have a huge problem with it.
Now you have the base for a solid deck, somewhere in between midrange and control. The only problem is that green and black lack good finishers in this format. We expect the black removal suite to be very popular at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. That means trying to kill people with Polukranos or Arbor Colossus is problematic. Plus, in a controlling/midrange deck having a planeswalker is always great. One possibility is to add red. Xenagos and Stormbreath Dragon are both excellent. But that’s it. Sure, you also get Lightning Strike and/or Magma Jet plus a great anti-aggro card with Anger of the Gods, but hey, we are already playing black. Bile Blight is a bit tougher to cast then the red removal, but it is a lot more powerful. Drown in Sorrow fills the same niche as Anger of the God, but your Sylvan Caryatid survives, which is pretty big.
The high-impact red cards also cost four and five mana. Or even seven if you want to go all the way up to Revel of the Fallen God. But running these cards means you probably want more than just the Caryatids for acceleration. Voyaging Satyr and Golden Hind are good, but they also both die to your own mass removal, be it Drown in Sorrow or Anger of the Gods. If the MTGO Daily Event metagame is somewhat representative, you want one of these in the main deck, and sideboard up to four copies. That makes these mana creatures considerably worse.
Pairing the green/black shell with white pushes you toward much less of a ramp deck. First of all you get access to the single best card in the format—Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. There’s just nothing else on the same powerlevel. Some decks are simply unplayable as they cannot get past it at all. It also closes out games within a few turns while being able to either shut down or just outright kill opposing problematic creatures. Obviously ramping into Elspeth is great, but applying pressure and casting Elspeth when your opponent is already busy dealing with other creatures is at least as good. White offers two outstanding creatures: Fleecemane Lion and Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Brimaz especially needs to be answered immediately, and offers a very fast clock by itself, while conveniently having enough toughness to survive all of the red removal and Bile Blight.
Fleecemane Lion is not quite as good, but offers something unique with his monstrosity-ability. 4/4, hexproof and indestructible means not much stops him. The bad news is that Elspeth tokens do put an end to the Lion’s offensive abilities, which is the biggest problem of straight-green/white decks in the format. But with Hero’s Downfall, Thoughtseize, and your own Elspeth, it’s not difficult to win the Elspeth-war.
White also offers better sideboarding options. Where red is limited to more creature removal, white gives you access to Deicide, which is an excellent card against green graveyard-decks based around Strength from the Fallen. Those decks have a huge problem with Elspeth tokens just chump-blocking their buffed guys, and their way around that is to give their team trample with Nylea, God of the Hunt. Removing all of those from the opposing deck means they will have a really hard time winning through Elspeth’s Soldier army. Sam Black even went as far as having Humbler of Mortals in the sideboard of his mono-green deck, just to have a back-up way to get trample.
A couple copies of Banishing Light between the main deck and sideboard also don’t hurt. People are bringing enchantment removal to the table in this format, but having a solution to any permanent your opponent might throw at you outweighs that drawback. The black removal spells are straight-up better though.
Glare of Heresy is naturally a pure sideboard card but it helps in different matchups. It deals with both Elspeth and Brimaz and is great against the white/blue heroic deck. Overall GBW offers you a great package of cheap, powerful, and resilient creatures, the best planeswalker, and the best removal package while having a reasonable mana base:
Four copies of Mana Confluence is unfortunately not avoidable as the deck has double-black, white, and green spells you want to cast on turn 3. But with those you have 16 sources of green mana and with Caryatid 19 for each white and black. Add to that Courser of Kruphix and 12 scry lands, and the mana base is far better then any non-green, two-color deck in this format.
Technically Elspeth doesn’t fall under this category, but practically she does. In a world in which most people have 12 lands that come into play tapped in their decks, being able to start with Fleecemane Lion into Brimaz will get you some free wins without much opposition. If it turns out not to be all that easy, Polukranos and Elspeth have to step in and assist. If even that isn’t enough, you’ll have to get rid of said oppostion with the following:
Thoughtseize is great combined with pressure and the slow speed of the format. Outside of the black, red, and white aggressive decks, hardly anyone has a turn-1 play at all. Often grabbing a Caryatid out of your opponent’s hand slows him down considerably. Otherwise, removing answers for Brimaz and Elspeth is the common way to go. I don’t think much needs to be said for Hero’s Downfall, but I cannot stress enough how good Silence the Believers is in this format. It’s mind-blowing to me that midrange black decks on Magic Online have only one or two copies of this card. It’s insane against the aggro decks as they all make heavy use of bestow, and against other slow decks the strive kicks in. I was tempted to buy a lot of these on MTGO but backed out in the end. It probably won’t translate all that well into Standard as it’s not great in a world with Supreme Verdict or similar mass removal. But in this Block Constructed environment it’s just awesome.
The one copy of Banishing Light is just the 9th removal spell. You’d rather have a 5th Downfall or Silence, but it clears blockers or Elspeth nearly as well.
I already mentioned what the Glares and the Deicides are for. Drown in Sorrow, Feast of Dreams and Bile Blight come in against the various aggressive decks. I would run a 3rd Drown over the singleton Bile Blight, but this is the team list. Having mass removal against the fast decks that all your creatures survive is just so good that I’d want a third copy.
The one problem this deck has is tough-to-kill fliers. And Prognostic Sphinx fits that description unfortunately all too well. If that card is super common, this deck could be in trouble. Otherwise it should be in a great position!