I spent spoiler season on the lookout for new additions to my deck of choice, UW Heroic. I did not have to wait long – Valorous Stance looks to be an easy inclusion to the archetype.
Cards with several modes can be difficult for players to evaluate. Previously, LSV set down some good principles for evaluating these sort of cards that I now subscribe to:
- Does the card have a single mode that would be good enough on its own? This is not common as these cards are designed to have multiple modes but sometimes this will be the case (e.g.: Boros Charm in Boros Burn decks last year);
- Does the card have abilities that complement each other? Because these cards typically ask you to slightly overpay for each effect, you want the modes to be as varied as possible so that the card will always have at least one use.
After considering some hypothetical scenarios and reflecting on how games with UW Heroic play out, Valorous Stance seems like a clear winner. There is not an archetype currently in Standard that does not play either removal (where the protection ability is good) or large creatures (where the removal ability will be strong), so the card will always perform.
Target creature gains indestructible.
It is no secret that UW Heroic players love the games where you try to kill our hero, we protect can him and he grows out of control. We love it so much that we are willing to play cards that are substantially worse than Gods Willing (everything that is not Gods Willing) to achieve this.
Making a creature indestructible, rather than giving it protection, has some benefits and some relevant drawbacks. On the upside, indestructible is much better against colorless creatures (like morphs and lands animated by Nissa) and gives your board state some resilience against wraths—and a new wrath will be entering the format soon. Having multiple maindeck outs to a wrath, the single play control decks rely on to steal games against UW Heroic, is very appealing.
On the other hand, protection lets you blank life gain and exile effects (like Abzan Charm and Glare of Heresy). These are very relevant considerations when playing UW Heroic, so if not for the second mode of Valorous Stance being so well positioned currently, I do not think overpaying for an effect weaker than either Ajani’s Presence or Feat of Resistance would be justifiable.
Destroy target creature with toughness 4 or greater.
Put simply, creatures with 4 toughness are exactly the kind of creatures you really want to kill. Notable examples include Siege Rhino, Polukranos, and the heroes in other UW Heroic decks. In a pinch you can force a Pearl Lake Ancient to unexpectedly need to bounce, which will often be a game-winning swing in tempo.
Prior to Fate Reforged, UW Heroic could have a rough time against other beatdown decks when they could apply pressure—UW Heroic does not play defense well! Openings such as Heir of the Wilds into Fanatic of Xenagos or Fleecemane Lion into Anafenza were often insurmountable. Now you can just pay two mana to immediately catch up, even on the draw, often buying you several more turns in which to get ahead in the race.
You can get a big advantage against Whip decks by killing their attacking creature on the turn they play their Whip (not just in preventing the life gain, but also in substantially devaluing their turn).
Updating UW Heroic for Fate Reforged
The value added by Valorous Stance cannot easily be overstated—many have commented on how tempo-centric the current format is. Many matchups swing between favorable and unfavorable depending on who is on the play. Having a cheap, interactive spell that reduces the relevance of winning the die roll and plays well whether you are ahead (protect your guy) or behind (kill theirs) is a huge boon to the archetype.
I will play something that looks like this on the first weekend of the new format:
UW Heroic by James Fazzolari
I really like the feel of this deck, and how much better positioned it is against the current metagame than previous iterations were. The format has become much more aggressive, with Abzan Aggro and RG Beatdown becoming premier decks in the format. To adapt, our tutor package has become less value oriented and more efficient to enable easier racing (no Stratus Walk, more Aqueous Form) and there is more life gain. Valorous Stance plays well in that sort of environment, protecting your racing hero or removing their biggest threat.
The sideboard is aimed at tackling an expected metagame of the previously mentioned aggressive decks, with options also for control and Whip decks. If you are expecting a more narrow metagame, you can look at including additional life gain (either the fourth Seeker of the Way or Ordeal of Heliod) while if you are expecting more Whip or control decks do not forget that Negate is in the format.
Good luck to everyone battling away for those precious Pro Tour invites!