Welcome back to Valuable Lessons. The Journey into Nyx preview season has begun, and we’ve already seen a lot of cards that are sure to shake the Standard format to its core. Today, we’ll be focusing on my favorite announced card thus far. Athreos, God of Passage was announced at PAX East. As a three-mana God, Athreos is sure to see widespread constructed play. The card provides creeping longevity against control opponents, a gigantic undercosted body that rewards us for trading in creature mirrors, and it gives us access to a number of soft combos. Let’s talk Athreos!
Let’s start with the obvious. Athreos, God of Passage is absurd with Obzedat, Ghost Council. Having Obzedat on the battlefield means we’ll only need one more devotion to turn on our Athreos. Athreos won’t even be a creature on the opponent’s turn, so we won’t need to worry about things that exile a creature at sorcery speed.
I’ve had a decent amount of success with aggressive white/black decks. These strategies let us be fast enough to overtake the Black Devotion decks, interactive enough to stand toe-to-toe with some of the bigger creature decks, and resilient enough to deal with a lot of the control decks’ draws. I’d like to make an aggressive BW deck that takes maximum advantage of Athreos, God of Passage.
Xathrid Necromancer combos nicely with Athreos. We’ll be getting 2/2 Zombies out of suicide attacks while forcing the opponent to pay 3 life at a clip. Xathrid Necromancer will be one of our very best cards even when we don’t draw Athreos. The card forces Supreme Verdict decks to find Detention Sphere before they can use Supreme Verdict, and it makes life a nightmare for the Black Devotion decks.
Things can get really out of hand when we throw Cartel Aristocrat into the mix. Cartel Aristocrat allows us to sacrifice our team when we have Xathrid Necromancer in play, forcing our opponent to lose a significant chunk of their life total if they don’t want us to drown them in card/board advantage. Cartel Aristocrat is also a pro at carrying Godsend, one of the more exciting cards in Journey into Nyx. The card also plays well against Anger of the Gods, a card whose play could significantly increase with Journey into Nyx.
Spear of Heliod and Ajani, Caller of the Pride were the enhancement spells of choice for a deck like this in the past. Now, we have access to Godsend, which is exactly what the name says. Every one of our threats becomes very serious and, post-board, we can attach it to Hundred-Handed One for some very difficult situations.
Hundred-Handed One is definitely worth exploring. The card seems like it has a lot of strength if the format heads in the direction of Athreos and Iroas.
Our deck needs one-mana creatures, and a lot of them. We want to come out quickly enough that our opponents are playing on their heels. This is a format that rewards us for being ahead.
Soldier of the Pantheon is the best one-drop for a deck like this. It’s a human, it safely attacks through multicolor boards, it passively gains us some life, we can cast a whole bunch of these and not worry about Detention Sphere, and it’s a two-power creature for one mana. Remember that the Black Devotion decks have Bile Blight, it’s easy to get in the habit of jamming these because we feel safe from Detention Sphere.
Boros Elite can be a Wild Nacatl. In a lot of cases it forces the opponent to interact with our board, even when it might be better for them to cast something like Jace, Architect of Thought, one of the better cards against our deck. Try using Mutavault and Orzhov Charm aggressively when given the chance to trigger the battalion on Boros Elite.
Tormented Hero is a Human with 2-power that costs one mana to cast, good enough for me.
A few Mana Confluence might be harsh on our life total at times, but making the mana work for a deck like this while still being able to play a bunch of Mutavaults can be difficult. Two copies of Mana Confluence shouldn’t be excessively painful unless we draw both, but it helps us cast the spells in our deck much more efficiently.
Here’s what the deck looks like when we put it all together.
This deck lets us use Athreos to its maximum potential. The card will often be an undercosted fatty that puts the game out of reach very quickly for the opponent. I’m excited about the opportunity to play with the new BW God alongside some of my favorite Standard cards that haven’t seen play since last Summer.
We could also build a more enchantment-centric version of the Athreos deck:
Underworld Coinsmith helps pad our life total while contributing to our enchantment count so that we can put people out of the game with an unanswerable Sphere of Safety that can race all of our life gain.
Soldier of the Pantheon still does a lot for a small investment. I’d be happy to include four copies here.
Spiteful Returned has been nothing but impressive for me in every deck I’ve tried it. It combos nicely with the overall plan here, and it lets this deck be very aggressive or gives it longevity against Supreme Verdict strategies.
Herald of Torment does a nice job contributing to Athreos’s Devotion count while also being a ridiculously powerful card on its own, especially in a deck like this that takes advantage of the enchantment status here.
Obzedat, Ghost Council will likely be in the majority of Athreos lists, the synergy between the two cards is too strong to ignore.
We can finish off the deck with some copies of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and some spot removal.
Here’s what the enchantment version of the Athreos deck might look like:
This deck seems like it can pick up a lot of free wins in the first game, but none of us are excited about drawing Sphere of Safety against a control opponent.
What if we make an Athreos deck that’s pushing the synergy angle as hard as it possibly can? What would that look like?
This looks like something that could have some serious potential. We have an infinite combo with Boros Reckoner, Vizkopa Guildmage, and Boros Charm. This allows us to gain infinite life by repeatedly targeting an indestructible Boros Reckoner with its own ability after we’ve granted it lifelink with Vizkopa Guildmage.
I feel like this deck could be the beginning of something very real in the new Standard. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we continue to explore the possibilities in Standard after Journey into Nyx.