Valuable Lessons – Heliod’s Pilgrim Control

We’re less than one week away from Pro Tour Magic 2015. Over the last two weekends, we’ve begun to see the Standard metagame shift as cards from the new set are adopted by different archetypes. Next week, we’ll see the entire Standard metagame change drastically as the world’s best players and deck builders unleash their latest creations. Today, we’ll be talking about the Magic 2015 card that I believe has the potential to drastically change the Standard metagame: Heliod’s Pilgrim.

Heliod’s Pilgrim reminds me of Stoneforge Mystic. Sure, the card may not be anywhere near Stoneforge in terms of raw power level, but there’s a lot of power to be had in a three-mana body that can tutor for the perfect card in virtually any situation. For example, we can tutor up Chained to the Rocks as an inexpensive removal spell. We can find Gift of Orzhova or Unflinching Courage against decks that plan on racing us. If we’re in a stalemate, we can search up a singleton copy of Spectra Ward and break the game wide open. Against control decks, we can find Underworld Connections and draw two cards a turn for the remainder of the game. It’s hard to imagine a situation where Heliod’s Pilgrim is bad.

Upon seeing Heliod’s Pilgrim, I immediately looked for Auras that grant deathtouch in the hopes of making Izzet Staticaster into an unbeatable force against creature decks. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-mana option available. The curve of Heliod’s Pilgrim on turn three, Izzet Staticaster and a deathtouch Aura on the following turn is juicy, but the prospect of paying three mana for the deathtouch aura makes it a much less enticing plan.

Then I started thinking about the hexproof deck with Heliod’s Pilgrim. Unfortunately, I felt like that deck won a big portion of its games simply by being very fast, so a three-mana tutor didn’t strike me as the missing ingredient that Hexproof needed to push itself into tier one. I could be wrong about this, and there may be a great Hexproof build I’m missing, but I feel like it would need to go very large and perhaps include Ajani, Mentor of Heroes to be effective.

Upon further reflection, I think the best home for Heliod’s Pilgrim is probably black/white/red. Using this color combination, our Pilgrim can search for Chained to the Rocks, Underworld Connections, and all of the white goodies we’re used to finding. I decided to work on a control deck that maximized the potential of Heliod’s Pilgrim.

Underworld Connections is a very attractive option for a deck like this. It’s the major reason we want to be playing Black in our Heliod’s Pilgrim deck.

Chained to the Rocks is a must-have in any Heliod’s Pilgrim deck. The four-mana removal spell + 1/2 is way too important of an option to have with the card. This line trumps Master of Waves, Polukranos, World Eater, and Desecration Demon—the most important cards from the most important decks.

Thoughtseize is one of the best cards in Standard, we’re playing black, and our deck can use the effect to clear the way for Spectra Ward on Tithe Drinker.

Soldier of the Pantheon gives us something inexpensive to do with our mana that can have a big effect on the game. The card is pretty much always worth at least one card and it lets us use our mana efficiently, which can be a big problem when our mana costs are awkward.

Spectra Ward is a great one-of with Heliod’s Pilgrim, alongside Thoughtseize this can steal a lot of games.

Desecration Demon is just too efficiently-costed to pass up. We’re doing a lot of cute things that accrue small advantages. We need a card that simply bashes somebody’s brains in.

Mizzium Mortars is a great removal spell that allows us to operate efficiently at all stages of the game. We’re also happy to have an out to Stormbreath Dragon.

Rakdos’s Return is a nice one-of in a deck that’s playing a lot of land. We’re probably just casting this on the first turn it would leave the opponent with zero cards in most situations.

Tithe Drinker is great here. It’s an excellent target for Spectra Ward and extort is a useful mana sink. We wanted a two-power lifelink creature and this is the absolute perfect option.

We’re casting Chained to the Rocks, and we don’t want to live on the edge like Hexproof decks that only play eight mountains (4 Sacred Foundry and 4 Stomping Ground) so we’re going to cheat a bit and play Evolving Wilds so that we can inflate our Mountain count without having to play too many lackluster lands.

Here’s the final list for RWB Pilgrim control!

RWB Pilgrim Control
by Jacob Van Lunen

While building this deck, I couldn’t stop thinking about Ajani, Mentor of Heroes in a deck with Heliod’s Pilgrim. If we’re looking for a way to make a 1/2 body relevant, then making it into a 4/5 or 7/8 seems like it could be pretty good. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes does some brutal stuff in a deck with Heliod’s Pilgrim. Being able to find Chained to the Rocks with both Ajani and the Pilgrim means that protecting the planeswalker should rarely be a problem here. We’ll be playing a lot of great defensive bodies too. Voice of Resurgence is a great option in a deck with Heliod’s Pilgrim, allowing us to freely attach Unflinching Courage against a lot of our opponents. I feel like we’re on to something. Let’s see what the Naya Pilgrim Control deck might look like.

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes is a tremendously powerful card. I’m actually quite surprised that it hasn’t had a bigger effect on Standard. Now, with Heliod’s Pilgrim, the card can realize its full strength. This is the perfect way to make the 1/2 body relevant without sinking an extra card or the tutor target to do so. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes turns every one of our threats into a game-ender and refills our hand with gas when other decks have pulled ahead with cards like Supreme Verdict. Post-board, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes helps us find Reclamation Sages and Mistcutter Hydras in the appropriate matchups.

We’re not looking to have a huge Heliod’s Pilgrim package here, we’re mostly playing the card to find Chained to the Rocks. I’ve also included a pair of Unflinching Courage to help us trample through Elspeth or to put us in a nearly unlosable situation against burn players that tap out when we have Courser of Kruphix or Ajani, Mentor of Heroes already on the table.

Courser of Kruphix is, again, one of the most powerful cards in Standard. This deck is basically playing an assortment of the format’s most powerful cards. The card also has great synergy with Ajani, Mentor of Heroes and Evolving Wilds.

Chained to the Rocks is likely the best removal spell in the format for the decks that can reliably use it. Here, we’ll be playing four copies of Evolving Wilds, two Mountains, and eight duals to make it into the one-mana removal spell it’s meant to be. We won’t be giving away free games to Master of Waves, Desecration Demon, or Polukranos, World Eater with what will feel like eight copies of this.

Voice of Resurgence is one of the very best cards we can play against Black Devotion and Supreme Verdict strategies. It’s really only bad in the mono-blue matchup, and post-board we’ll be bringing in a bunch of Skylashers, Mistcutter Hydras, and extra copies of Unflinching Courage to turn that matchup into a cakewalk.

We’re playing a lot of expensive cards and we don’t have a lot to do with our mana in the earliest turns of the game. Elvish Mystic lets us play our many three-drops on the second turn and leaves us a turn ahead until our opponent uses a card to deal with it.

Selesnya Charm will deal with Obzedat, Ghost Council (a card I expect to increase in popularity with Caves of Koilos) and Polukranos. Additionally, the versatility of the card means that it will always be relevant to the game at hand. It’s quite nice to leave open the mana and use this endstep before we can cast Ajani, Mentor of Heroes on the fifth turn. This gives our opponent the chance to cast Supreme Verdict to clear the board, but puts us in a great position, attacking with a 5/5 vigilance on the following turn with a planeswalker on the board.

Xenagos, God of Revels is another card that fits perfectly here. It applies good pressure on our opponent and does very well against Black Devotion and Supreme Verdict strategies.

It’s possible that Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is better than Aurelia, the Warleader here, but this is the perfect home for Aurelia. We can close a lot of games out of nowhere by casting Aurelia and activating Ajani. This card also gives us a very strong out to opposing copies of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

I had one copy of Reclamation Sage in the deck, but I felt like we wanted another two-drop and Fleecemane Lion seemed great. If we’re ever able to activate the monstrous ability, then we’re one Unflinching Courage away from a very easy game. 3/3s for two-mana are a fine deal regardless and the card should force opponents to play a very defensive game.

Here’s the final list!

Naya Pilgrim Control
by Jacob Van Lunen

The Naya Pilgrim deck feels very strong to me in this particular metagame. The deck should do very well against Black Devotion, Supreme Verdict decks, and various other Devotion strategies. The deck is very weak to Stormbreath Dragon, but not everything can be perfect. Next week, we’ll have a whole new world of Standard to explore after the Pro Tour.


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