The Sky is Falling!

Posted in From the Lab on April 23, 2014

By Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon started writing From the Lab at the end of 2012 after two years with GatheringMagic. He is an ardent casual player and loves finding uses for bad cards.

Prerelease events for Journey into Nyx start this weekend, and players around the world will be experiencing the set for the first time. Since the Prerelease is a Sealed Deck event, there's not usually too many combos you can hope to put together. However, one new card enables a sweet combo you may be able to pull off, even in Limited.

Bearer of the Heavens | Art by Ryan Alexander Lee

Bearer of the Heavens is reminiscent of Worldslayer. Both are odd cards that destroy all permanents when something happens. At first, this seems like an overly difficult way to restart the game, but if you can make one of your creatures survive, you should be able to kill your opponent before he or she can find enough lands to do anything.

So, what's the combo? It's surprisingly simple, actually. All you need is Bearer of the Heavens on the battlefield, and Rescue from the Underworld in your hand. When you can Rescue from the Underworld, you can sacrifice Bearer of the Heavens and create two delayed triggered abilities. At the beginning of the end step, Bearer of the Heavens will destroy all permanents. Then at the beginning of your upkeep, Rescue from the Underworld will return Bearer of the Heavens and the targeted creature to the battlefield. With 10 power, Bearer of the Heavens will kill your opponent in just two turns.

Goryo, Destroyer of Worlds

Although this combo is fun in Limited, starting things off with an eight-mana spell is pretty slow for Constructed, even in casual. I wanted to speed things up a little, and the first card that came to mind was Footsteps of the Goryo. The potential of this card isn't obvious at first, since it returns a creature for only one turn and doesn't give haste, but with Bearer of the Heavens, it's exactly what we need.

Footsteps of the Goryo can use Bearer of the Heavens to destroy all permanents for three mana, but unlike Rescue from the Underworld, it doesn't bring anything back afterward. That means you'll need another piece to complete the combo. Any creature with indestructible, persist, or undying works just fine, but in the end I went with Butcher Ghoul and Geralf's Messenger. Both of them return to the battlefield with a higher power for their mana cost than the other options. I also included a pair of Sightless Ghouls as backup.

Speaking of backups, I didn't want to rely solely on Footsteps of the Goryo, so I added Apprentice Necromancer to the deck. It does essentially the same thing, with the added benefit of giving the Bearer haste so you can hit your opponent for 10 if he or she doesn't have anything to block with.

Necromancy can do the same thing as Footsteps of the Goryo, but you have to do a little trick to make it work. Since Necromancy will only sacrifice itself if you cast it as an instant, you can't just play it during your main phase like Footsteps of the Goryo. However, you can move to your combat phase even if you have no creatures, and cast it then to get that delayed trigger.

Note that with any of these options, Bearer of the Heavens will die after the beginning of the end step. That means the destroy-all-permanents trigger won't happen until the end of your opponent's turn. If you're using Necromancy or Apprentice Necromancer, you also have the option of reanimating the Bearer during your opponent's turn. That way, you'll destroy all permanents during your end step, giving you time to cast a creature with undying.

Buried Alive and Entomb are the classic ways of shoving creatures into your graveyard to reanimate later, and although you only need to get one creature in this deck, Buried Alive is still worth it as an Entomb for three mana.

Finally, Hero's Downfall lets you buy time against opposing creatures or Planeswalkers, making it easier to stay alive until you get the combo set up. In fact, it's often better to wait, even if you can make the combo happen right away. By holding off until your opponent misses a land drop, you can be fairly certain he or she won't be able to rebuild quickly after you destroy all permanents.


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Gods and Demigods

Many players are excited about the new three-mana Gods, Athreos and Pharika. Each of them has a potentially game-changing ability, but the part that caught my eye was the fact that each of them is potentially a 5-power indestructible creature for just three mana.

The rusted gears and cogs inside my brain started spinning madly, and the idea for a new Modern deck took shape. With these new gods to work with, you could cast one on turn three, follow it up on turn four with Mogis or Erebos, and then cast Demigod of Revenge on turn five, instantly giving you enough devotion to creatureize the Gods. Then you get to attack for 17 damage.

Initially, I had Iroas instead of Erebos. By using Demigod of Revenge and Divinity of Pride as the devotion enablers, some cards that turned on the black Gods would work on Iroas as well. However, as the deck evolved, I turned to a more black-focused strategy.

Ghastlord of Fugue is another creature from the cycles of quintuple-hybrid guys in Shadowmoor and Eventide. Although not as immediately high-impact as the other two creatures, it still turns on the Gods, and can rip apart your opponent's hand if it gets the chance to attack.

With so many creatures giving you five devotion, I couldn't resist adding in a couple copies of Gray Merchant of Asphodel. The amount of life you can drain in this deck is absurd, with every Spirit Avatar you cast giving you five devotion to black. I also included Thoughtseize to give you something to cast before turn three and to protect you from cards that might kill you before you get your Gods online.


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Shadow War

Although these decks are both black-based, the strategies they employ couldn't be more opposite. One fights with destruction, the other with indestructibility. One kills creatures and the other creates them. When the two clash, who know which will be victorious? There's only one way to find out.

Game 1

Each side started with a land, and Butterfingers cast Apprentice Necromancer on turn two. Deification played a land and passed the turn, and Butterfingers passed back with no play. Deification cast Athreos, God of Passage and ended the turn.

Butterfingers cast Geralf's Messenger and passed the turn. Deification cast Erebos, God of the Dead and passed back. Butterfingers cast Entomb to find Bearer of the Heavens, then brought it back by sacrificing Apprentice Necromancer. Both creatures attacked, dropping Deification to 5, and Bearer of the Heavens was sacrificed at end of turn.

Deification cast Terminate on Geralf's Messenger, losing 2 life when it entered the battlefield again. At the beginning of the end step, Bearer of the Heavens destroyed all permanents.

Both players played lands for two turns, with Deification going to 2 from a Marsh Flats. Butterfingers cast Apprentice Necromancer, and Deification played a land and passed. Butterfingers sacrificed the Necromancer to bring back Geralf's Messenger and win the game.

Game 2

Deification played a land, and Butterfingers cast Entomb for Bearer of the Heavens. Deification played a land and passed again, and Butterfingers cast Butcher Ghoul before passing back. Deification paid 1 life to Mana Confluence to cast Pharika, God of Affliction.

Butcher Ghoul attacked for 1, and Butterfingers cast Apprentice Necromancer. Deification cast Erebos, God of the Dead. Butterfingers used Apprentice Necromancer to bring back Bearer of the Heavens and attack for 11.

Deification cast Gray Merchant of Asphodel, draining 4 life. Bearer of the Heavens destroyed all permanents, bringing back Butcher Ghoul with a +1/+1 counter. The Ghoul attacked for 2, and Deification paid a life for Verdant Catacombs, getting Overgrown Tomb.

Butcher Ghoul dropped Deification to 5, and Deification paid 1 to fetch up a Swamp. Butterfingers attacked for 2, but Pharika exiled Gray Merchant to make a Snake token with deathtouch. The creatures traded, but Butterfingers cast Necromancy to bring back Bearer of the Heavens from the graveyard. With no more creatures to make Snakes with, Deification died the following turn.

Reach for the Stars

Next week, I'll be exploring constellation from Journey into Nyx with a pair of decks that take the mechanic to absurd places. Almost anything that triggers whenever a card enters the battlefield can be abused in a combo of some sort, so there are quite a few options here. Check back next week to see what I come up with.

Also, in case you missed last week's article, I've created a little challenge for myself. To read about the challenge, check out the end of the article here and make sure to vote in the poll, since it's probably the single greatest poll of all time. The voting will be open until the end of the Prerelease, and be sure to look for my article in two weeks to see the results. See ya!

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