The Order of the Phenax

Posted in Reconstructed on January 21, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

The Gods you'll find in Born of the Gods are cut from a much different cloth than in Theros.

For one—and perhaps you already know if you read Mark Rosewater's first preview article or the mechanics article—these Gods are multicolored. Unlike their Theros brethren, these Gods align themselves with two different colors.

If you've been following along so far, that's something you might already know. But maybe what you don't quite know yet is that these cards fill a different role than the Theros Gods in decks!

The Theros Gods were designed to be pretty all-purpose. For example, any deck with enough white mana sources is going to be able to get use out of Heliod, God of the Sun, and as long as you have creatures you're doing pretty well with Purphoros, God of the Forge. After all, the Theros Gods are the major gods of the pantheon—they have to represent an entire color.

The Gods in the next set, however, are a little different. These Gods are designed to be very powerful—in the niche they're targeted for. If you throw these into any old deck, you probably won't end up with something that will consistently work. However, if you build around them or put them into the card's ideal archetype, they can prove far stronger than any of the Theros Gods.

Curious what I mean? Check out Phenax!

...Oh, you can't seem to find Phenax? Perhaps I forgot to mention he's the god of deception. Go back up and click on the word "Theros Gods" to uncover his deceit.

See him now? Good.

Take a moment to absorb what Phenax can do a little bit. A bit different perhaps than what you might have expected in Theros.

So, now that you've seen the card... how do you actually use this thing?

Phenax is a little harder to turn on than the Theros Gods, requiring one extra net devotion. (The two colored mana in his mana cost helps to offset his seven-devotion requirement.) Furthermore, even once you do turn him on, a 4/7 for five mana isn't breaking any size records.

Fortunately, this all swings around in his ability.

In any deck with Phenax, you're going to be taking advantage of his milling ability. And look closely: unlike Heliod and Nylea, Phenax grants his ability to himself once he becomes a creature! That means once Phenax is active, you can start milling your opponent for seven a turn—no doubt closing the game in short order.

What are some ways you could use this unusual God? Let's take a look!

    Taking a Trip to Turtletown

Perhaps one of the clearest paths that Phenax drives you down is flooding the board with creatures that have high toughness. This way, you can protect your life total safely, then land a Phenax and start milling your opponent at the end of his or her turn to win in short order.

Here's an example of what a deck like this might look like:

Gavin Verhey's Turtletown

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While cards like Wall of Frost aren't typically known for their prowess as Constructed all-stars, this deck turns that on its head. If you have a Wall of Frost on the battlefield and cast a Phenax, your opponent is suddenly on a pretty short clock—and presumably you have some other large-toughness creatures on the battlefield as well to tighten the screws even more.

Because of the high defender theme, Doorkeeper even joins the fray as a way to start a little bit of milling early. Even if you don't find a Phenax until later on (which you should be able to do thanks to Omenspeaker and Read the Bones), Doorkeeper can help make the job for Phenax that much easier when you finally do find the god of deception.

Looking for some different directions? Well, if you want a way to more reliably turn on Phenax you could look at Lazav, Dimir Mastermind. While Nightveil Specter only counts as three toward Phenax's devotion, Lazav counts for four—and with Phenax's base two mana symbols, that's only one away from switching Phenax into a creature. (Plus, Lazav could even copy something with high toughness to boot!)

There are quite a few enticing five-drops that didn't make the cut here—Prognostic Sphinx and Consuming Aberration among them—but this deck really wants to top out at five, curving defenders along the way, and you can only have so many five-drops before your draws start to suffer.

That's a more traditional approach—but that's certainly not all you can do with Phenax. Let's take another look...

    The God Complex

The prior deck took advantage of creatures that have huge base toughness. But what if we created our own tough monsters? Is there a way to do it?

Oh, yes. There are certainly a few.

Let me introduce to something a little crazy:

Gavin Verhey's Toughness Combo Mill

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This may look like a hodgepodge mix of non-red cards—but there's quite a bit more to it than that. This is a Phenax deck that doesn't plan to turn Phenax into a creature at all!

Hold the Gates and Tower Defense are two cards that substantially pump the toughness of all your creatures. Normally, extra toughness isn't that worthwhile. But with Phenax on the table, everything changes.

Imagine you make four tokens with Call, then untap. If you cast Tower Defense and Phenax in this situation, that's twenty-four cards you can mill away right there... and I'd be surprised if you didn't have another creature at that point as well.

The real toughness all-star is Hold the Gates: with a nearly all-Gate mana base, that means your creatures pick up an extra point of toughness for each land you have. By adding an exorbitant amount of toughness to all of your creatures, Phenax's ability can finish your opponent off in a turn or two.

Because of all the Gates, you get to incorporate a Gate engine as well with Gatecreeper Vine to help fix up your mana. Some green creatures let you shave lands to flood the board with even more creatures, making Phenax all the more lethal. Prophet of Kruphix helps you work double time, deploying all the creatures you need to... and then getting a double use out of Phenax's mill ability from your creatures once you've cast him!

Looking for tweaks you could put on this deck? If you wanted to, you could convert this to a full-on Maze's End deck. While it's an unlikely combination, it certainly attacks your opponents from two directions they likely weren't expecting... and they might not be able to deal with both.

    The Born Identity

And there you have it: one of the five gods you'll find in Born of the Gods boosters. You'll have to check out other articles right here on and around the web to discover what the others do. Hopefully, they inspire your deck building!

This is the last week of previews—and that means soon enough, you'll know everything about Born of the Gods! I want to see more of what you come up with now that you have access to so much of it. Here's your mission:

Format: Post-Born of the Gods Standard
Restrictions: Your deck must contain at least one Born of the Gods card
Deadline: January 28, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)

Yourname's Deckname

20 Land
20 Land
4 Creature
4 Creature
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
4 Planeswalker

What will you come up with? I'm excited to see!

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or feedback, feel free to send it my way, either via a tweet or by posting in the forums. It's always great to hear from you. I'm excited to see what you will do with Phenax!

I'll be back next week with a look at a Standard deck featuring Born of the Gods. Talk with you then!


Gavin VerheyGavin Verhey
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When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he wanted a job making Magic cards. Ten years later, his dream was realized as his combined success as a professional player, deck builder, and writer brought him into Wizards Ramp;D during 2011. He's been writing Magic articles since 2005 and has no plans to stop.

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