Welcome to my first article as the author of Top Decks! Every week, I'll be delving into the world of Constructed, making my picks for the best decks of the week, and highlighting anything awesome that stands out. If I've played with or against anything off the radar, you'll also be able to find that here, and given how much Magic I find myself playing these days, that seems pretty likely as well.
Of course, today isn't a normal article, either, as I get to kick things off with a preview card from Born of the Gods! I find it fitting that the card I'm previewing is just brimming with value (or is that Brimaz with value?), providing a king's ransom worth of power for a meager three mana:
When the first card you think of is Hero of Bladehold, you know you are in a good spot. Brimaz offers the same 3/4 body at 3/4 of the cost, which is an incredible upgrade, even if he happens to come with one attacking Soldier instead of two. I've attacked with Hero of Bladehold many times, and I can imagine how great it would be to be doing so a full turn sooner. If you take a look at the Pro Tour Nagoya Top 8, there are a lot of Heroes of Bladehold, with half the Top 8 playing Hero. I wouldn't say Hero singlehandedly was responsible for David Sharfman, Pat Cox, Elie Pichon, and me making Top 8, but that's mostly because Hero always brings along reinforcements. For reference, Sharfman and Pat Cox had what I think was the best deck in the tournament, and Hero had a lot to do with that:
Hero of Bladehold and Puresteel Paladin were what drove this deck, and it would have been fairly weak if you removed either of those two pillars. As good as Sword of War and Peace is, Mortarpods and Flayer Husks aren't enough to get you home safely; Hero and Paladin gave the deck eight must-kill threats. Brimaz could have easily filled the same role, and most likely would have if he were in Mirrodin Besieged instead of Hero of Bladehold.
So far, I've only focused on the attacking aspect of Brimaz, which is clearly impressive. Part of what makes Brimaz the Constructed powerhouse I'm sure he's going to be is how he manages to play defense just as well as he attacks. As good as Hero was at smashing the opponent, she didn't block incredibly well, and never, once she was able to start attacking. Not only does Brimaz accumulate value every time he blocks, he has vigilance, making him the classic double threat.
Brimaz is powerful enough to make his own way, but even without seeing the rest of Born of the Gods, I know one deck that's a perfect fit already:
My former teammate (US Nationals 2006!) took the mono-white version of the deck, added Boros Charm, and basically called it a day. This is exactly the kind of deck I'd be looking to play Brimaz in, for many reasons.
The first is that this is a very aggressive deck, and beating down is Brimaz's strong suit. While I do think he will be doing a fair amount of blocking, applying pressure is a good place to start, especially in new formats. Various builds of this deck are going to be the starting point for many people, and Brimaz (plus whatever other goodies Born of the Gods has to offer) will make an already-strong deck into a solid tier-one contender.
Another reason this is a perfect fit for Brimaz is that so many of the cards have synergy with him. Brave the Elements is a big one, and likely the best card in the deck already. Brimaz dies to very few removal spells, and waiting a turn to play him with Brave up makes it very unlikely that your opponent will be able to kill him. Spear of Heliod also gets better once you have a Cat King running around dumping tokens out. Spear works well with the rest of the deck, but currently Ajani, Caller of the Pride edges it out due to the evasive option. Now that Brimaz is poised to take over, Spear may have regained some of its ground, and I could see this deck running two Spears and two Ajanis pretty easily.
Lastly, Brimaz gives the deck another flagship card besides Brave the Elements. This is a good deck, but the individual cards aren't the most powerful. Brave is the one that stands out, and now that Brimaz has ascended to the throne, the deck has a second awesome card. It may sound simplistic, but having good cards in your deck really does matter. Synergy-based decks such as this one are often quite powerful, but it is nice to have the backup plan of just drawing good cards. Sometimes, a plan doesn't come together, and having a couple cards that can win you the game by themselves is really valuable. Hero of Bladehold had it, and that's why she was so good in Tempered Steel. She didn't really fit with the main game plan of the deck all that well, yet when the main game plan fell apart for whatever reason, she was there to pick up the slack. Here, Brimaz does fit with the main game plan of this deck, while simultaneously possessing the "I win" quality that many cards strive for and few attain.
Another direction to go with Brimaz could be as a way to stop decks like Ben's, and concentrate on ramping up to a better endgame. As a purely defensive option, Brimaz does seem like a good choice for midrange, or out of the sideboard of control. Esper or UW Control could easily play one or two copies of Brimaz, although they wouldn't want to main deck him. There's not much profit in playing only a couple creatures in your main deck that die to removal, since part of the point of playing those decks is to blank such things. However, creatures that come out of the board can be awesome. I've always loved siding in Vampire Nighthawk in control decks, and Brimaz reminds me very much of that. What does a mono-red deck do about Brimaz? It can trade a Lightning Strike plus a creature for him, but that's not fantastic, and many of mono-red's draws won't be able to stop him from dominating the board.
I've played my fair share of aggressive white decks, and I expect to see Brimaz running around Standard as soon as Born of the Gods is released. Whether it will be on my side or my opponent's (or both) is yet to be determined, but it will happen.
Next week, I've got another preview card coming up, one that is reminiscent of one of Paulo Vitor's favorite cards—a card he happened to use to win his first Pro Tour...