A Standard Prophecy

Posted in Top Decks on May 9, 2014

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

Figuring out what cards add new dimensions to current decks or spawn entirely new decks altogether is important, and even though the third set in the block faces the most competition, Journey into Nyx is going to hold its own. Don't get me wrong; Black Devotion, Blue Devotion, and UW Control are all still very good, but they will be joined by plenty of new decks. Today, I'd like to take a look at a couple of the interesting build-arounds, plus cards that add a significant amount to some previous decks.

One of the more prophetable cards to abuse from Journey into Nyx is Prophetic Flamespeaker, which threatens a ton of damage, draws a ton of cards, and does so all while not really costing extra to begin with. Nobody is rushing out to play a three-mana 2/3, but a three-mana 2/3 that draws two cards when it hits and gives you double value out of pump spells is a different story entirely.

As much as I want this to be about the card-drawing ability, I think it takes a backseat to the possibility of dealing 8+ damage in one hit (well, technically, two hits). Drawing extra cards is awesome, and a low-curve red deck will certainly be the most likely to make use of them before they are gone for good, but the real incentive to play Flamespeaker is the massive amount of damage it can deal.

The most linear way to build a Flamespeaker deck is to add it to the creature-based red beatdown deck that's been around for a while. By doing so, you not only have other creatures to soak up removal that would otherwise hit Flamespeaker, but you get to play Rubblebelt Maaka, which is one of the best cards to pair with the Flamespeaker.

Prophetic Red Beatdown

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With twelve one-drops, twelve two-drops (counting the two Madcap Skills), four Prophetic Flamespeakers, and a bunch of ways to push them through, this deck should get your opponent dead very quickly. Flamespeaker takes the place of Chandra's Phoenix, mostly because it attacks for a million damage. Even if you don't have a pump spell, using Flamespeaker to peel a couple extra cards is awesome, and it's a must-kill threat for the opponent. In general, this deck doesn't care much about one-for-one removal, with just Prophetic Flamespeaker costing more than the average removal spell. Where Flamespeaker helps is giving the deck a one-card threat for games where the initial rush gets dealt with, since most games end up being Supreme Verdict or bust for the opponent. There aren't many creatures in this deck that are that great on their own, with Foundry Street Denizen and Firefist Striker being especially bad, and the addition of Prophetic Flamespeaker greatly helps that.

The deck also gets a Hall of Triumph, which seems worth a slot in a deck this creature-heavy, and in general a card I intend to explore. Now that every color has access to this effect, it feels like many decks should take advantage of it, even if it's just one copy.

If you really want Flamespeaker to shine brightly, here's a more comboish build:

Prophetic Red Combo

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This deck goes as deep as possible, with twenty one-drops and twenty sets of pants to go with them (Nyxborn Rollicker conveniently counting for both). All this deck wants to do is play small creatures and suit them up, a line of play that leads to a ton of damage. Dragon Mantle and the low overall land count lead to a decklist without Mutavault, which is a rarity, and the card draw on Mantle makes twenty lands a plausible number.

Prophetic Flamespeaker can do amazing amounts of damage here if you ever untap with it, and it isn't like your opponent just gets to ignore your early plays in order to save removal. The eight heroic creatures are the best pump targets, but any of the 2-power one-drops will do just fine.

Even though I don't normally pilot decks that have 18+ Mountain in them, I suppose I did play red-green decks at the last two Pro Tours (Rg Devotion and RG Valakut, respectively). Plus, these decks can draw a bunch of cards off Prophetic Flamespeaker, so that counts, right? Regardless, we have to go deeper.

Big Green Devotion

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Not only did this deck gain Hydra Broodmaster, which is an excellent way to spend fifteen mana if you have it lying around, I haven't touched the deck since before Born of the Gods, and I played with it a ton before then. It's based on the list Makihito Mihara made Top 8 with at Pro Tour Theros, although it's gained a few new toys.

Courser of Kruphix is probably the biggest (make that "best," since Hydra Broodmaster is certainly the biggest), and it adds a lot to the deck. Giving you two devotion, more land drops, extra life, and a 2/4 blocker all help the deck survive to the late game, where it shines. Hydra Broodmaster, as I mentioned before, lets you just instantly win the game if you can activate it, given that a Supreme Verdict isn't about to resolve. Lastly, Xenagos, God of Revels adds a persistent threat to the board that survives said Verdict.

Even though the deck has essentially twelve Planeswalkers, between the Gods and 'walkers, UW Control decks are still problematic. Supreme Verdict is just the best card against this deck, and Detention Sphere plus Banishing Light are great against your best cards against control. Sideboarding in Consign to Dust to try and blow up multiple Spheres does sound awesome, but control will likely remain a challenge for this deck. Having all expensive threats, vulnerability to sweepers, and no good way to fight Revelation is a challenge.

If this deck is soft against control, where is it good? I do like it against creature-based decks, as it just goes completely over the top. It already had Polukranos, and Hydra Broodmaster is like a turbocharged version of an already-pushy card. I can't imagine what midrange decks will do against a turn-four Broodmaster, and the combination of Caryatid, Courser, and acceleration makes it very hard for aggro decks to kill you in time.

I also like the addition of Setessan Tactics to the sideboard, as the card just seems absurdly powerful. Anytime you have multiple creatures in play it should wipe the opponent's board, as long as at least one of your creatures has some size, and it does so for very little mana.

Back in Control

I've held off long enough, but it's time to do what I always do when a new set comes out: update control decks. I've enjoyed casting Sphinx's Revelation thus far, and anticipate doing it many more times while it's legal in Standard (although Urza's Tower does cast a nice Revelation in Modern).

I still like the core of Team Azorius:

These cards are just too powerful and work too well together to leave any behind, and I'd advise against even trimming the numbers. I've tried plenty of 3 Rev and 3 Jace decks, and I ultimately concluded that was wrong every single time.

So, what changed? A new set did come out, and if the core remains the same, presumably there is room for change in the rest of the deck.

The changes are mostly tweaks, but some are important ones. First, we have access to a few new removal spells:

Silence the Believers is a bit of a stretch, but if Esper can play Hero's Downfall, it can play Silence the Believers. Deicide and Banishing Light are both excellent, and even though they don't cover any new ground, they shore up UW's removal suite if you can accurately predict the metagame. I've been happy with a main-deck Revoke Existence for a while, and Deicide is much stronger than Revoke. Banishing Light is mostly the fifth Detention Sphere, but more of a good thing is also a good thing.

The second change is that a new win condition has entered the arena:

It is very hard to compete with Ætherling, Elixir of Immortality, and Elspeth as win conditions, so the addition of a valid third option is huge. I don't think Keranos completely replaces any of these options completely, but he can certainly assist nicely. The incremental card advantage offered by Keranos is exactly what this deck wants to do, and you definitely can win games by lightning bolting your opponents until they are dead.

What I Would Currently Play

If I had a Standard tournament this weekend (which I don't, as I'll be at Grand Prix Minneapolis), the deck I would play is Azorius Control. I like Esper better in a more established metagame, but until I know more about what decks I'd be facing, I'd rather just play the more consistent deck. Azorius has a better mana base, a very close power level, and can still play Thoughtseize in the sideboard for control matchups.

Here's the list I'd use:

Azorius Control

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I still like Ætherling more than Elixir of Immortality, and it's going to take a lot to make me put down my Archangel of Thunes. Nyx-Fleece Ram is another new addition, and it is exactly what this deck wants against aggressive red decks. Lastly, I like the black sideboard cards off Temples, because the deck still wants to play a bunch of Temples, making the black splash almost free.

Even though I'd play this deck, now is the best time in Standard to play whatever strikes your fancy. The metagame is only going to tighten up from here, but in the first few weeks there's a lot more wiggle room to try out different archetypes, so don't let my predilection for control decks dissuade you from trying out your brews.


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