Well it’s been a month and I’ve had the opportunity to play a few more games with my Oloro Esper Control deck. Also, it’s time for us to Journey into Nyx and I wanted to make a few remarks about some of the cards that we’ll be seeing soon. While this will be far from a complete set review, i couldn’t help but take a moment to discuss some of the new card that will have the greatest impact on EDH.
So what are we getting from Nyx? First, and possibly most important are the remaining Theros Temples or Scry lands. Fans of Golgari (Green/Black) or Izzet (Blue/Red) colors finally get their Scry lands to play with and beyond that, we have another land to add to the short list of lands which produce any color. Mana Confluence is a very powerful card and like its predecessor City of Brass, I think it will end up being rather valuable. I would try to scoop up a few of these while they are in Standard and plentiful. The same can be said for the Scry lands which, if nothing else, are an obvious upgrade to Return to Ravnica’s Guildgates.
Beyond the lands, Journey into Nyx also gives us a new but familiar planeswalker in Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. While some tournament players have scoffed at this 5-drop, I definitely think he has a home in several EDH decks. His first ability has strong synergy with Commanders like Ghave, Guru of Spores, Marath, Will of the Wild and Sigarda, Host of Herons and his second ability is raw card advantage for decks like Karametra and Trostani which have a high number of creatures. He can also help you dig for creatures in a Control deck when all you want is to cast a big beat-stick. I have heard many players dismissing his final ability of gaining 100 life but I don’t think it’s completely irrelevant in Commander. For one, the synergy with Doubling Season is obvious. if you cast Ajani after Season is in play, you can automatically cash in enough Loyalty Counters to go ultimate. Even if Ajani is already on the field, you can use his second ability to dig for that Doubling Season and make his first ability that much better. 100 life in EDH is not irrelevant simply because it cushions you from everything besides an alpha strike by your opponent’s commander or some kind of insta-win combo. While 100 life will probably not win you the game on the spot, it may just keep you alive long enough to start turning the tide in your favor. I think Ajani is a solid planeswalker and I will certainly be looking for a copy to put in my Ghave deck.
We also get the final 5 multicolored Gods of Theros. Iroas, God of Victory seems like an auto-include in most Boros (Red/White) decks and certainly some Naya (Green/Red/White) decks that lean more toward the aggressive side. As a commander? I’m not so sure. He competes with so many powerful creatures for that spot of top-dog and I would rather be able to cast Aurelia, the Warleader or Tajic, Blade of the Legion repeatedly while Iroas backs them up as an enchantment.
Keranos, God of Storms is something I am very interested to experiment with and definitely worth playing as a commander. While Keranos is just fine as an inclusion in decks with Izzet colors, I would also like to be able to play him on turn 5 or sooner and begin reaping the benefits of having him in play. Even though 3 damage isn’t a lot in EDH, Keranos’ ability to draw an extra card every time you top-deck a land is quite relevant in colors which love to draw cards and have access to plenty of mana. I think we will see many a Keranos deck in the months to come.
Kruphix, God of Horizons is another god that is going to make a significant impact on EDH both as a commander and in decks which sport Simic (Blue/Green)colors. Pairing him with the already powerful Prophet of Kruphix gives the ability to stack a lot of mana in a very short time and being able to more easily cast huge creatures like the Eldrazi will make this god a force to be reckoned with. Omnath, Locus of Mana has already proven to be a strong commander and I can only assume that Kruphix will be similarly powerful.
Athreos, God of Passage is an interesting god and one that is perhaps not quite as obvious at first glance. Do we play a suite of high-quality creatures like Blood Baron of Vizkopa and try to force your opponent to pony up some life to make sure your creatures stay dead or does Athreos want a slew of cheap creatures that your opponent won’t bother paying the life for so that you can keep redeploying your army? In either case I think Athreos’ strong point lies in being a creature and beating down your opponent in combat and I think his ability attempts to keep your hand full of devotion-enabling creatures. How ever the deck is assembled, I am very excited to see what people choose to do with Athreos. I think he is open-ended enough to allow all sorts of interesting and creative decks to unfold around him.
Finally we have Pharika, God of Affliction. While she is cheap to cast, I don’t know that there is much potential in the Golgari god. Her ability to make snake tokens with Deathtouch seems mainly geared at playing defense and even there, she seems at odds with the nature of many Green/Black strategies. Most Golgari decks would like to have creatures in the graveyard, either for reanimation or for commanders like Jarad, Golgari, Lich Lord. While Pharika’s ability could be useful against reanimator strategies to exile the creature your opponent is targeting with their Unburial Rites, giving them a 1/1 Deathtouch creature seems like a rather underwhelming play. Deathrite Shaman would be a much better answer to opposing reanimator decks in my opinion. If Pharika has a strength it lies in being a 5/5 Indestructible creature for 3 mana, in colors that can easily reanimate enough creatures to get your Devotion to 7.
Beyond the gods, we have a few other new toys for EDH. Godsend is something I expect to see in just about any artifact or Voltron-based build. The ability to exile creatures is very strong in Commander and giving a creature +3/+3 is a definite upside. I would most likely try to find a home in either a Boros or Azorius (White/Blue) deck where you have the ability to manipulate combat more efficiently. Cards like Boros Battleshaper or Odric, Master Tactician will love Godsend and I could also see its potential alongside cards like Courtly Provocateur. While the third line of text might seem useless in a singleton format, I believe it will come in quite handy if you can manage to exile an opposing commander with Godsend.
In terms of other new legends to build around, Nyx also gives us King Macar, the Gold-Cursed. Mono Black has never really hurt for choices when it comes to commanders but I think Macar is interesting enough to make the cut. I could easily see him in a Merieke Ri Berit deck as well. Macar looks fun and open to interpretation; the type of commander that doesn’t demand a specific build to function well.
Nyx also gives us a few cards that should find immediate homes in existing decks.Sage of Hours feels like a card that will get quite a bit of mileage in Vorel of the Hull Clade decks. Master of the Feast looks like an auto-include in Nekusar. Bearer of the Heavens is something I would expect in Jhoira of the Ghitu[/mtg_card]. There is also the cycle of Dictates to consider. While they are all powerful effects, I expect to see Dictate of Erebos and Dictate of Heliod the most. The Black god’s dictate is a functional reprint (or upgrade) of Grave Pact which is something I encounter quite a bit already. Anthem effects, or static effects that pump your creatures’ power/toughness, are always a core part of token strategies and being able to give your creatures +2/+2 at instant speed with Dictate of Heliod is nothing to scoff at. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dictate of the Twin Gods make an appearance in aggressive decks either. Dictate of Kruphix and Dictate of Karametra are cards I would expect only to see in the most dedicated of group hug builds.
So did any of my picks make it into that Oloro deck? Let’s take a look at the updated list.
The creature list has remained much the same although I knew from my initial testing that I wanted to include a few more. I swapped Sheoldred for Sphinx Sovereign, feeling that it was a more thematic choice and Oona got cut for a few cheaper threats. Merieke is one of my favorite Esper legends and a card that demands an answer from my opponents rather quickly. Athreos is still pretty much an unknown quantity in the deck and doesn’t work very well with the Tokens sub-theme I have going on but a 3 mana, 5/4 Indestructible creature is rather good in my estimation and I believe I have enough Devotion enablers to get him to wake up. I also believe his ability will be more relevant in EDH since the quality of the creatures is high in this deck. I would certainly pay 3 life to make sure Sphinx of the Steel Wind or Baneslayer actually hits the Graveyard so I can only assume my opponents would do the same.
Suture Priest isn’t exactly the most powerful creature out there but I found its ability to be the right kind of grindy and late in the game it has excellent synergy with Oloro and a token generator like Elspeth. I would worry more about how top-heavy the creatures are in terms of casting cost but the deck has no problem stalling until I can play such expensive threats.
I decided that the deck could afford to play a few less instants and sorceries while still filling all the roles of a Control deck. Persecute and Psychic Intrusion felt a little off topic for this deck and I never found myself thrilled by the idea of tapping out for Death Grasp or Overrule, despite how thematic they are. Scaling down the cost of some of the effects make me feel better about including so many expensive creatures. Life’s Finale got swapped out for Cyclonic Rift which is more helpful for a deck that is ultimately trying to win through combat damage. Swords to Plowshares was glaringly absent from the initial draft and Lapse of Certainty upgraded to Memory Lapse.
Here I just added a few new items. Darksteel Mutation is some of my favorite removal in Commander and I felt that Ward of Bones just wasn’t doing enough to justify being in the deck. Replacing it with Well of Lost Dreams felt like a no-brainer that I had completely missed out on in my initial build. Since Oloro is such a key part of this deck, I’d rather find ways to abuse him without putting him into play. Necropotence is one of the most powerful draw-engines in all of Magic and with Oloro’s lifegain ability, I can keep my hand full of answers.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If I were looking to strengthen some theme of my deck, I might make cuts here first. The deck doesn’t rely on any particular one of these planeswalkers to win but all of their effects are powerful enough to justify playing while I have the space for them.
A mana base is almost always a work in progress and this one is no exception. The Refuge lands are something I only advocate playing because of Oloro’s unique ability but the Bounce lands such as Dimir Aqueduct are something I advise people to try out if they are running the Theros Scry lands. Sure it’s kind of slow and clunky but playing your Scry land on turn 1, bouncing it on turn 2 and re-using it on turn 3 is a nice way to set up your early game and something that shouldn’t be too uncommon. In a deck that isn’t going to do much in the early game anyway, I find the combination of Bounce and Scry lands to be extremely useful. If this deck were focused more on speed than mana fixing, I would want to play basic lands in place of the Bounce and Refuge lands. The land count is rather low at 32 so if I make some cuts, I should give high priority to adding in some more lands to make sure my opening hands come out smooth.
So what is still missing from this deck? Well, I still don’t have access to any kind of insta-win combo. Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood would certainly be the perfect fit for the deck and with Plea for Guidance, I could tutor up both pieces. There are also a multitude of creatures that would better help me with my themes such as Rhox Faithmender or Drogskol Reaver.
See you all on Thursday at 6pm for Commander and don’t forget that Nu Games will be open late this Friday night to celebrate the release of Journey into Nyx!