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By: gwyned, gwyned
Apr 28 2014 12:00pm
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I. Introduction

It's release time for Journey into Nyx, bringing to a close our sojourn through the Theros block. If you're looking for superb analysis of this set's impact on Limited and Standard, I'm afraid you clicked the wrong link. Instead, it is the purpose of this article to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. Three of the seven mechanics from the previous two sets have returned at Common, along with two new mechanics for this set. Before reading this article, it might be helpful to brush up on these mechanics. For the purpose of this article, I will be limiting myself to the creatures and spells that make use of these mechanics as well as one Common full cycle and two Common 'mini-cycles' in the set. Then, in Part Two, I will review the rest of the Commons from Journey into Nyx.

If you read my two part review of Born of the Gods, you should be familiar with my methodology. Rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead note each card as a "hit or myth" and discuss why I believe this card will or will not be relevant. My reasoning is simple: unlike in Limited, you will never have an instance where you have to prioritize one card over another in any meaningful way, and thus a letter grade is not that helpful in actual practice. However, this time I am adding a third category - borderline - for those cards that aren't great, but might see some play in the right deck. With that, let's get to the cards!

II. Journey into Nyx Mechanic Commons
A. Returning Mechanics

1. Bloodcrazed Hoplite is the first Heroic card we've seen in Black at Common, and one with an unusual effect. Setting aside the ability to remove an opponent's +1 / +1 counters, this card is borderline. Black is not typically the color of Auras or combat tricks, and it doesn't seem to fit in any of the major existing archetypes. That said, an aggressive Rakdos build might be a good fit, especially paired with a card like Mark of the Vampire or Deviant Glee. Finally, its ability to remove counters might also make it a good Sideboard option.

Verdict: Borderline - By the blood, this might just be crazy enough to work!

2. Gluttonous Cyclops is certainly big, but I'm not sure what else it has going for it. A 5/4 for 5 is about par for the course, but similar cards like Golgari Longlegs aren't good enough. In fact, even the otherwise excellent Vulpine Goliath hasn't really made much of an impact, and it's clearly superior. Furthermore, making this card a 8/7 is impressive, but for 5 you better be winning the game, which is by no means a certainty. Big and dumb isn't what Red is trying to do in the current metagame, and so I don't think this card will see much play.

Verdict: Myth - Don't let any one-eyed, big-mouthed dummy tell you this is playable.

3. White has dominated the Heroic mechanic at Common, and has proven to be quite a significant presence in the metagame. So is Lagona-Band Trailblazer going to add anything to the mix? I wouldn't count on it. White Weenie and similar archetypes are all about aggression, and this centaur is about as far from aggressive as possible. While an 0/4 for is great value, it doesn't really slot into existing White strategies. The only possibility would be siding this in against other fast, aggressive decks in a list already positioned to take advantage of Heroic.

Verdict: Myth - I'm gonna a-band-on this trail and blaze my own.

4. Pheres-Band Thuderhoof makes a strong argument for a mana-ramping, creature-smashing Green deck, utilizing cards like his clan-mate Pheres-Band Tromper and Staunch-Hearted Warrior. Thus far, there hasn't been enough support in the cardpool for this archetype, but this card certainly makes that issue worth revisiting. Still, a 3/4 for 4 is subpar for Green, demanding at least one Heroic activation to get full value out of it. So while this isn't necessarily a game-changer, it's certainly worth consideration and might even be quite good in the right deck.

Verdict: Borderline: Fair or not, this is more thunder than hoof.

5. The closest analogue to Ravenous Leucrocota is Ill-Tempered Cyclops, which trades a point of Toughness for Power, a much more relevant secondary ability (Trample vs. Vigilance), and is even cheaper to activate its Monstrosity ability. As such, assuming you have access to both colors, I don't see any reason to play this beast over the cyclops. Even worse, Green already has access to Nessian Asp, which is better in every way save for being a single colorless mana more expensive. Based on those factors, there is little reason for this to see play.

Verdict: Myth - Maybe a raving lunatic would enjoy playing this.

6. Red gains a solid Heroic creature in Satyr Hoplite. Normally, a 1/1 for 1 isn't something you'd want to play even in a hyper-aggressive Red deck, but this card seems like it would slot right into a Red Deck Wins archetype like this one. With enough ways of targeting it, this could connect for significant damage within the first few turns. Of course, outside of that particular deck, there isn't enough here to get excited about. Boros already has better options, and none of the other archetypes with access to Red would play this.

Verdict: Borderline - I wouldn't say it's good, but it's not tyr-ible either.

7. Sigiled Skink seems at first blush like it might serve a similar role to Satyr Hoplite, but I am much less optimistic about its playability. A vanilla 2/1 for 1 certainly wouldn't make the cut. So the question is - of what value is the ability to Scry 1 each time it attacks? While there isn't a firm consensus, scry is generally valued at about a-third of a card, which means that I'd want to connect with this at least three times to make it worth playing. And that's not going to happen very often. As such, I don't believe there is any compelling reason to play this.

Verdict: Myth - This skink stinks.

8. Apparently the gods are marking up all kinds of things, including this Sigiled Starfish. As a creature, it's quite subpar - an 0/3 for 1 is all but useless, and vulnerable to most removal spells. On the other hand, the ability to Scry 1 for free, each and every turn, is quite good. This raises an interesting question - how many cards would a spell have to scry before it became worth casting for 1,  assuming it did nothing else? Whatever the answer, will you be able to activate this starfish that many times in a game? Personally, I have my doubts.

Verdict: Borderline - It's not an all-star, but I guess it's not a dead fish either.

9. War-Wing Siren is probably one of the better Heroic cards. Akroan Skyguard proved just how good even small creatures can be when they pair Flying with the ability to gain +1 / +1 counters. In fact, a closer analog is probably Wingsteed Rider, who swaps a point of Power for Toughness but is harder to cast. Combine this siren with Wavecrash Triton and some Heroic enablers, and you have the foundation for a potentially strong deck. Indeed, this card seems good enough to fit into several different archetypes, and for that reason it should see play.

Verdict: Hit - Sound the alarm - this card's winging to war.

B. Common Cycle of Strive Spells

 

 

 

 

Ajani's Presence, Aerial Formation, Cruel Feeding, Rouse the Mob, and Nature's Panoply make up a cycle of Common cards with the Strive mechanic. Each is an Instant that costs a single colored mana to cast, and can target additional creatures for a cost of 2 plus a colored mana for each target beyond the first one. Each can be considered a combat trick, pumping Power, sometimes Toughness, and temporarily granting a Color-appropriate keyword ability. The Green one is the exception, instead granting permanent +1 / +1 counters rather than such abilities.

At worst, all of these are playable combat tricks. Aerial Formation is probably the weakest, since so many Blue creatures already have Flying, and granting that ability in the midst of combat isn't that effective. Cruel Feeding is likewise mediocre. Ajani's Presence is the best of the bunch, as it guarantees that the targeted creature(s) survive combat, counters most removal spells, and is also the color most likely to get additional value out of targeting additional creatures. Overall, these are excellent in any Heroic deck and solid in any aggressive archetype.

Verdict: Borderline, except Ajani's Presence, which is a Hit - I know I reviewed those fast, but strive to keep up.

C. Constellation Commons

1. Dreadbringer Lampads is pretty unexciting. A five-drop that trades with many two-drops is just not a card that is going to see much play. Granting Intimidate is a nice touch, and pairs well with the Black 'removal' Enchantments like Quag Sickness and Stab Wound, but even this isn't enough to elevate this to playable. When the format already boasts a card like Gray Merchant of Asphodel in the same color and for the same converted casting cost, it would take a pretty niche strategy to prefer the lampads to that.

Verdict: Myth - Bring out your dread - right out of your deck!

2. Grim Guardian doesn't seem much better. Overall Black isn't typically very defensive in the format, and pinging an opponent for 1 point of damage isn't exactly a strong incentive to play this card. Indeed, this card already has a close analog in Scholar of Athreos, which other than being multicolored is better in most situations; it also has seen almost no play. Additionally, Black already has several good options at the three drop slot, and even in a dedicated enchantment build I don't think this would be good enough.

Verdict: Myth - Grin and guard against cards like this.

3. If there more ways to Flash in an Enchantment, Harvestguard Alseids could be quite the potent trick. But as is, attacking your opponent with a creature he or she knows won't take damage isn't much of an advantage, and your opponent even has the chance to destroy the targeted creature before this takes effect. One could certainly do worse than a 2/3 for 2, but White probably has better options at its disposal. Overall the card is both too meager and too defensive to really be worth capitalizing on the Constellation ability.

Verdict: Myth - Al'say it again - guard against cards like this.

4. Humbler of Mortals is the quintessential Green beater, costing a reasonable 4 for a 5/5 with a conditional ability. In this case, Trample is exactly what a Big Green deck wants access to, since it takes full advantage of the higher Power of its creatures and punishes your opponent for chump-blocking. Green doesn't have much in the way of useful Enchantments, but several have seen widespread play in the metagame. I don't think this is good enough to build an entire archetype around, but in the right deck it could prove reasonably effective.

Verdict: Borderline - In this mortal's humble opinion, this is just okay.

5. Speaking of Green Enchantments, Oakheart Dryads seems to be the real deal. A 2/3 for 2 is already reasonable, and the ability to boost Power and Toughness, even if temporarily, can easily be the difference between holding a creature back and swinging in with it. While the boost isn't amazing, you should be able to get decent value out of additional Enchantments, getting a pretty good return on your investment. Again, I'm not sure this is good enough to construct a dedicated Green enchantment archetype, but there is certainly value to be had here.

Verdict: Borderline - While not cut and dry, in my heart I want this to be good.

6. Thassa's Devourer is definitely not what I want in a five drop. While getting 8 points of Power and Toughness for 4 is quite the deal, having only 2 Power makes this underpowered to say the least. Further, the ability to mill 2 cards is very mediocre, especially since dedicated mill strategies in the format don't rely on enchantments. I'm not sure how many cards this would have to mill to make it worth building around, but I would hazard to guess at least five. And if a dedicated mill deck doesn't want this, I'm not sure why anyone else would either.

Verdict: Myth - That's-sa my reasons why I won't be playing this.

D. Other Common Cycles

1. Fonts

 

 

 

 

Font of Vigor, Font of Fortunes, Font of Return, Font of Ire, and Font of Fertility make up a cycle of 2 mana Enchantments (except the Green, which only costs a single mana), that can be sacrificed to create a color-appropriate effect for some additional mana. Interestingly enough, each of these mirror an effect we've seen before at Common: Angel's Mercy, Divination, March of the Returned (but potentially affects one additional creature), Lava Axe, and Rampant Growth. In each case (again, except the Green), you get a discount on the activation cost, but this doesn't factor in the additional mana you had to pay to cast it in the first place.

The Fonts of Vigor and Ire both represents cards that essentially never see play. For Font of Fertility, there is almost no reason why you wouldn't just play Farseek instead. Font of Return does have the potential for a three-for-one, albeit one that doesn't directly affect the board right away. Still, this could potentially replace March of the Returned. But of these, Font of Fortunes is probably the strongest, giving you an Instant-speed ability to draw cards with a so-called installment plan.

Verdict: Vigor, Ire, and Fertility - Myth; Return - Borderline; Fortunes - Hit - I f'ont not fertility, ire, or vigor; but would sacrifice for the return of my fortunes.

2. Nyx Auras

 

 

 

 

Armament of Nyx and Nyx Infusion are paired by being part of a larger cycle of enchantments that offer a reasonable choice between targeting them on either your own creatures or that of your opponent. Armament is one of a handful of Commons ever printed that grants Double Strike, even if it only grants it to Enchantment creatures. This will be a godsend for the White-based Aura deck, potentially increasing its clock dramatically. Preventing an opponent's creature from dealing damage isn't nearly as good, but not entirely useless either. Essentially though, this seems to be a strike-out / home-run card, in that it will either be really good or terrible.

The Infusion is less swingy, but probably still won't see much play. Black has more reliable means of boosting Power and Toughness, and with Auras like Stab Wound and Quag Sickness in the format, they have better enchantment-based removal as well. But in a Orzhov deck with several Enchantment creatures in the list, the flexibility of this card might warrant inclusion.

Verdict: Borderline - I don't want to nix these entirely, but they are pretty deck specific.

3. "Ordeal-light" Auras

 

 

 

 

Moral Obstinancy and Flamespeaker's Will share a mana cost, a targeting restriction, a Power / Toughness boost, and a sacrifice effect whenever you deal combat damage to a player. The White one destroys an Enchantment, while the Red destroys an Artifact. These function almost like the cycle of Ordeals from Theros, but with a much simpler mechanic. Either as a +1 / +1 boost or as an artifact/enchantment removal spell, the effect is pretty meager. Worse, there is no guarantee that the enchanted creature will actually be able to deal damage to your opponent. While the flexibility is a nice touch, ultimately I don't think these do enough to warrant play.

Verdict: Myth - Call me obstinate if you will, but I say these aren't worth dying for.

III. Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed Part One of my Standard Pauper review of Journey into Nyx. As I close, let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. You can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Finally, I am the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to PDCMagic.com for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 6:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room.

I am already hard at work at Part Two, and I hope to have it up here soon. Thanks for reading.