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By: gwyned, gwyned
May 05 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. In Part One, I reviewed all of the creatures and spells that make use of these mechanics as well as each of the Common cycles in the set. Today, 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. Just like in Part One, I am adding a third category - borderline - for those cards that aren't great, but might see some play in the right deck. So let's take a look at the rest of the Commons from the set!

II. Journey into Nyx Commons
A. White Cards

1. Akroan Mastiff is yet another in a long-line of White Common creatures that can tap opposing creatures. This latest incarnation is remarkably similar to Blinding Mage, which proved to be quite good at the time. Sadly, while this hound has one extra point of Power, it also costs twice as much. While having an unconditional tapper for White is quite nice, paying 3 for the privilege is not. However, it is worth pointing out that this can be used as an enabler for Inspired, which might be just enough to keep it from being entirely unplayable.

Verdict: Borderline -  If you mast ask, a' reckon on this seeing some play.

2. Eagle of the Watch is an aggressive variant of a typical White creature at Common with both Flying and Vigilance. In this case, having such low Toughness seems to be a detriment, since it hardly seems the type of creature one wants to keep back on defense using Vigilance. And if it's an aggressive White flyer one wants, the format already has Loyal Pegasus, which has the same stats (sans Vigilance) for the low price of . Sunspire Griffin, for the same cost, will also be superior in most instances. As such, I don't see any reason to play this.

Verdict: Myth - The eagle eyed will keep watch against such a card.

3. For the most part, Oppressive Rays just isn't as good as Pacifism. It does have the advantage of reducing the usefulness of any creature-based activated abilities, but such abilities have become quite unusual at Common. Further, while this may keep a creature from attacking or blocking some of the time, your opponent always has the choice simply to pay the extra mana at any critical juncture. And while neither of these downsides are show-stoppers, there seems little reason to play when Pacifism is just as good for only one additional mana.

Verdict: Myth - Giving your opponent the choice to ignore this hardly seems oppressive.

4. Oreskos Swiftclaw is a nice change from the prototypical 2/2 for 2 mana, even if it is just a vanilla creature. Daring Skyjek has proven that a 3/1 for 1 can be quite effective as an early aggressor. But by the same token, the Skyjek is also strictly better than the Swiftclaw, since its Battalion ability allows it to go unblocked so much of the time. As long as the Skyjek remains in the format, there is no reason to play the Swiftclaw over it. In fact, the only way it would see play at all is in a hyper aggressive White Weenie deck that wanted access to both creatures.

Verdict: Myth - This almost clawed its way to borderline, but I swiftly decided to give it a rest.

5. Speaking of 2/2s for 2, Stonewise Fortifier is just such a creature with an uninspired secondary ability. Regeneration is not typically part of White's color philosophy, and so you end up with this clunky ability to prevent all damage dealt to it instead, and at the obscene cost of 4. Lagonna-Band Trailblazer from this same set could easily serve a similar role for White without having to rely on such an expensive activated ability. Most of the time, this will simply be a 2/2 for 1, which is almost never good enough to see play in the format.

Verdict: Myth - It would be stone unwise for you to play this.

6. Supply-Line Cranes is interesting, but prohibitively expensive. Even if you place the counter on itself, you are still only getting a 3/5 Flyer for 3, which is fairly typical for a 3 Power flyer in White. While this certainly is respectable, White isn't typically playing for the late game. Certainly, the flexibility of placing a permanent +1 / +1 counter is not to be dismissed, even that doesn't seem enough to warrant its cost. But the fact is, similar cards in the past haven't seen much play, and I don't think there is enough here to make this any different.

Verdict: Myth - You expect me to supply another clever line here, don't you?

B. Blue Cards

1. Cloaked Siren is a more aggressive version of the typical 3 flyer with Flash we've seen as of late. A three Power flyer with Flash for four mana is unparalleled at Common, and should prove to be quite good. While likely to trade with most other flyers, it could prove to be a nice finisher for a Blue-based Control deck, and should slot into a more midrange archetype with ease. This siren is also an excellent Bestow target, especially paired with Hopeful Eidolon, and in that capacity should be capable of quickly closing out a game.

Verdict: Hit - The fact that this is good is hardly cloaked in secrecy.

2. Countermand is the Cancel variant for the set. Like all cards that mill an opponent, it is either an effective part of a dedicated strategy or completely irrelevant. In this case, it is almost Cancel plus Tome Scour combined into a single card. This should see play in exactly one archetype in the format - Dimir Mill - where it works as a more effective, yet more expensive, Psychic Strike. Testing will be necessary to see if that deck actually wants more than 4 of this type of effect, but a mix might be advantageous. Otherwise, this won't see play.

Verdict: Myth - We demand a lot from counters, and this doesn't make the grade.

3. Sea Serpent makes a long awaited return in Godhunter Octopus, this time requiring a relevant Enchantment on the opposing side of the board rather than merely an Island. Especially in the current metagame, this is a fairly likely turn of events, making this far more effective than Sea Serpent. On the other hand, we already have Benthic Giant, which trades a single point of Power for Hexproof and lacks any attacking restrictions. Since Benthic Giant will almost always be better, I don't see any reason why you would want to play this over it.

Verdict: Myth - The gods of Theros should keep hunting for a better octopus.

4. Hubris sounds good at first, since the tempo loss of bouncing not only your opponent's creature but all of the attached Auras as well seems like great value. However, unless you're saving one of your own creatures, Voyage's End is much better, since your opponent's Auras end up in the Graveyard rather than back in your opponent's hands. The only exception is when dealing with Bestow creatures, since this is the only way to get rid of both creatures at once. While that's a nice effect, it is a fairly narrow one, and so I question how relevant it really is.

Verdict: Borderline - Dismissing this as chaff seems like the height of hubris, but let's not get carried away.

5. Pin to the Earth is a double strength Sensory Deprivation for double the cost, which seems reasonable. However, unless you are playing a mono-Blue build, better removal options exist in every other color. Also, the fact that many archetypes are including Enchantment hate in the maindeck means that Aura-based removal spells are, at best, a temporary measure. Still, -6 / -0 is enough to effectively neuter essentially every creature in the format, and in a color that has very few options for removal, that is certainly worth something.

Verdict: Borderline - I can't quite pin down how good this is.

6. Rise of Eagles asks an important question: how much would you pay for 2 2/2 Blue Flying creatures? Given that a Wind Drake costs 2, paying 4 for two of them seems like the expected answer. Similarly, four points of Power with Flying for 6 mana is a good deal, especially with Scry tacked on, and is something we haven't seen at Common since Errant Ephemeron. That said, dividing it up among two creatures is actually worse than a single 4/4 Flyer. As efficient as this might be, it just seems too expensive and thus too late to be effective.

Verdict: Borderline - The more I think about it, the more these eagles rise in my estimation.

7. Merfolk are generally not good at Common, and Triton Shorestalker doesn't look to be much better. It takes a lot for a 1/1 for 1 mana to be playable in the format, and even then it requires an extremely aggressive strategy to make it worth it. The fact that this is unblockable makes it a tempting target in a format with lots of great options for Auras and Bestow creatures, and such a strategy will probably steal the occasional game. Nonetheless, I don't think this is good, and I believe the metagame will eventually prove that point.

Verdict: Myth - Shore it up however you like, this triton will still prove to be less stalk and more talk.

C. Black Cards

1. Aspect of Gorgon is perhaps better than it looks on first glance, but still not impressive. While such a defensive Aura is unusual in Black (which typically has Auras like Dark Favor or Unholy Strength), it makes up for this lack by the potent combination of high Toughness to survive combat and Deathtouch to ensure it will at least trade with any creature it tangles with. The problem is, Auras are inherently risky, and this particular one doesn't have much of an immediate impact on the board. As such, I don't think it deserves a slot in your deck.

Verdict: Myth - I aspect I'm not gorgon to be playing this.

2. Cast into Darkness gets around the typical shortcoming of Auras that only affect Power by denying the enchanted creature the ability to block, making this a pseudo-Pacifism effect in Black. However, between Stab Wound and Quag Sickness Black already has some potent options for Aura-based removal, and the fact that this is one mana cheaper doesn't seem a good enough reason to warrant playing this over either of those. If you're playing Black, you expect to outright destroy your foes, not merely cripple them until your opponent finds a Disenchant effect.

Verdict: Myth - I gladly cast this into the darkness of the unplayable bin.

3. Apparently the days of (nearly) unconditional removal like Doom Blade at Common are long-gone. Instead, now we get cards like Feast of Dreams, which is quite good against a particular kind of threat and worthless against any other kind. Even with all of the Enchantments and Bestow creatures in the format, the restriction seems like a major liability. I might consider this as a Sideboard card against certain White Weenie or RDW builds, but on the whole this is just too narrow to see widespread play in the format.

Verdict: Myth - Dream on - this is more famine than feast.

4. Pharika's Chosen is a functional reprint of Typhoid Rats from Innistrad, which saw very little play in the format. Even a 1/1 for 1 with Deathtouch is rarely good enough to see play in the format. In particular, with Baleful Eidolon in the set, we already have access to the exact same card for only one additional mana that also has the ability to be utilized much more effectively in the late game. As such, I don't foresee ever having a reason to play this over the eidolon, making this yet another irrelevant card for Standard Pauper.

Verdict: Myth - If this is your choice, you won't fare well.

5. Black has been getting its fair share of creatures that mill an opponent when they enter or leave play, and Returned Reveler is yet another variation on this theme. While these have seen some play in the Dimir Mill decklist, they have not seen much if any play outside of that archetype. Returned Centaur, while more expensive, does everything this card does but better, and also does cause you to mill yourself, which in a prolonged matchup can be the difference between winning and losing. Thus this card is probably worse than another very narrow card.

Verdict: Myth - Playing this is no party, and should be returned to your card binder.

6. The fact that Rotted Hulk is a vanilla Black creature for 3 doesn't bode well for its playability, and its 2/5 body, while generous for its casting cost, does nothing to assuage those fears. In fact, currently in the format, many of the best creatures in Black share this casting cost, and I would play almost any of those before I would play this. Usually I can find some redeeming purpose or niche for even the worst card, but in this case I can't think of a single situation where I would want this in play over any of my other options.

Verdict: Myth - Black has been a big stinker, but this one is rotten to the core.

D. Red Cards

1. Bladetusk Boar is back once again in Standard. In Red, one expects at least a 3/3 for 3, and in this case even the presence of Intimidate doesn't make up for the vulnerability of having 2 Toughness instead of 3. While the evasion is a nice touch, Bladetusk Boar has never been a big presence in the metagame. It's too expensive for a Red aggro archetype, and not powerful enough to fit in a more Control strategy. Additionally, the four-drop slot in Red already has several strong creatures, some of which are arguably stronger. As such, I have my doubts about it.

Verdict: Borderline - I don't mean to boar you, but this isn't the sharpest blade.

2. Flurry of Horns seems like the real deal. You get 4 Power worth of creatures, with Haste, for 4, which is about as good as you can expect at Common. In a format where the typical creature has 2 Power, a 2/3 body is also quite relevant. At the very least, it's comparable to Lava Axe, and probably superior, in that the creatures stick around to deal damage in subsequent rounds. However, in the current format Red has mostly been played in more aggressive archetypes, so it remains to be seen whether this can find a home in the newly emerging metagame.

Verdict: Borderline - You'd have to hurry and shoehorn it in somewhere, but this has potential.

3. Take one part Volcanic Strength and add Shock to the mix, you end up with the overcosted Lightning Diadem, which manages to take two relevant effects and render them uselessly expensive. At a cost of 3 or 4 mana, this would be worth considering, since you would almost always get at least the 2 points of damage in for your effort. But for six mana, you better be casting something that will have a dramatic effect on the board. This unfortunately seems to be a clear example of too little, too late. Not recommended for play.

Verdict: Myth - Quickly crown it unplayable and let's move on.

4. Magma Spray returns from Shards of Alara, providing an interesting alternative to Annihilating Fire. For two mana less, you lose the ability to target your opponent, but guarantee that once the creature dies, it won't be returning to play this game. However, it is worth noting that this does not prevent Regeneration, since the creature is never actually destroyed. In the current metagame, graveyard recursion for creatures is not a major strategy, and as such the impetus to play Magma Spray isn't very high. Most of the time, the flexibility of (Annihilatig Fire) is probably worth the extra mana.

Verdict: Borderline - It's not so hot, but I spray it does have some potential use.

5. Pensive Minotaur is a rather boring vanilla creature, and one that is strictly worse than two creatures already in the format - Kragma Butcher and Warmind Infantry. While I have been pleased to see that 2/3s for 3 have become fairly typical in Red at Common, vanilla creatures are almost never relevant in Standard Pauper. In this case, for only two additional mana, you can get two 2/3s with Haste - see Flurry of Horns, above - which makes this even more irrelevant. I don't know what else to say. Don't play this. Please.

Verdict: Myth - With a little thought, anyone can see this card is bull.

6. Back in Zendikar, there was Searing Blaze, and it was good. It dealt 3 damage to both a creature and its controller for a mere , assuming you made a land-drop that turn. Now consider Starfall, which costs an additional three mana and requires that the target be an Enchantment Creature to get the same effect. It should be obvious that paying three more mana and having a much narrower restriction makes this card much worse. Oh, and did I mention we already have Punish the Enemy, which is strictly better than this?

Verdict: Myth - You're no Magic star if you fall to the temptation to play this.

E. Green Cards

1. Desecration Plague brings Land destruction back to Green after a long absence at Common. While its Red counterpart Demolish has seen virtually no play, the fact that this destroys Enchantments and not Artifacts certainly makes this a better choice given all the relevant Enchantments in the format. Nonetheless, while Land destruction can be quite potent against greedy mana-bases or an opponent's terrible start, generally speaking it is not a great strategy. At best, I would consider this as a Sideboard option against certain decks.

Verdict: Borderline - A pox on you and your house if you start destroying my Lands!

2. Voyaging Satyr returns as the more aggressive Golden Hind, swapping around Power and Toughness and only giving you access to Green rather than whatever other Lands you might be playing. While Green has not been a major presence in the metagame, this type of card has always been popular in the format. The fact that it attacks and blocks better than most other mana-producing creatures should also be considered. Overall, while not exciting, I would expect this to see play in any Green-focused archetype.

Verdict: Hit - I wouldn't call it golden, but I certainly won't leave it behind either.

3. Kruphix's Insight is one of a long line of Green draw spells that search for a particular card type, but probably one of the better ones to come along in a while. While getting to draw three Enchantments and discarding three bad cards is not going to happen very often, even finding only two targets makes this a Green Divination, which is pretty good value. This probably only fits in a dedicated Selesnya Aura build (especially with Auramancer), but is also worth considering for the Bant Hexproof deck. Great potential, but not sure how effective it will prove to be.

Verdict: Borderline - My insight is that this is good in dedicated builds but should be nixed elsewhere.

4. Market Festival is essentially a double-strength Verdant Haven for only one additional mana. This provides an impressive source of both mana-ramp and color-fixing, but at 3 is pretty expensive for a card that doesn't affect the board in any meaningful way. In the current metagame, there aren't a lot of powerful options even when you have access to large amounts of mana, so I'm less than positive about getting much value out of this card. There might be a dedicated build that wants this, but by and large I don't expect it to see much play.

Verdict: Borderline - Purchasing this card is hardly cause for celebration.

5. Centaur's Herald comes back around as Renowned Weaver. A 1/1 is only slightly better than an 0/1, but an 1/3, even with Reach, is dramatically worse than the 3/3 you receive from the herald, even if this is one mana cheaper. Interestingly enough, the resulting creature is an Enchantment creature, which makes this one of only two ways to trigger Constellation at Instant speed (the other being Feral Invocation. Still, that's a pretty narrow effect, and as such as I don't think this will see much play in the upcoming metagame.

Verdict: Myth - She's renown for weaving, not for playability.

6. Timberland Guide returns from Innistrad as the functionally equivalent Satyr Grovedancer. Honestly, this is about as good as can be expected for a 2 mana 2/2. The flexibility of being able to place the +1 / +1 counter elsewhere later in the game is good value, but at the end of the day this is otherwise just a vanilla creature. Timberland Guide didn't see much if any play, and I doubt this will either. If this had Flash, it might warrant consideration as a neat combat trick. But as is, I don't think this makes enough impact to be worth playing.

Verdict: Myth - I am hardly sated by this dance.

III. Final Thoughts

Overall I suspect that Journey into Nyx will make a bigger impact on the format than Born of the Gods did. With the possible exception of Black, each color gained some strong playables, and most of the existing archetypes should get some new options. A few cards from the set may even be good enough to help another archetype emerge into the metagame. For reference sake, here are all the cards from the set that I noted as "hits:"

 

 

 

 

Of the borderline cards, I also believe that these are the ones most likely to have the most impact:

 

 

 

 

Taken together, I would vote these as my Top 10 Commons from Journey into Nyx for Standard Pauper.

IV. Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed 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.

2 Comments

Nice review, although it's by Mundisv at Tue, 05/06/2014 - 13:17
Mundisv's picture

Nice review, although it's sad that we get very few interesting commons nowadays. I would agree on most of your picks besides Feast of Dreams, I believe it is a very strong sideboard card at the very least, so many targets for it in the metagame.

That's New World Order for by longtimegone at Tue, 05/06/2014 - 13:45
longtimegone's picture

That's New World Order for you. Most of the cards a new player sees will be the commons, so they strictly clamp down on how many of those cards can have complexity. I wouldn't expect to see much of a change on that front in the future, the only people who seem to have any issue with it are the Pauper players.