M15: Mill and self-mill cards

Magic 2015 has only 2 cards that let you mill your opponent: Mind Sculpt and Grindclock (rare). Grindclock is playable as the only mill card in a control deck since it enables a turn 11 win if played on turn 2 and set to 5-9 counters. Mind Sculpt is unplayable, even in multiples; if you assume a typical game in this format runs about 10 turns (a generous assumption given the speed of aggressive decks in the format), you still have to mill 23 cards. That requires you draw 4 Mind Sculpts, 3 if your opponent plays any draw spells or self-mill cards. By turn 10, you’ve seen about half your deck, which means you need to have drafted 6-8 Mind Sculpts, but an 8-person draft will only have 2.4 of them on average.

The set does have a few other cards that let you mill yourself and several cards that benefit from you having more cards in your graveyard. There are 4 cards that allow you to mill yourself: Satyr Wayfinder, Necromancer’s Assistant, Jace the Living Guildpact (mythic), and the previously mentioned Grindclock (rare); Mind Sculpt only allows you to mill opponents. This means that an 8-person Magic 2015 draft has an average of only 5.6 cards that let you mill yourself. If you’re playing B/G/u and draft all 5.6 of these cards, this means that 1 out of 7 cards in the resulting deck will be a self-mill card, so you can expect to have 1 in your starting hand and draw another over the course of the game.

Next, let’s look at the cards that benefit from having cards in your graveyard to see whether 1-2 self-mill spells is sufficient to power them. Magic 2015 offers us Return to the Ranks (rare), Endless Obedience (uncommon), Gravedigger (uncommon), Liliana Vess (mythic), Soul of Innistrad (mythic), Unmake the Graves, Restock (uncommon), Undergrowth Scavenger, Vineweft (unplayable), and Profane Memento (uncommon). Looking at this list makes it clear that self-mill decks in Magic 2015 (as in most recent formats) are B/G. Of these, there are only a handful of common/uncommon cards that I’d be happy to play if I were only expecting to see 1-2 self mill cards over the course of a game: Endless Obedience, Gravedigger, Unmake the Graves, and Restock.

Looking at both sides of the equation, it seems that there are neither enough self-mill cards nor enough powerful commons and uncommons that benefit from them to make it worth trying to assemble a dedicated B/G self-mill deck. However, it could be a reasonable subtheme in a B/X deck that has a couple of Necromancer’s Assistants.

M15: G/U creature reuse

Magic 2015 has a plethora of ways to return permanents, especially creatures, to your hand. Some of these, such as Into the Void, can be used on opponents’ creatures and so are always playable if you’re in the color. Others, such as Peel from Reality and Quickling, are instant speed and so are usually playable even if you don’t have particularly cheap creatures or creatures with enters-the-battlefield (ETB) triggers. However, cards such as Invasive Species and Roaring Primadox usually need to be in a deck with multiple ETB triggers in order to shine, so let’s take a look at what Magic 2015 has to offer in that department.

The list below has all the permanents in Magic 2015 that have ETB triggers, sorted by color and rarity. I’ve bolded the common/uncommon creatures that we really want to recur, or that provide a reasonable benefit when we recur other creatures. Italics mean that this permanent has an ETB effect that allows you to reuse creatures.

  • White:
    • commons: Heliod’s Pilgrim (x), Kinsbaile Skirmisher (/, ETB is irrelevant), Midnight Guard (~, ETB is irrelevant), Tireless Missionaries (x)
    • uncommons: Boonweaver Giant (x), Constricting Sliver (B, but it’s only useful to recur Slivers played before Constricting Sliver was played, and the set has very few good Slivers)
    • rares: Resolute Archangel (B), Spirit Bonds (+)
    • non-creatures: Divine Favor (common, x)
  • Blue:
    • commons: Coral Barrier (/, but ETB is rarely relevant), Frost Lynx (/)
    • uncommons: Kapsho Kitefins (+), Quickling (+)
  • Black:
    • commons: Necromancer’s Assistant (~, ETB is useful only in a very specific archetype), Rotfeaster Maggot (S)
    • uncommons: Gravedigger (/)
  • Red:
    • commons: Forge Devil (/), Foundry Street Denizen (~, ETB is irrelevant)
    • rares: Hoarding Dragon (B, ETB is irrelevant since you lose access to the exiled artifact if you bounce Hoarding Dragon), Siege Dragon (B, ETB is rarely relevant)
    • non-creatures: Hammerhand (common)
  • Green:
    • commons: Invasive Species (?), Living Totem (/), Satyr Wayfinder (/), Shaman of Spring (/), Undergrowth Scavenger (?, ETB is irrelevant except perhaps in a B/G self-mill deck)
    • uncommons: Reclamation Sage (+)
    • rares: Genesis Hydra (+), Hornet Queen (B), Kalonian Twingrove (+)
    • non-creatures: Verdant Haven (/, ETB is irrelevant)
  • Artifact/Land (all non-creatures):
    • commons: Radiant Fountain (S)
    • uncommons: Meteorite (~), Staffs of the X Magus (x)
    • rares: Obelisk of Urd (?, ETB is rarely relevant), Phyrexian Revoker (~, ETB is rarely relevant)

Looking over this list, it is clear that there are only a small number creatures that we want to replay or that cause us to want to replay other creatures. Most of these creatures are in blue and green, which are also the colors with the most ways to bounce your creatures. Blue has Peel from Reality at common, Quickling at uncommon, and Mercurial Pretender at rare. It also has other cards that let you bounce your own creatures or your opponents’ creatures: Void Snare at common, Into the Void at uncommon, and Jace the Living Guildpact at mythic. Green has Invasive Species at common and Roaring Primadox at uncommon. Of these cards, only Void Snare and Jace the Living Guildpact let you bounce non-creatures, so we do not have a reliable way to reuse ETB effects on those.

Consequently, a creature reuse deck will usually be G/U, and the colors do have enough bounce and ETB effects that the 2 groups of cards can build off each other. The colors also have cheap creatures with ETB effects, so Invasive Species and Roaring Primadox can be played relatively on curve. It is worth noting that Satyr Wayfinder is the only creature in these colors that would be played on turn 1-2 and still have a useful ETB effect, so you should make sure to pick up a few of them if you’re drafting this deck. They can also fix your colors to some extent, so they can give you the option to splash ETB creatures from other colors.

JOU/BNG/THS: Followup on the mill deck

Last week, I’d hypothesized that mill decks in Theros block draft should be U/B, or perhaps U/W. I then proceeded to draft a mill deck that was actually U/G, like the mill decks in Magic 2014. I suspect this color combination is unusual for mill decks in this format; it came together primarily because I opened an Eidolon of Blossoms in my first pack, then took a Bassara Tower Archer (over a Thassa’s Devourer), a Golden Hind, and a Thassa’s Devourer hoping that the first one would lap the table (it did). In Born of the Gods, I picked up a pair of Evanescent Intellects, and then focused on rounding out the deck in the Theros pack. Here’s the deck I played:

Creatures Spells/Land Sideboard
Sedge Scorpion
Bassara Tower Archer
Golden Hind
Triton Fortune Hunter
War-Wing Siren
Nyxborn Triton
Nyxborn Wolf
Nylea’s Disciple
Cloaked Siren
Eidolon of Blossoms
Prescient Chimera
2 Thassa’s Devourer
Archetype of Endurance
2 Evanescent Intellect
Triton Tactics
Savage Surge
Ordeal of Nylea
Pin to the Earth
Kruphix’s Insight
Eternity Snare
Interpret the Signs

Temple of Plenty
8 Forests
8 Islands

Guardians of Meletis
Pillar of War
Hunt the Hunter
Defend the Hearth
Unravel the Aether
Fade into Antiquity
Aerial Formation
Lost in a Labyrinth
2 Stratus Walk
Pull from the Deep
Ephara’s Enlightenment
Leonin Iconoclast
Ephara’s Radiance
Font of Vigor
Glare of Heresy
Ray of Dissolution
Claim of Erebos

There were several tough cuts from the final build:

  • I really wanted to run the pair of Stratus Walks for the constellation/heroic triggers they offered and the interaction with Kruphix’s Insight, as well as the cantrip effect. However, I decided to run Prescient Chimera and Cloaked Siren instead, even though my deck only has 2 sorceries, 2 instants, no other flash creatures, and 2 instant-speed activated abilities. This is because I really didn’t want to go down to 12 creatures while running 5 Auras, 2 bestow effects, and 2 combat tricks. I also wanted to ensure I had enough aerial defense since this deck can take a while to get set up. (I should probably have prioritized Shredding Winds when drafting this deck, since it is fairly short on removal.)
  • Ephara’s Enlightenment combos well with my constellation creatures, but I would have had to run at least 2 Plains in addition to the Temple of Plenty, and I didn’t want to mess up my mana base. If I’d seen any other color fixing, I would have happily picked it up and run Ephara’s Enlightenment and Leonin Iconoclast.
  • Guardians of Meletis and Pillar of War would have fit the deck’s goal, but I had enough ground defense and enough 3cc creatures. I also didn’t want to expose myself to incidental artifact removal such as Reckless Reveler and Wild Celebrants since I wasn’t running any other artifacts.
  • Fade into Antiquity and Unravel the Aether would have provided my deck some much needed removal, but I couldn’t afford to run potentially dead cards.

The deck ended up going 1-2, but both the matches I lost were quite close, and I felt like things could have turned out differently if I’d had fewer mulligans or if my opponent has slightly slower starts. A particularly disappointing loss was to a B/G graveyard deck whose pilot was aiding me by milling his own library. However, I did win a game against him by playing Sedge Scorpion on turn 1 and Ordeal of Nylea on turn 2, and swinging for the fences.

JOU: Pheres-Band Warchief

How good is Pheres-Band Warchief in Theros block draft, and how early should you pick him? I’ll start by pointing out that even if you draft a Pheres-Band Warchief, you should not try to draft around it, since you may never draw the card. And it’s a rare, so you’re unlikely to get passed another copy (although I have seen that happen). Consequently, while you might pick centaurs slightly higher than you might otherwise once you draft a Pheres-Band Warchief, you should still only draft those that are playable on their own merits. (Journey into Nyx only has 2 common centaurs, so it would be difficult to commit to a centaurs deck even if you have multiple copies of Pheres-Band Warchief.)

Let’s look at the centaurs in the format, organized by color and set, along with information about their quality, rarity, and how many playable ones you can expect to see on average in an 8-person draft:

Journey into Nyx Born of the Gods Theros
White Lagonna-Band Trailblazer (good) Lagonna-Band Elder (good)
Black Returned Centaur (unplayable)
Green Pheres-Band Thunderhoof (good), Pheres-Band Warchief (TBD, rare) Swordwise Centaur (good), Pheres-Band Tromper (good), Pheres-Band Raiders (filler, uncommon), Courser of Kruphix (bomb, rare) Nessian Courser (good), Nylea’s Disciple (good), Pheres-Band Centaurs (unplayable), Centaur Battlemaster (good, uncommon)
Multicolor Fanatic of Xenagos (uncommon) Chronicler of Heroes (good, uncommon)
TOTAL (good+) 2.8 3.2 3.2

Most of the centaurs in Theros block are green, with a couple in white, a couple more that are multicolor, as well as an unplayable one in black. Most of them are playable on their own merits, and an 8-person draft will have about 9 playable ones on average. However, the green centaurs are good in B/G control, and Lagonna-Band Trailblazer is excellent in W/U heroic, so you will have to compete with other players for them. You probably can’t expect to get more than 3-5 of them, unless you prioritize them exceptionally high, or unless green is completely open at the table.

Given that, Pheres-Band Warchief should just be drafted on it’s own merits since you’re unlikely to be able to draft a large number of centaurs to go with it. A 3/3 with vigilance and trample for 3G is quite good, but probably shouldn’t be picked above a decent removal spell.

JOU: Additions to the enchantment reuse deck

I’d previously written about a deck that might use Floodtide Serpent to reuse enchantments, primarily cantrip enchantments, but also some others. Journey into Nyx also brings us 3 additional ways to reuse enchantments: Kiora’s Dismissal, Riptide Chimera, and Triton Cavalry. An 8-person JOU/BNG/THS draft has an average of 0.4 copies of any given Journey into Nyx uncommon, so there are likely to be 1.2 copies of these 3 cards, roughly equal to the number of Floodtide Serpents you’re likely to see (1.3).

Reusing enchantments works well with constellation since you can retrigger each of your constellation abilities. In addition, there are a couple of Journey into Nyx cards that work especially well in this deck:

  • Harvestguard Alseids allows you to attack with Floodtide Serpent without worrying about losing it in combat.
  • Crystalline Nautilus becomes reusable removal if you bestow an opponent’s creature, target that creature, and then return Crystalline Nautilus to your hand once it’s a creature. Journey into Nyx also provides several reuable targeting effect on permanents with constellation: Harvestguard Alseids, Whitewater Naiads, Dreadbringer Lampads, Forgeborn Oreads, Goldenhide Ox, Oakheart Dryads, and Strength from the Fallen.
  • Dictate of Kruphix can become a one-sided Howling Mine if played on your opponent’s turn and returned to your hand during your turn. (It doesn’t work with Riptide Chimera, however, since that requires you to return the enchantment on your upkeep.)

(Note that Skybind doesn’t fit in this deck because it only allows you to flicker nonenchantment permanents.)

There are also 3 green cards that might fit well in this deck: Kruphix’s Insight, Reviving Melody, and Strength from the Fallen. Strength from the Fallen is likely unplayable since it has a very high setup cost; it requires you to have a large number of enchantments in your deck, to have creatures in your graveyard, creatures in play (to receive the +X/+X bonus), and to be on the offensive (since the set provides only a few ways to have an enchantment enter the battlefield at instant speed).

Given the above analysis, I will now rate 3 of the TBD cards from my evaluation of Journey into Nyx cards:

  • Triton Cavalry: good; defends while you set up your combos
  • Kruphix’s Insight: good; stocks your graveyard while drawing you cards
  • Strength from the Fallen: unplayable

THS/BNG: Enters-the-battlefield effects and reanimation spells

In my most recent post, I discussed how Rescue from the Underworld lets us reuse enters-the-battlefield effects. In the past, I’ve also discussed how Triad of Fates lets you do that. There are also other reanimation spells in Theros and Born of the Gods — Fated Return, Champion of Stray Souls, and the temporary reanimation of Whip of Erebos — as well as March of the Returned and Pharika’s Mender, which require you to recast the creature. However, I haven’t yet done a comprehensive review of all the enters-the-battlefield effects on creatures in the format, which could help us decide which color to pair with black if we find that we have more that a couple of reanimation effects in our deck. Let’s do that now. In the list below, italics denote a relatively weak enters-the-battlefield ability or an unplayable creature, [] denotes rares and mythics, and bold indicates that the trigger happens when other creatures enter the battlefield.

  • White: Evangel of Heliod, Griffin Dreamfinder, Lagonna-Band Elder, Leonin Snarecaster
  • Blue: Breaching Hippocamp, Horizon Scholar, [Master of Waves]*, Mnemonic Wall, Omenspeaker
  • Black: [Abhorrent Overlord], Blood-Toll Harpy, Disciple of Phenax, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Mogis’s Marauder, Odunos River Trawler, Returned Centaur
  • Red: Fanatic of Mogis, Minotaur Skullcleaver, [Purphoros God of the Forge], Wild Celebrants
  • Green: Nylea’s Disciple, [Reverent Hunter], Satyr Wayfinder, Setessan Starbreaker
  • Multicolor: [Ashen Rider], Chronicler of Heroes, [Ephara God of the Polis], Pharika’s Mender

* The Elementals already in play die when Master of Waves is not in play, so this only helps if you’ve lost some of the Elementals in combat or if you now have a higher devotion to blue.

There are also a few creatures that have a trigger when they die: Forsaken Drifters, Loathsome Catoblepas, and [Ashen Rider]. [Reaper of the Wilds] and Fate Foretold also trigger when other creatures or the creature they’re enchanting dies.

Looking at the lists above, we see that black has the most and highest quality enters-the-battlefield effects, but that most of the other colors have 2-3 good enters-the-battlefield effects on creatures that are not rares or mythics.

Of course, Rescue from the Underworld and Fated Return can also be used purely for their reanimation. There are a number of cards in black, green, and blue that allow you to get cards from your library into your graveyard: Returned Centaur, Forsaken Drifters, Satyr Wayfinder, Commune with the Gods, Evanescent Intellect, Thassa’s Bounty, Steam Augury, and even Phenax God of Deception (although you’d usually want to use it to target your opponent). The best of these effects are in green, and they can be used to try to mill an expensive creature like Ashen Riders, or for a creature that is otherwise difficult to cast, such as Chromanticore. And if you end up drawing one of the cards accidentally, there are also a handful of discard outlets in the format (Epiphany Storm, Erebos’s Emissary, Prognostic Sphinx, and potentially also Disciple of Phenax, Ordeal of Erebos, and Thoughtseize). Given these colors of these effects, a reanimation deck would probably be a B/G graveyard deck with some reanimation, or a U/B control deck with perhaps some incidental self-mill.

BNG: Floodtide Serpent and the enchantment reuse deck

Since the release of BNG, I’ve primarily drafted very aggressive decks, usually after being passed multiple copies of Loyal Pegasus, Fanatic of Xenagos, and/or red removal spells. I haven’t yet tried the archetypes I’d theorized that Born of the Gods might make possible. I’m particularly eager to try the enchantment reuse deck since I often see Floodtide Serpent late. I did once draft 2 Floodtide Serpents and 4 cantrip Auras (2 Dragon Mantles, 1 Stratus Walk, and 1 Fate Foretold) but left them in the sideboard because I had a U/R spells deck with Flamespeaker Adept, 2 Spellheart Chimeras, and a Prescient Chimera and so needed my noncreature slots for spells and not Auras.

Let’s consider which colors are best able to exploit Floodtide Serpent. Here are several ways to profit from bouncing and replaying enchantments, listed in order of descending importance for BNG/THS/THS drafts, along with the color(s) that benefit most (-C means that it interacts with rares or mythics in that color and so is less relevant):

  1. (U, G) Reusing enchantment with enters-the-battlefield effects: The format has several cantrip Auras — 1 in white, 3 in blue (including Eternity Snare), 2 in black, 1 in red, and 2 in green — plus Raised by Wolves and Ephara’s Enlightenment.
  2. (W, U, G) Retriggering heroic abilities: W/U and G/W have the most number of creatures with heroic, but both tend to be quite aggressive and probably wouldn’t run a 5-mana 4/4 maindeck.
  3. (all colors) Converting bestow creatures into bestow Auras: This is useful if you have a creature with bestow (either because you cast it as a creature early or because the creature it was enchanting died) and you’d prefer to have it be an Aura.
  4. (W, U, G) Moving Auras from one creature to another: You may want to move certain powerful Auras like Eidolon of Countless Battles, Ghostblade Eidolon, or Flitterstep Eidolon to a different creature as a game progresses. Or you can use it with Feral Invocation or Boon Satyr to make combat difficult. Or you can use it with the Ordeals to get additional +1/+1 counters (although you have to return a different enchantment, otherwise you won’t get the counter).
  5. (R) Bouncing borrowed enchantment creatures: This works with Akroan Conscriptor and Portent of Betrayal. The borrowed creature won’t get to do combat damage, but your opponent loses tempo and any Auras on the creature fall off.
  6. (U, -W/R) Moving a removal Aura to a different creature: This works with Eternity Snare, Chained to the Rock, and perhaps Viper’s Kiss. (You can’t use Chained to the Rock to trigger enters-the-battlefield effects on your creatures that aren’t also enchantments since it can only target an opponent’s creature.)
  7. (all colors) Rescuing an enchantment creature you control from some removal Auras: This is primarily useful against Eternity Snare and sometimes Viper’s Kiss. (Floodtide Serpent doesn’t work against Chained to the Rock since that exiles the creature.)
  8. (-R, -W/U, -G/W) Replaying enchantments to trigger enters-the-battlefield effects of other permanents: Purphoros God of the Forge, Ephara God of the Polis, and Karametra God of Harvests. These are all mythics, so this situation will rarely arise.
  9. (-G) Getting a second use out of an enchantment that has/confers a tap ability: This can potentially be used with Epiphany Storm (requires 3 mana + tapping 2 creatues), Ephara’s Radiance (5 mana + 2 creatures), Evanescent Intellect (5 mana + 2 creatures), Claim of Erebos (6 mana + 2 creatures), Bow of Nylea (7 mana), Oracle’s Insight (8 mana + 2 creatures), Hammer of Purphoros (9 mana). However, there are easier ways to reuse tap abilities granted by the Auras, and you’re unlikely to get to 9 mana if you have a Hammer of Purphoros in play, so this is mostly useful with Bow of Nylea, a rare that is rarely passed.
  10. (-B) Removing enchantments you no longer want in play: This is only useful if you need to get Herald of Torment out of play, a situation that should rarely arise.

(Note that the enchantment is returned as the attack is declared, so you don’t get the trigger from cards like Spiteful Returned and Thunderous Might before they return to your hand. It is also not a combo with Perplexing Chimera because it only allows you to return a creature you control you to hand, not a creature you own.)

Looking over this list, we see that white, blue, and green have the most cards that work with Floodtide Serpent. However, W/U and G/U both tend to be aggressive decks in this format, and Floodtide Serpent is better suited to a control deck that can win by eking out card advantage. The control decks in this format are usually B/X or U/R, and we’ve already observed that U/R is not a good color pair for Floodtide Serpent. That leaves U/B and perhaps B/G/u. And there might also be a G/U control deck that uses Sedge Scorpions and Omenspeakers to hold the ground and mana acceleration to cast Floodtide Serpent earlier, while gaining incremental card advantage with Floodtide Serpent and Meletis Astronomer.

The good U/B decks I’ve drafted tend to run a lot of removal, and don’t usually have a lot of space for Auras. A U/B inspired deck could be a good home for Floodtide Serpent, but inspired creatures + cantrip Auras that grant evasion + Floodtide Serpents is a lot to ask of a single pack of Born of the Gods. However, it might be more feasible if you’re drafting with 2-3 packs of Born of the Gods.

B/G decks tend to focus on devotion or the graveyard. There are few enchantments that interact with the graveyard other than Evanescent Intellect, but B/G/u devotion is a possible home for Floodtide Serpent. The deck is happy to run Auras to increase devotion and can afford to run a couple of splash cards even though they don’t contribute to devotion.

Let’s look at which cards in blue, green, and black would work well in a control deck with Floodtide Serpent:

  • Commons: Chorus of the Tides, Fate Foretold, Stratus Walk, Wavecrash Triton // Baleful Eidolon, Grisly Transformation, Scourgemark // Sedge Scorpion, Feral Invocation, Karametra’s Favor, Nylea’s Presence, Setessan Oathsworn, Staunch-Hearted Warrior
  • Uncommons: Eternity Snare, Flitterstep Eidolon, Meletis Astronomer, Triton Fortune Hunter // Ashiok’s Adept, Ordeal of Erebos (if drawn late), Tormented Hero // Centaur Battlemaster, Order of Nylea (if drawn late and you already have access to blue mana), Raised by Wolves
  • Rares: Agent of the Fates // Anthousa Setessan Hero, Boon Satyr, Bow of Nylea, Hero of Leina Tower // Prophet of Kruphix // Astral Cornucopia

There seem to be enough cards that this deck might be possible. As always, keep in mind that an 8-person BNG/THS/THS will only have an average of 1.3 copies of any Born of the Gods common, so you don’t usually want to draft this deck unless you’re already in these colors and have a couple of Floodtide Serpents.

THS: G/U skies

I had a chance last night to draft one of the archetypes I’d theorized about in my last post. After taking a Curse of the Swine from my first pack, I got passed a Mistcutter Hydra. (I guess the person to my right dislikes green even more than I do in this format!) After a few packs with uninspiring choices, I saw a Vaporkin and a Voyaging Satyr midway into the pack; knowing that G/U is more likely to be a skies deck than a ramp deck helped me realize that Vaporkin was the better pick. The prior analysis also helped me realize I should draft the Warriors’ Lesson I was passed late in the pack, even though it is a card I usually avoid (it often ends up just cycling, and is useless if you don’t have creatures with evasion). It turned out to be excellent in the deck but it might not have occurred to me to draft it if I hadn’t described the archetype in my last post. (Btw, don’t forget to gain life if you also have Horizon Chimera on the table.)

One of the weakness of G/U is that it lacks hard removal, but my deck lacked even the bounce and counterspells that help compensate for that. As a result, I decided to splash white for the Elspeth Sun’s Champion that I’d opened in pack 2 and a Divine Verdict. The final decklist was:

2 Vaporkin
2 Voyaging Satyr
1 Nimbus Naiad
1 Opaline Unicorn
2 Agent of Horizons
1 Wavecrash Triton
2 Horizon Chimera
1 Staunch-Hearted Warrior
1 Nessian Asp
1 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Horizon Scholar
= 15 creatures

2 Warriors' Lesson
1 Triton Tactics
1 Traveler's Amulet
1 Nylea's Presence
1 Divine Verdict
1 Elspeth Sun's Champion
1 Curse of the Swine
= 8 non-creatures

1 Prowler's Helm
1 Fleetfeather Sandals
2 Guardian of Meletis
2 Shredding Winds
2 Commune with the Gods
1 Vulpine Goliath
1 Satyr Hedonist
3 Benthic Giant
1 Mnemonic Wall
1 Spellheart Chimera
1 Demolish
1 Boon of Erebos
1 Viper's Kiss
1 Forest (foil)
= 19 sideboard cards

This list conforms somewhat to the G/U skies outline that I laid out in my last post, but lacks the early defense and bounce/counterspells that I’d believed were an important component of such decks. However, I did have mana acceleration in place of the early defense, and I had some hard removal in place of bounce/counterspells.

The deck went 3-1. Elspeth Sun’s Champion won a couple of games and Divine Verdict was also excellent, and was particularly devastating when the white mana for it came from Prized Unicorn or Nylea’s Presence since my opponent would usually play around Divine Verdict in that case if they hadn’t already seen Plains previously. Elspeth Sun’s champion did languish in my hand during one game, but was fine the rest of the time due to the Voyaging Satyrs which often provided the second white mana.

THS: Maindeck flyer removal

Today, we’ll use the updated card valuations to determine whether it makes sense to maindeck Shredding Winds in Theros. (Arbor Colossus and Bow of Nylea also kill creatures with flying, but those cards are good enough to play on their other merits, so I won’t evaluate them here.)

This spreadsheet lists all the flyers in Theros. Yellow highlight means that a cards can grant flying to another creature (e.g., Cavalry Pegasus); if the text is gray instead of black, it means the card does not have flying itself (e.g., Fleetfeather Sandals). A few things stand out:

  • Shredding Winds can kill all these creatures with the exception of Prognostic Sphinx and Sentry of the Underworld (if they have WB open), a really large Wingsteed Rider, and perhaps a bestow creature enchanting an already large creature.
  • White, blue, and black will have 9, 11, and 4 creatures with flying in an average 8-person draft. Each color is shared on average by about 3 players, so a typical W/U deck will have 7 flyers and Shredding Winds will usually have a target even if you don’t seen a flyer in game 1. Every other color combination will have 5 or fewer flyers, so it doesn’t make sense to side in Shredding Winds unless you see a must-kill flyer.
  • You don’t need flyer removal against red or green since they have almost no flyers. On the artifact side, neither Anvilwrought Raptor nor Fleetfeather Sandals are particularly exciting, and you’re better off siding in artifact removal against them anyway.
  • Nessian Asp is excellent in this format and so it likely to be played by every green deck that has it. It can block and kill all of the creatures listed in the spreadsheet except Abhorrent Overlord (rare) and Ashen Rider (mythic), which are marked with an S in the Must Kill column. In addition, there are 4 other flyers marked with a Y that I consider must kill — Cavalry Pegasus (white common), Wingsteed Rider (white common), Prognostic Sphinx (blue rare), and Shipwreck Singer (U/B uncommon) — each of which will win the game eventually if left untouched. These are flyers you need to be able to kill even if you have multiple Nessian Asps. Both commons in the list are white, so it might make sense to side Shredding Winds in against W/X decks if you have other cards you need to side out, even if you haven’t seen many flyers and they are not W/U.

From the analysis above, I would say it doesn’t make sense to run Shredding Winds maindeck, but it is a great sideboard cards against decks with flyers, and it can be brought in preemptively against W/U decks which tend to have a lot of flyers, and even against other W/X decks which may have fewer flyers since white has a couple of common flyers that can take over or win the game given enough time.

M14: Follow-up on the Gladecover Scout deck

I attempted to draft the Gladecover Scout deck at a casual draft yesterday. My first pick was Garruk Caller of Beasts, but the next few packs had very little to offer, so I took 2 Gladecover Scouts, Elvish Mystic, 2 Verdant Havens, and Howl of the Night Pack (not in that order). At this point, I figured I could easily splash strong enhancing Auras from most colors, so I was planning to take them, and any additional Gladecover Scouts, over anything but bombs. I stuck to that plan, taking 2 Trollhides over Pacifisms, even though I knew could splash the latter. I was monogreen until the middle of pack 2, when I finally saw some non-green enhancing Auras in the form of Mark of the Vampire, Dark Favor, Lightning Talons, and Illusionary Armor. (At that point, I had 4 Verdant Havens, so I had no concern about splashing cards from multiple colors.)

Unfortunately, I never saw any more Gladecover Scouts, or any Witchstalkers. I did pick up a Ranger’s Guile (and passed a second one) which someone else suggested is equivalent to a Gladecover Scout in my deck since I also had 3 Trollhides. I disagree with that assessment, however, because the creature can still be shut down by Pacifism, Claustrophobia, Time Ebb, Disperse, and a few other spells that regeneration doesn’t protect against. I didn’t want to splash the non-green Auras since there was a high likelihood that I would not have a Gladecover Scout in my opening hand, and I would not be excited to put these Auras on the other creatures in my deck.

Luckily, I had enough decent green cards to build a monogreen deck. I did run the 2 Gladecover Scouts I’d drafted, and they worked quite well with my Accorder’s Shield, 3 TrollHides, 3 Hunt the Weaks, and 3 other pump spells. The deck’s only paths to victory were Gladecover Scout + Trollhide, Garruk Caller of Beasts, or Howl of the Night, but I still managed to win all 4 matches I played, probably because no one at the table had a particularly strong deck. Also, this was a very casual draft, and you shouldn’t expect to do particularly well with a monogreen deck like mine at most drafts.

Conclusion: it’s risky to attempt to draft the Gladecover Scout deck. An average 8-person draft will have only 2.4 Gladecover Scouts. That number goes up to 2.8 if you include Witchstalkers, but that is likely to be drafted highly by other green players, and possibly even raredrafted if you’re at a casual draft. Even though I had 2 Gladecover Scouts before we were halfway through the first pack, I never saw another one, even though I was one of only 2 green drafters at the table, and there aren’t any good alternatives to him in M14.