Hey everybody, welcome back to Multiplayer Madness!
This article concludes my series of reviews about Theros block with its final set, Journey into Nyx. For my thoughts on Theros and Born of the Gods, click here and here. Please take into consideration that all I said there and will say here is just my own personal opinion. Yours may vary from mine of course, so feel free to let me know in the comments section at the end of each article why you agree or disagree. Feedback is always welcome!
So, Journey into Nyx. If you’ve read my last two articles, you know that I haven’t been very enthusiastic about Wizards’ trip into Greek mythology. While the setting was more or less okay and might really have excited people (from a flavor perspective, it was very well designed), the technical development left a lot to be desired. Especially the different new mechanics were mostly disappointing, with monstrosity perhaps being the best one and tribute being terribly … uh, terrible. After Born of the Gods, I was really hoping that Journey into Nyx would shape up better, and luckily it did to a certain extent. This is based on the simple fact that the mechanics of JOU (By the way, why didn’t they choose JIN as the abbreviation for the set?) have a more general approach and a wider or more interesting range of applications. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.
The Mechanics of JOURNEY INTO NYX
Strive: This ability looks like a strange combination of replicate and kicker and is sometimes better, sometimes worse than its predecessors. In general, one can say that strive is a bit too much on the expensive side, especially with regard to colored mana. However, considering that Theros block actively tried to force players to build with as few colors as possible (*cough* devotion *cough*), this actually fits the theme. Strive is far from the badness of tribute or the weirdly inherent dichotomy of inspired (an ability that wants you to attack while being mostly used on creatures that could probably never survive this attack and would therefore not be untapped to trigger inspired in the first place), but there is still some room for improvement. With regard to Commander, it becomes a lot better as high mana costs are lot less of a problem there than in other formats with lower life totals. In general, strive provides you with spells that you can play in the earlier stages of the game and which become more powerful versions of themselves the more mana you invest, making them suitable for the late game as well. All in all, I like it but would have wished for a few more aggressively costed strive cards.
Constellation: And here it is, the ultimate “Let’s reward players for playing with lots of enchantments!” mechanic. You can definitely use some of the cards it appears on even without playing other enchantments although that would clearly make them better. Agent of Erebos comes to mind, or even Doomwake Giant if you are regularly running into token decks. In an enchantment-themed deck, some of those cards can work as powerful engines that fuel your game, for example Eidolon of Blossoms. So if you are into enchantments, constellation might be exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Also, the triggers cover the whole range of possibilities (from card draw over life gain to removal), so there should be something for everyone. If you control something that can produce enchantment tokens (such as Heliod, God of the Sun or Pharika, God of Affliction), this ability becomes far more powerful.
Land theme: This is basically a little riff on devotion. There is a small number of cards in Journey into Nyx that rewards you for playing lots of lands of the same type that of course get better if you play as few colors as possible, see Quarry Colossus or Nessian Game Warden. If you have a monocolored deck, these might be nice and strong additions.
Did you read my review of Born of the Gods? Then you might remember that I was hard-pressed to actually find enough cards to compile a top 10 list. With regard to Journey into Nyx, I didn’t have that problem at all! I could easily envision some of the following ones among the top 10 but unfortunately, it’s not called a top 10 for nothing. So here are my honorable mentions:
Eidolon of the Great Revel – This little guy works as an aggressive beater early on and provides reach in the mid-to-late game. The only problem I can see is that you might damage yourself too much if your deck is full of cheap spells – which can actually happen quite a lot in aggro decks. Still, it is a potential source of a larger amount of damage over the course of the game. Or it might prevent your opponents from casting spells so that they don’t get hurt. Either way, you win.
Keranos, God of Storms – I really want him to be awesome. However, I’m not convinced yet and think he’s probably merely good. There is no question that he is a powerhouse in duels as both of his options might lead you to victory there. In multiplayer though, dealing 3 damage might not be enough. There should always be enough targets available but I remember a lot of games where the board was full of Wall of Denials, Wurmcoil Engines or stupid Soldiers which boosted each other so much (say hello to Daru Warchief or Field Marshal) that the 3 damage would have had to be aimed at an opponent’s head. And if you have three opponents, 3 damage during your own turn seems a bit insufficient. Keranos gets a lot better if you can manipulate which card you reveal. Say hi to Sensei’s Divining Top and friends!
Setessan Tactics – This might be the closest we’ll ever come to mass removal in Green. Just saying.
Disciple of Deceit and King Macar, the Gold-Cursed – These two have a common trait: If you can manage to repeatedly trigger their inspired ability, they are capable of completely taking over the game for you. So it looks like we finally have some powerful inspired creatures, yay, although the usual problems of the mechanic remain: attacking won’t help you, but stuff like Opposition, Freed from the Real or even Intruder Alarm in the right deck most certainly will. Ha, now here’s a challenge: Build a deck around inspired with Intruder Alarm as a key card!
Agent of Erebos – This is perfect for Commander. It removes a graveyard when it enters the battlefield and leaves you the option of doing it again at a later time if you have a few other enchantments in your deck. This immediately went into my Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck where it does a lot work before it’s time for Living Death!
This set was definitely a bit weird as I think that there is no clear ranking possible because so many cards are equally good or on the same level. In my opinion, there is one card that is head and shoulders above the rest, with the rest then being a hodgepodge of different but cool stuff where nothing really sticks out. So here are numbers 10 to 2 in no particular order:
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes – Everybody’s favorite leonin is shaping up to become the best friend other planeswalkers can have. Just look at M15’s Ajani Steadfast and his second ability. And here, it’s also the second ability that explicitly mentions the word ‘planeswalker’. Interesting! Be that as it may, when I saw Ajani, Mentor of Heroes for the first time, I wasn’t impressed. Then I realized that he has two positive loyalty abilities and looked again. Well, the first ability requires you to have at least one creature on the battlefield. If you don’t, you can’t activate it. This is why the second ability is a positive one as well. Otherwise, there might have been situations where you couldn’t have used Ajani at all – and how bad would that be? Using Ajani to put +1/+1 counters on your creatures is surprisingly good in multiplayer as it usually takes only two or so turns to make your creatures big enough that nobody wants to tangle with you. From there, it only goes upwards. His second ability is his best one although it requires you to take it into account when you are building a deck because you’ll never want to come up empty-handed after an activation. And his ultimate … well, let’s just say that in multiplayer, it’s better than in duels. Yeah, it’s not all that good because it generally doesn’t help you win but only helps you not to lose. Unless you’re playing Sanguine Bond… “Ha, activate Ajani’s ultimate, gain 100 life. Oh, and by the way, good game! You’re dead.” I’d love to see that happen!
Iroas, God of Victory – Considering that there were always a few Gods among my top 10 lists so far and that Journey into Nyx is no exception in that regard, it looks like Wizards did an outstanding job when they created those divine entities. Iroas is the God of Beatdown, granting your creatures a pseudo-form of unblockability while at the same time protecting those that do get blocked from their respective blockers, thus allowing them to crash in again on your next turn. Believe me, if your are the defending player, this can get really messy because you just know that you’re throwing your blockers under a train with no chance of actually stopping it. Iroas gets the damage through, turn after turn after turn.
Aegis of the Gods – In general, I dislike creatures like this one as they are usually fragile and tend to die quickly. Aegis of the Gods is no exception but I’ve been on the receiving end of Monomania, Ghost-Lit Stalker (Man, this card is horrible! And still it fucks me up every single time I’m its target. Bah!) or Curse of Echoes one time too many. If you want to hurt me, you’ll have to hurt my little buddy here first!
Hydra Broodmaster – When you’re playing Green, your deck is usually creature-heavy. And the meanest foe of creature-heavy decks is mass removal. Now imagine you cast this after somebody used Day of Judgment to wipe the board. Now you have a 7/7, ready to smash face. On your next turn, you draw a seventh land, play it and activate Hydra Broodmaster‘s monstrosity with X=3. All of a sudden, you have a new army right in front of you, with a total power of 19! And all of that with a single card. Need I say more?
Athreos, God of Passage – Oh, another god! Athreos is a nice one but my preference is using him as an engine and building a deck around his recursion ability. The problem he has is that your opponents choose whether you’ll get something back or not, and paying 3 life is not all that much at first. It has to build up over the course of the game until the others don’t want to pay anymore, and with three or more players, that can take some time. In this respect, Athreos is similar to Keranos, God of Storms in that a loss of 3 life might just not be enough. Still, if Athreos, God of Passage is the centerpiece of your deck, he may very well rock the table. And he is cheap enough that you can’t complain even if he causes the loss of only 6 or 9 life in total.
Dictate of Heliod – Giving your whole team +2/+2 is powerful. Doing it permanently even more so. Being able to do it at instant speed offers you the potential for massive blowouts. If you’re playing a deck with lots of creatures, Dictate of Heliod is among the best pump options in the game and can put you firmly into the driver’s seat.
Eidolon of Rhetoric – An uncommon! And it’s perfect for control decks as it slows the game down to a crawl while at the same time providing a big butt to block potential attackers coming your way. I’m not sure if stapling Arcane Laboratory / Rule of Law to a creature makes the result better than the previous versions, but I’m inclined to say yes thanks to its ability to keep creatures away. This card grants you what each control player craves: time. On the other hand, it may also achieve nothing at all or annoy the hell out of your opponents, both of which would be negative for you, so be warned! I’ll try it out for sure.
Godsend – Hey look! It’s Elspeth’s spear! I always love it when Wizards print cards that are physical reflections of things and objects that belong to story characters, such as Akroma’s sword or Konda’s Banner. It bestows a certain epicness on these cards that most of the others lack. In terms of playability, the newest legendary equipment is powerful but deceptively so. It’s more defensive than aggressive because nobody likes to attack if the loss of their attacker is guaranteed. In this case, the attacker even gets exiled which is a lot worse than having it die as you’ll probably never get the chance to get it back. The result of this is that if you keep a creature that’s equipped with Godsend back for blocking, most opponents just won’t attack you. If you are like me, that’s already a nice situation to be in because it means that they’ll focus on each other and leave you alone. Offensively, the spear makes it difficult to block and transforms your creature into a less powerful version of Engulfing Slagwurm. But while the wurm devours everything in its path and provides you with a little gain as well, Godsend only exiles one blocker so that your attacker can still be killed by others. In most cases though, that shouldn’t matter because they probably need a team of at least three medium-sized monsters to do that thanks to the power and toughness boost Godsend provides and will likely lose their two best creatures in the process. Since this sounds really bad from the defending player’s perspective, the equipped attacker will often just get blocked by a single creature which then gets exiled. Hooray! Godsend‘s last ability may or may not be powerful, depending on whether they already have another copy of a card exiled with Godsend in their hand or draw one. To me, it seems to be mostly annoying but I may err in my judgment.
Kruphix, God of Horizons – What does it say about a god if his prophet is more powerful than him? Alright, that might be a little unfair because they have different applications. However, Kruphix, God of Horizons and Prophet of Kruphix make for a fairly powerful team if you control both of them. On his own, Kruphix ensures that the mana you don’t need doesn’t go to waste, thus allowing you to cast more expensive spells earlier than usual. There are so many cards and combos that profit from him being on the table, so head over to the Gatherer and start searching! May I whet your appetite by suggesting Genesis Wave, Steel Hellkite, Rude Awakening, Sphinx’s Revelation, Comet Storm, or even the old-school Rocket Launcher? In principle, cards with an X in their mana or activation costs are cool. If you can do that at instant speed, it’s even better as it allows you to use up everything Kruphix has stored away for later use so far.
The Number One
Dictate of Erebos – Okay, I’ve always hated Grave Pact on the other side of the table, and this will be no different. This time though, I was the first in my play group to purchase a few copies, and let me tell you, this card is freaking amazing! Just like Grave Pact has been doing for years, Dictate of Erebos completely dominates multiplayer games. The difference? It’s a lot easier to play because its mana requirements are not as harsh (only two instead of three black mana). The killer though is the flash ability which actually transforms this into a conditional mass removal spell. Just imagine that you are getting attacked and have a few creatures, many of which would die in combat. Just declare blockers, flash in Dictate of Erebos, and watch how the whole table squirms in agony. Ah, relishing the pain of others does not have to be a bad thing! Making them hurt, making them cry is the sole purpose of this card. Add a few sacrifice effects (for example Phyrexian Altar, Malevolent Awakening or Goblin Bombardment) for even more cruelty!
So, this is it. My Theros reviews are finally complete. What do you think? Any cards I left out that should have been on the list? Anything that’s not as good as I say? I’m looking forward to your feedback in the comments!
Until next time, may the gods watch over you! Well, not Heliod, he’s a traitorous and backstabbing piece of sh**!
What, you don’t believe me? Go ask Elspeth.