Journey into Nyx Set Review – Black

Black’s Worst Fears Realized in Journey into Nyx

It looks like black’s stock may have dropped slightly with Journey into Nyx. Gone is another pack of Gray Merchants and Pharika’s Cures, replaced by a smattering of conditional removal spells and more of black’s traditionally waifish creatures. There are still plenty of tools though, and black figures to get an interesting aggro twist with Bloodcrazed Hoplite as a heroic option.

The best black commons are comparable to the mid-level commons in other colors, which is pretty unfortunate. The best of them are Pharika’s Chosen and Bloodcrazed Hoplite, two cheap creatures that serve very different roles. Feast of Dreams is also a tantalizing removal option that is very narrow, but devastating when it works.

Black’s uncommons lack any particular bombs, but are fine. The best are Spiteful Blow and Felhide Petrifier. Petrifier especially seems like a powerful thing to be doing on three mana, and interacts well both with bestow and against bestow.

Check out our set review rating scale, then onto some reviews!


Agent of Erebos

Agent of Erebos

There are so few graveyard synergies in this format that it’s impossible to think of a reasonable scenario (a deck with four Commune with the Gods, two Nemesis of Mortals, and two Graverobber Spider?) where this ability is good.

Usually this is just a 2/2 for four, which is so inefficient that it’s often just not playable (an 18th land might be better). It is an enchantment, so maybe you can find enough constellation cards to make this worth running. Or maybe you need to bring it in as a way to block a Forlorn Pseudamma. Otherwise it’s fairly weak.  Read more

Journey into Nyx Set Review – Blue

Blue Plays the Hero in Journey into Nyx

Blue’s identity doesn’t figure to change much, with the main characteristic being that it still looks like one of the better colors for the third set running. Blue figures to be one of the few colors whose Heroic decks actually get better with the introduction of the new set and a certain Siren. The rest of blue’s cardpool seems pretty standard: a smattering of bounce spells, a few powerful tricks, and a couple of interesting rares.

The best blue common seems to be War-Wing Siren, a sure-fire Heroic all-star with shades of Wingsteed Rider. We also get a slightly modified (and still very good) Voyage’s End replica in Hubris.

The standout uncommon is Hour of Need, a totally ridiculous strive trick that can beat your opponent in a bunch of different ways.

In case you missed it, here’s our set review rating scale.


Aerial Formation

Aerial Formation

Blue starts off with a bang. This is quite a nice trick with several options. The most devastating effect is probably using it for four or seven mana to Jump your entire team. If one or two of those creatures have heroic or even just happen to be fatties, you can be alpha striking for quite a lot of damage. It can also be used in a pinch to set up a block on an unsuspecting flier, to trigger heroic on the cheap, or even just to let your 3/3 eat their 3/3. Read more

Journey into Nyx Set Review – White

Nyxborn Again

Before we get into the set review for white, let’s talk a bit about the new format.

Journey into Nyx contains some pretty exciting cards and a few new mechanics. Heroic and Monstrous return, meaning there will be no shortage of giant monsters to deal with. Constellation debuts, giving you an incentive to draft a bunch of enchantments and accumulate an advantage over the course of several turns. Strive introduces a bunch of multikicker combat tricks that are capable of swinging games in a very convincing manner.

That’s not to mention a set of new commons, uncommons, and bomb rares, many of which will help shape the format around them.

These set reviews are assuming that you will be drafting JOU-BNG-THS, and that your Sealed pools will have two Theros packs, one BNG pack, and two JOU packs, one of which is color-weighted based on the path you coose. These are the limited formats you’ll be facing down this weekend. You’ll be getting a fresh infusion of Journey into Nyx, but you’ll be getting fewer THS and BNG packs. In addition to evaluating the impact of JOU, we need to see what happens to the format overall.

Let’s start with an Ari Lax-style breakdown of the commons. Here are all of them, laid out for you. Peach = heroic, purple = removal, bold = “very good.”

Journey into Nyx Commons Breakdown

Journey into Nyx Commons Breakdown

Read more

Born of the Gods-Theros Sealed Video #1

In preparation for GP Philly, I’ve been running a bunch of Phantom Sealeds on MODO lately. I feel people often “overdraft” since it’s way more fun than Sealed, but I like getting some legit practice. Building pools and evaluating cards for a slower Sealed format are important.

So, without further ado, I present one of the sweeter decks I opened. After cracking my packs, I was presented with a Kiora, a Courser of Kruphix, and an Arbiter of the Ideal. My commons and uncommons were deep enough, though skewed toward some controlling spells like Nullify. I ended up with a pretty untraditional UG Control deck.

Here are the construction and the games:

Born of the Gods Sealed #1: UG Control


As always, feedback is appreciated. (Oh and let me know if you’re going to be at GP Philly – I’d love to meet you!).



-Bert O Phillips

@themagicalhack on Twitter

GP Richmond and Melira Pod

Birthing Pod art

This was my GP Richmond.

01 Bye (+24)
02 Bye (+24)
03 Win (+24) Hennig, Eric
04 Win (+24) Croy, Andrew
05 Win (+24) Bailey, Joni
06 Win (+24) Kastel, Chad
07 Loss (+0) Nguyen, Richard
08 Win (+24) Stojak, Peter
09 Loss (+0) Gable, Levi

10 Win (+24) Madda, Leo
11 Win (+24) Zhang, Peter
12 Loss (+0) Betesh, Ralph
13 Loss (+0) MCKAY, BRANDON
14 Loss (+0) Naze, Marcin
15 Win (+24) Meikle, Jeremy

It wasn’t perfect, but it was a step.

I wasn’t planning on coming to this GP despite all my friends being locked in and Modern being my favorite format. But some buddies went to a GPT so I tagged along, ran like a champ, and won it. With two byes, I basically had to attend. The problem was that I had a 8:00 pm concert the Friday before the event. I looked for sleeper trains but everything got in at 2:00 pm. There was a red eye Greyhound though… Read more

Melira Pod after the Bannings and Tournament Report – GPT Richmond (1st)

This weekend I took down a Grand Prix Trial for GP Richmond with an updated version of Melira Pod. I wanted to share the list and give a few thoughts about the deck’s position in the post-ban (and post un-ban) Modern.

First things first, let me just give you the list:

Melira Pod – Bert Phillips
GPT Richmond (1st) – Modern

This is what I would run if there were another tournament starting right now (the sideboard and manabase are a few cards off from what I registered).

The list is very close to stock, with Noble Hierarchs replacing last week’s Deathrite Shamans. Nothing special, but there are a few interesting changes I made. (If you want a more basic primer on Pod, check out any article by Sam Pardee).

Noble Hierarch

Noble Hierarch

In this list, I’ve made a few changes from the stock version: Read more

Born of the Gods – Which Prerelease Promo?

As with Theros, you’re going to get to select your path at the Born of the Gods prerelease by choosing a color. Your choice will get you, in addition to three Theros packs and two Born of the Gods packs, a color-skewed pack with your color’s promo card, a additional rare in your color, and some uncommons and commons that are skewed mostly toward your color.

The extra rare you’re getting can be any on-color rare or any on-color God, but not an on-color mythic. So if you choose black you could get Gild or Mogis, God of Slaughter, but not Champion of Stray Souls.

This choice is very powerful, so let’s take a look at what you should be basing your decision on with a review of each color.


White seems like it will be fairly focused (again) on heroic aggression. The best guy is Akroan Skyguard, but Nyxborn Shieldmate and Elite Skirmisher play nice too. You of course still have three packs of potential Wingsteed Riders, along with all the good heroic uncommons. If your pool has a few of those bodies, I think you’ll have a nice go-to strategy. The problem is that you won’t always open good heroes, and those pools will have a hard time making an awesome white deck.

White also gets some removal and a few value cards like Griffin Dreamfinder and Dawn to Dusk at uncommon. These cards could point to a more controlling deck, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

In terms of power level, white didn’t have the best commons in Theros, and I think it probably has the lowest average common strength in Born of the Gods too. At rare, white gets a bit of a mish-mash. A few rares are underpowered and a few are more expensive than what you want to be doing, like the seven-mana wrath. Still, I think if your Sealed pool supports a heroic deck, the power of those synergies can certainly help you shut the door on other decks.

The promo, Silent Sentinel, is a very solid value engine and bombish type card. I rated it a 4.0, which is good, but I think it’s the least exciting of the promos. At seven mana with a grindy ability, it doesn’t really fit into what you want a heroic deck to be doing. Seven mana is just so much more than six. I can see it being game-dominating in a WB control deck, but I don’t think that will come up for most players.


The way I see it, blue has the best commons in Born of the Gods, and it was already the best color in Theros. The tempo spells (Retraction Helix and Sudden Storm) are about as good as removal in this format, and you have an array of good creatures to boot. I think Nyxborn Triton is the best common bestow creature in BNG, and Chorus of the Tides should put in work.

The color wants to be tempo-oriented usually, but I think it can still pair up with black or red removal spells to make a more controlling deck, and can pair with green ramp spells to make a more high-end monsters deck. One of the most appealing things about blue is that it will pair well with any color.

I will note that blue rares are pretty unappealing. The only one in Born of the Gods you’re really psyched to open is Arbiter. There are also a few Theros clunkers like Meletis Charlatan. That’s okay though, because several of these commons are plenty good enough to carry the load in terms of card quality.

The promo, Arbiter of the Ideal, stands out to me as being the best of the five promos (I rated it a 4.5). A durable evasive threat that can generate free cards and mana is really good. The five toughness is a big deal, and this thing will win you most of the games you cast it.


In Theros, black was pretty much a pure control color, with cards like Returned Phalanx and Pharika’s Cure doing a good job at stemming the tide while you either deployed big green creatures or beat down with blue fliers. That identity should stay mostly the same in Born of the Gods, with the best black commons being removal spells. I will note that there are a couple interesting heroic enablers, so if you open some white/green/blue heroic guys and an Ashiok’s Adept, that could be a decent archetype to try out. If you’re paired with red, it’s likely you’re a more aggressive deck.

The quality of black in BNG is pretty good. I have its commons with the highest average rating of all the colors, which pretty impressive. Black gives you a pretty good shot at good rares as well, with Pain Seer being the only unexciting one in either expansion.

The promo, Eater of Hope (not to be confused with Drinker of Sorrow, Guzzler of Boredom, or Nosher of Sassiness) is quite the engine. I may have rated it a little high at 4.5, but it’s definitely going to dominate a game in a huge way given a few turns. Black decks absolutely adored having the seven-mana top-end finisher Abhorrent Overlord, and I think this is probably a little better.


Red wants to be a very aggressive color most of the time. Combat-savvy commons like Kragma Butcher are most at home in the red zone. However, if you get a few red removal spells I certainly think you can make a more controlling or rampy deck that provides some late-game power – perhaps pairing with green or blue.

Red was the weakest color in Theros, with only Lightning Strike really standing out among the commons. Red has a little more removal in this set, but I’m worried the creature base is still relatively weak. Cards like Impetuous Sunchaser and Nyxborn Rollicker, in the immortal words of Shania Twain, don’t impress me much.

The rares are hit or miss. You have two unplayables in Whims of the Fates and Satyr Firedancer, but the rest vary from strong to bomby. I will say that red’s uncommons stand out to be as being uncommonly strong, which counts for something.

The promo, Forgestoker Dragon is definitely one of the better ones (I gave it a 4.0-4.5), and fits right into red’s aggressive strategy. If you put some pressure on your opponent’s life total, untapping with this guy in play will often close out the game immediately. This relationship is so strong that it boosts red’s viability as a prerelease path considerably in my estimation.


Green’s strategy may have changed the most from Theros to Born of the Gods. In Theros, green was evenly split between two options: You could do the midrange curve-out thing with Nessian Coursers and Leafcrown Dryads, or you could ramp into Nessian Asps with Voyaging Satyrs. There was also a midrangey heroic deck with Staunch-Hearted Warrior. Born of the Gods will add another dimension: Attacking with two-drops (Swordwise Centaur). We will also see the green heroic deck speed up, with Setessan Oathsworn and Aspect of Hydra bringing the CMC’s in that deck down a notch.

All the cards I’ve mentioned are pretty good, and green was already the deepest color in Theros. It’s possible to get a pile of commons that don’t go well together, but you’ll never be short on playables. I see green as the safest color choice for the prerelease.

One think I like about green is that if you are playing the color, every on-color rare is good, and you also get a crack at splashing various off-color rares with a Karametra’s Favor. This is, on average, a pretty big boost for the color.

The promo isn’t the best, but it’s very good. I gave it a 4.0. Green already has plenty of six-drops, but don’t let that make you think the Hydra is mediocre or anything like that. It’s rare your opponent will get a choice he or she likes with this tribute ability.

Rating the Promos

All the promos are very good, but if I were put to it, this is how I would rate them:

  1. Arbiter of the Ideal
  2. Forgestoker Dragon
  3. Eater of Hope
  4. Nessian Wilds Ravager
  5. Silent Sentinel

These are fairly evenly matched, with the exception that I think Arbiter of the Ideal is a notch above the rest and Silent Sentinel is a notch below. I think these promos are balanced against each other well enough that the strength of the colors’ commons becomes a more important factor in choosing my path.

Rating the Colors

Here’s how I’d rate the colors, taking into account the fact that half your cards will be from Theros:

  1. Blue
  2. Green
  3. Black
  4. White
  5. Red

This is quite similar to how the rankings would be in Theros, with maybe black leapfrogging white with the addition of Born of the Gods. Blue’s commons are just great, and and your bounce spells and tempo plays will just be awesome all day.  Green is going to be very deep – perhaps deeper than blue – with pretty good card quality.

The order of the next three colors isn’t something I’m extremely confident about, but I think it’s about like this. Black’s removal should be pretty useful, and you still get a crack at Gray Merchants and good rares. The other two colors have a lot of potential, but seem inconsistent (white) and slightly underpowered (red).

The Path to Glory

So which color should you choose if you want the best shot at fulfilling your prerelease destiny? Blue seems like a clear leader here, as it has the best Theros commons, the best Born of the Gods commons, and the best promo.

Green is also a great choice. The color is super deep, which means you almost certainly won’t have to cut it, which means you are almost guaranteed to get to play Nessian Wilds Ravager. There’s also the fact that the rare you get in your color-skewed pack is guaranteed to be at least pretty good.

The other colors trail behind. Black I think is the next best choice, as the promo is great, the commons in both sets are pretty good, and the color-skewed rare has to be good too.

Red and white are less attractive. It’s unclear what red deck you’re going to build if you don’t get enough two-drops. There’s also the chance of opening Whims of the Fates or Satyr Firedancer in your color-skewed pack.

White can certainly create some excellent Sealed decks, and if your cards line up right (you get mostly heroic stuff with a Silent Sentinel at the top of the curve), you’re in great shape. But I think white pools will be a crap shoot, and the risk isn’t really worth the payoff.

So what’s my recommendation? Do what I do! I’m playing in two prerelease events at Twenty-Sided Store in Brooklyn. I’m going to choose green one of them and attempt to smash some people with fatties, and then blue in the other and hope to lock people down with Sudden Storms.

Whatever your path, I hope you have an awesome prerelease. The format is definitely overdue for a shakeup, and although Born of the Gods probably won’t change the format on a fundamental level, nothing is better than solving the new cards and archetypes.

Good luck, and most importantly, godspeed!


From here, you can go back to the Born of the Gods set review page, or read our review of whiteblueblack, redgreen, or artifacts, lands, and gold cards.



-Bert O Phillips

@themagicalhack on Twitter