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Zendikar Rising Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Dropping Bombs with Pegasi

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When perusing the list of new cards for Theros: Beyond Death, I spotted the card I think might be my favorite of the set. Archon of Sun's Grace may not be the best card of the set (in fact, I guarantee it isn't), but it inspired the deck-building part of my brain in a way that no card has for a while. I have a couple of deck ideas that I thought I would share!

Glad Cows Don't Fly

Archon of Sun's Grace
When you first read Archon of Sun's Grace, you are a little surprised it isn't a Pegasus. Why would an Archon give Pegasus creatures lifelink? The picture clearly features a Pegasus, yet here we are. The card reminded me of a deck I used to run that featured one of my first favorite Magic cards: Sacred Mesa.

Sacred Mesa isn't particularly good. You spend 2 mana to make a 1/1 Pegasus, and you can do that as often as you have mana, which sounds great, but the drawback is rough. Sacrificing a Pegasus creature every turn means that the enchantment essentially had a 2 mana upkeep cost. Suddenly I was spending four mana just to get to keep a Pegasus through my upkeep. This regularly meant that I didn't have mana to cast anything else. It wasn't until I got to six mana that the card was any good, since then it meant I could add two Pegasus flyers to the battlefield.

In spite of this, I kept with it. When your card pool is limited and you happen to open three of the same rare in the pack of Mirage you are buying, you struggle to try and make it work.

Perhaps the Archon of Sun's Grace would be the card that could make Sacred Mesa good? I started looking at a possible Pegasus theme deck. After seeing the options, it became pretty clear that if the deck was going to be any good, it was going to rely on Pegasus tokens from the Archon and Sacred Mesa. Oh, and Storm Herd. There is no way you can build a Pegasus theme deck focusing on tokens and not include Storm Herd!

Now I started to think about ramp. White is notoriously poor at getting extra mana, and this deck was going to need all the mana it could get! With Sacred Mesa using as much mana as is available, ramp is an essential part of the deck. I looked at Pearl Medallion, but that was a non-starter. When the deck wanted mana mostly for the activated ability on Sacred Mesa, Pearl Medallion would do very little. Mana rocks like Signets would also work, but they offer little synergy with everything else the deck is trying to do.

Sacred Mesa
This eventually led to the card that is showing up in most White decks: Smothering Tithe. It is an enchantment, so it would interact well with the Archon's Constellation ability. Opponents would certainly be providing all the Treasure needed to ramp like crazy. I was pretty much sold on Smothering Tithe...

...Until I started looking at card draw. I wanted the deck to be able to draw extra cards, but the options seemed a little limited. I found another enchantment, Dawn of Hope, that would let me draw more cards, but it would only really work once I had already gotten my engine creating lifelinking Pegasus tokens. I stuck with it, but the card that really struck true for me was Spirit of the Labyrinth. It wouldn't help me draw cards, but it would prevent everyone else from drawing their extra cards! This seemed even better, since it meant that my opponents would have a handful of dead cards in their hands, while I had maximized the rest of my deck. And it's an Enchantment creature!

The Spirit of the Labyrinth doesn't work all that well with Smothering Tithe, though. The Tithe tries to capitalize on opponents who draw extra cards. With the Spirit out, Smothering Tithe only gets Treasure for the one card each of them draws per turn. Still not bad, but not amazing.

I decided to go deep on theme. The Boreas Charger is a Pegasus that finds lands when it leaves the battlefield. It doesn't have to die, it just has to leave. Skybind can flicker the Charger so it leaves the battlefield, then returns. If an opponent has a couple more lands than us, we can find two Plains, put one on the battlefield and keep the other in our hand. When we play another enchantment, and most of the deck is made up of enchantments, we can do it again. We may not be getting a pile of lands out on one turn, but we are guaranteeing we'll hit a land drop every turn.

I looked at Hour of Reckoning as a great form of mass creature removal, as it won't touch our tokens or the Sacred Mesa that makes them. I included Austere Command to destroy all artifacts, since we aren't running any, and larger creatures, since that will leave the Pegasus tokens alive and fighting.

Finally, I included Anointed Procession. Getting two Pegasus tokens instead of one just makes good sense!


How Much Green Mana?

Rancor
After looking at a Pegasus theme deck, I shifted to enchantments, just as I warned everyone about last week. Every time I play an enchantment when the Archon of Sun's Grace is out, I get a 2/2 Pegasus with lifelink. When you have the entirety of Magic to dig through to find enchantments, the only real trick is finding the ones you want. This time around I focused on the cards I already owned. Obviously, Serra's Sanctum would be great in any deck that plans to run a lot of enchantments, but I don't own it and I don't plan to buy it any time soon.

Instead, I remembered another deck I played from long ago, and a card that should absolutely make the Archon sing: Rancor. For only 1 mana, you can cast it and enchant the Archon, or any other creature, to give it +2/+0 and trample. It would also add a Pegasus token due to the Archon, so suddenly, that would be a ton of value for one Green mana! The real key for Rancor though is that when it ends up in your graveyard, you put it back in your hand. That means if the creature it is enchanting dies, you can recast it on something else! Or, if someone gets rid of the enchantment, it just goes back to your hand! In fact, if you had a way to get rid of Rancor yourself, you could recast it as many times as you had Green mana, getting a Pegasus token every time you did it...

Auratog is a strange little creature. It only costs 2 mana and it is only a 1/2 creature, but if you sacrifice an enchantment, it gets +2/+2 until the end of the turn. Rancor and Auratog were the feature of a deck from long ago that used the two cards to make a massive Auratog with trample to try and wipe out my opponents. If we cast Rancor with the Auratog and Archon of Sun's Grace out, we get a Pegasus token. If we sacrifice it and cast it again, the Auratog is bigger and we now have two Pegasus tokens. If no one is stopping us, we start counting how much Green mana we have and things start to look crazy!

Sigarda's Aid
What if we added Sigarda's Aid to the mix? Now we can cast Rancor on an opponent's turn. Pegasus creatures appear out of nowhere to block! Auratogs get huge and destroy our opponent's massive attacking creatures. We can save our mana and just use it up at the end of an opponent's turn so our tokens will be ready to attack on our turn. And, it is another cheap enchantment!

The ramp cards in this deck are currently a mixup of cards. Fertile Ground and Overgrowth are both auras that make our lands tap for more mana. Mirari's Wake makes our lands, and our token Pegasus creatures better! And I just talked about Smothering Tithe and it produces Treasures that can be sacrificed for Green or White mana, depending on what we need!

Mesa Enchantress has proven its worth repeatedly as a card draw engine in decks that run a ton of enchantments, so I don't think I need to prove its worth here. Banishing Light, Aura of Silence, and Seal of Cleansing handle the removal package for the deck.

This deck's mana base is very tricky. You really want your land to be able to tap for Green or White. Most of the cards in the deck are White, but Rancor will want as much Green mana as you can give it. With this in mind I ran plenty of duals. I would recommend a full set of Wooded Bastion to shift your mana around when needed, and minimal lands that tap for colorless mana. This is why there is only one Hall of Heliod's Generosity in the deck.

Finally, the deck wraps up with Anointed Procession and Divine Visitation. Doubling up on the Pegasus tokens makes as much sense in this deck as it did in the last one. Divine Visitation means that I may not get lifelink on my token creatures, but 4/4 vigilant angels seems like a real, solid, substitute!


I hope Theros: Beyond Death opens up option with some of your past decks, and inspires all new decks, that find wonderful ways to abuse cards from long ago.

Bruce

@manaburned

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