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No Guts, No Glory

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I’m sure we’ve all heard this phrase before. You have to take some risks once in a while to achieve greatness.

Risks come in many different forms in Magic, and sometimes, it’s even a risk just building a certain type of deck or using a certain strategy. There’s one archetype that comes to mind that takes the motto, “No guts, no glory,” to heart.

I’m talking about heroic decks.

There are not really any lists out there that have had much success. The most successful one lately has probably been Ken Yukuhiro’s U/B Heroic deck that he piloted to a Top 32 finish at Grand Prix Beijing at the end of March.

This was a pretty interesting list, and it had some very nice tricks. My problem with it was the lack of Wrath protection and not enough power for my liking. By lack of power, I mean this deck isn’t going to hit my opponent with a big beefy creature—Nivmagus Elemental, of course, being the exception.

Nivmagus Elemental
In order to build a heroic strategy, one must adopt a strategy similar to Hexproof decks’ and Pack Rats’. Both the Hexproof decks’ and Pack Rats’ strategies are all-in, and they try to beat down opponents in as few turns as possible.

Building a heroic deck in a format filled to the brim with removal is risky business. We don’t have the benefit of having hexproof creatures, but the power behind heroic decks is still there. One of the major advantages of playing heroic decks is that you have access to a wider range of tricks that can accomplish a variety of different things in a match. This gives the decks quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to dealing with opposing creatures or spells. Since most heroic cards involve adding +1/+1 counters to the creature, those creatures will end up becoming stronger in a shorter amount of time as well.

Journey into Nyx brings some nice cards that can fit in a heroic strategy, and that is another reason I want to revisit it. These cards will allow our decks to be a bit more resilient to the mass of removal spells out there.

Starting on my heroic journey, there were two things about building the deck that I knew I wanted:

  • The deck had to be resilient to Wrath effects and other removal spells.
  • The deck should be three colors, with G/W being our base.

The reason for this is that we’re on such a permanent-reliant strategy that a Supreme Verdict or early targeted-removal spell is tough to come back from. Going green and white gives us access to some of the best Auras, heroic creatures, and tricks to beat down with. White is the obvious choice, though, since I’m a big fan of bestow creatures, and Hero of Iroas does a good job of being a target for our Auras and other pumps due to the cost reduction.

As for the other colors, if we go red, we gain access to strong pumps such as Boros Charm and Ghor-Clan Rampager, allowing us the ability to enact one-turn kills more frequently, granting us semi-evasion through trample, and giving us Wrath and other removal protection through Boros Charm’s indestructible mode.

The Naya list is an all-in strategy and can be quite scary to players who are unprepared for it. It’s very aggressive, with the potential to turn Hero of Iroas into an 8/8 with trample, lifelink, first strike on turn three (with Unflinching Courage and Ethereal Armor). On turn four, we can turn it into a 13/13 with double strike thanks to the combination of Boros Charm and Ghor-Clan Rampager, and I’m pretty sure, unless they have removal, other decks just can’t handle that.

Unflinching Courage
With this deck, you’re looking toward piling enchantments on either of the heroes similar to how a hexproof deck functions. Rather than using only enchantments, I prefer to use some bestow creatures since they provide another layer against removal while still benefiting Ethereal Armor. It is an aggressive strategy that has good matchups against other creature-based decks. Burn also has quite hard time dealing with Unflinching Courage, especially when we’re gaining mass amounts of life from our attacks.

 


Now, if you’re like I am and don’t enjoy putting all your eggs in one basket, some of the other colors can provide a bit more utility.

Black is appealing because we gain better removal: Abrupt Decay, Golgari Charm, and, most importantly, Thoughtseize. When heroic decks are reliant on keeping the creatures alive, being able to strip removal and other problematic threats from your opponent’s hand before those cards hit the board is ideal.

Golgari Charm does a similar job in protecting our creatures from Wrath-type effects, so the lack of Boros Charm isn’t as bad. We’re losing our ability to combo-kill, but the ability to deal with enchantments is worth it, and the -1/-1 mode can be useful in dealing with weenie decks or tokens.

Black also gives us access to some other powerful bestow creatures, such as Spiteful Returned—to squeeze damage through—and Herald of Torment—for evasion. Thanks to Hero of Iroas, we’re able to bestow much sooner.

Here is the list I came up with:

The core of the list is the same, but we have a better variety of bestow creatures and also some more removal. This list doesn’t combo-kill, but we have some resilience to other decks thanks to the black cards we’re adding in. Adding in the Ajani's Presence gives an additional way we can protect our creatures from both Wrath spells and spot removal. Since games will probably go longer with this list, adding in the extra way of protecting our creatures is nice. Bestowing with Herald of Torment is a pretty reliable source of damage since whatever we bestow it onto will have flying, so as long as we can keep it in the air, victory should be easy to achieve.

 


That brings us to our last color: blue.

These heroes adopt a different strategy thanks to Battlefield Thaumaturge. Since he doesn’t work with enchantments, I wanted to use strive cards to maximize his effectiveness. We have multiple ways of generating tokens to flood the board, and then we can pump them all with Phalanx Leader. Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Precinct Captain aren’t heroes, but they can still generate tokens for us.

Phalanx Leader
We have multiple ways of protecting our creatures thanks to Simic Charm and Ajani's Presence, and, surprisingly, one of the more important cards in the list is Aqueous Form. It helps us increase the size of our army since we can attach it to Precinct Captain to keep hitting our opponent, and since we have quite a few reactive spells, the scry is quite useful. After gathering a sizeable number of tokens, we can use Phalanx Leader to increase their power, growing a large enough force to alpha-strike our opponent.

The deck has other ways to win though. If Fabled Hero survives on the board, he can easily turn into a win condition. Especially thanks to Aqueous Form, we only need that and a Simic Charm or a Dauntless Onslaught pump to deal a large amount of damage in a single turn. The hexproof from Simic Charm and the indestructible from Ajani's Presence means Fabled Hero has a decent number of ways to stay on the board to keep the beat downs going.

Hour of Need is another possible win condition. Since we’re generating tokens, we should have no problem finding targets for it. Trading a 1/1 token for a 4/4 flyer is a good deal, and with Battlefield Thaumaturge, we can target two creatures for only 1uu. Using it at the end of our opponent’s turn and hitting two tokens, we can have 8 power in the air for our turn. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me!

It can also be used defensively with Detention Sphere. Since we don’t have any ways to deal with cards like Stormbreath Dragon, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Desecration Demon, or the like, we can target multiple threats our opponent controls, turning them into 4/4 Sphinx tokens. Follow that with a Detention Sphere, and we can take out a large amount from the opponent’s board. It’s a bit mana-intensive, but it’s there if we need it, and Battlefield Thaumaturge makes it much easier to accomplish. The nice thing is we can still turn the opponent's creatures on his or her turn, so he or she won’t have a chance to attack us with the Sphinx tokens.

 


Heroic decks have a lot of power behind them, and once cards like Supreme Verdict rotate out, I’m sure we will be seeing more heroic strategies in the future. I hope my lists inspire you to create your own heroes!

- Michael Y.


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