Mana Confluence helps you keep hands you might not keep if they were instead two or three Temples. It also makes aggressive hands better. Hands can now curve out on time, unlike with Temples, when the lands enter tapped and slow you down a turn. Scry is great, but not being able to play something on time for an aggro deck is too important to ignore.
Realizing this, Nyx-Fleece Ram was a card that I noticed during spoilers for Journey into Nyx, and I wanted to use it in a way to combat Burn and creature/aggro-heavy decks. Nyx-Fleece Ram works so well against those decks because:
- It comes out early and is a body large enough to block the majority of ground-based 1- to 3-drops without dying.
- It gains us life, and every single point counts in aggressive matchups. Gaining 3 or more life over the course of the game could mean we’re able to take one extra hit or burn spell before dying. This transfers into an extra draw, which also means a better chance of drawing an out if we’re in trouble.
In the most recent StarCityGames Open, a W/U Control list by Eric Rill placed second that included Nyx-Fleece Ram in the sideboard:
W/U Control ? Journey into Nyx Standard | Eric Rill
- Spells (26)
- 1 Negate
- 1 Syncopate
- 2 Celestial Flare
- 4 Azorius Charm
- 4 Dissolve
- 4 Sphinx's Revelation
- 4 Supreme Verdict
- 1 Banishing Light
- 4 Detention Sphere
- 1 Elixir of Immortality
- Lands (27)
- 5 Island
- 5 Plains
- 1 Temple of Deceit
- 1 Temple of Silence
- 3 Mutavault
- 4 Azorius Guildgate
- 4 Hallowed Fountain
- 4 Temple of Enlightenment
While he definitely fits there, Nyx-Fleece Ram has potential in a main-deck slot. In my last article on Gathering Magic, I mentioned I built a Junk deck using Nyx-Fleece Ram and other incremental life-gain cards in combination with Archangel of Thune. Today, I’ll let you guys in on the deck and explain why I think it’s a good pick if the format decides to speed up.
Enchanted Junk ? Journey into Nyx Standard | Michael Yee
- Creatures (16)
- 2 Archangel of Thune
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
- Planeswalkers (1)
- 1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
- Spells (20)
- 1 Ultimate Price
- 1 Devour Flesh
- 2 Bile Blight
- 3 Hero's Downfall
- 4 Abrupt Decay
- 3 Thoughtseize
- 3 Banishing Light
- 3 Underworld Connections
- Lands (23)
- 2 Mana Confluence
- 2 Temple of Malady
- 3 Overgrown Tomb
- 4 Godless Shrine
- 4 Temple Garden
- 4 Temple of Plenty
- 4 Temple of Silence
This is a Junk Midrange deck that actually started out as a fun, casual idea since I love synergies between my cards. However, once I started testing it, heard advice from other people, and adjusted the deck, I found it has a chance of becoming a good choice if Standard speeds up. It was a rogue deck specifically built to combat Aggro and Burn decks, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be configured to adapt.
Mana Confluence and Underworld Connections more aggressively, and play Thoughtseize later in the game with less pressure. We’re expecting a slower start to games, but once it gets going, it is able to switch gears very quickly and run over our opponent, hence the “steamroll” descriptor.
I’ve never really been a huge advocate of life-gain strategies unless there are other benefits. It’s not an effective strategy by itself, but because the main methods of gaining life in this deck are passive, it allows us to focus on other things, such as casting removal spells, rather than proactively playing cards to gain us life (e.g. Heroes' Reunion).
We have a couple ways that we can utilize our life-gain in the deck, and the two strategies work together, making this deck quite powerful in a variety of situations.
1. Archangel of Thune’s Army
Archangel of Thune is the type of card that can win games if it stays on the board. The deck has many ways to activate its ability and due to the life-gain trigger’s being separate from each other, it is not uncommon to receive 2 to 3 +1/+1 counters on all of our creatures in a single turn.
For example, it’s not out of the ordinary for the deck to have at least a Nyx-Fleece Ram and a Courser of Kruphix on field by the time we play Archangel of Thune. The turn after we play Archangel, we gain one trigger from Nyx-Fleece Ram and can gain one trigger from Courser of Kruphix. This means we’re turning Archangel of Thune into a 5/6, Nyx-Fleece Ram into a 2/7, and Courser of Kruphix into a 4/6.
The best part about this is we haven’t even attacked yet, meaning once Archangel of Thune does damage, our creatures are receiving another pump.
Going from 5 power to 11 power on board in a single turn is a big jump, and nothing is better than allowing your Nyx-Fleece Ram to beat down. This keeps repeating turn after turn until our opponent draws an answer to Archangel, so it definitely applies a lot of pressure.
If we end up having Elspeth, Sun's Champion’s tokens on the field, too, that’s even better.
2. Underworld Draws
Nyx-Fleece Ram gives us an unconditional 1 life per turn, with Courser of Kruphix doing so conditionally. This means we’re essentially able to draw “free” cards with Underworld Connections. This is much more efficient than Mono-Black Devotion, which relies on Gray Merchant of Asphodel giving the ability to draw more cards. We’ve all seen or experienced Mono-Black Devotion decks having to stop drawing cards due to their pilots’ life totals shrinking too low and them not finding any Garys.
The combination of Courser of Kruphix and Underworld Connections on the field means we can also go through our deck quite quickly while being able to see what we’re going to draw. This also makes our scry lands later in the game much more powerful.
Regarding removal, we have the ability to hit a variety of important threats and permanents, although I would have to say Abrupt Decay is the star removal spell in this deck, and I think, in the new Standard, it’s going to be among the main reasons people have Golgari colors in their decks. It hits opposing Banishing Lights or Detention Spheres to free up our permanents, it kills off a wide range of creatures, and it gives us an answer to opposing Underworld Connections while we’re able to keep ours on board.
I’ll briefly go over some of the popular matchups:
We have an advantage since we’re able to use Abrupt Decay or Banishing Light to remove opposing Underworld Connections while keeping ours in play. This has won me the majority of the matches against Mono-Black Devotion. Pack Rat can be a problem, but I’ve recently added Bile Blight to the sideboard as an additional way to deal with it.
Golgari Charm in the sideboard for Supreme Verdict and Elspeth, Sun's Champion’s -3 ability. We also bring in Duress and Sin Collector in for more hand disruption. The two key cards in this matchup are Underworld Connections and Obzedat, Ghost Council. The goal in this matchup is to strip the opponent’s hand and land one or two of our major threats to apply pressure.
Aggro and Creature Matchups
Archangel of Thune or Obzedat, Ghost Council. If it’s a hyper-aggressive deck, we have to take out Underworld Connections, but against Midrange and Monsters, we can keep it in. Once Archangel of Thune or Obzedat comes into play, we can switch gears and go aggressive.
Post-sideboard, we have quite a few options available to us depending on the type of creature matchup:
Mono-Black/-White/-Red Aggro Decks:
1 Doom Blade (If it’s black-based aggro)
This is by far our best matchup.
All we need to do is play our creatures, and everything usually takes care of itself from there. If the opponent casts Chained to the Rocks on our creatures, we can just Abrupt Decay to bring them back. If the opponent burns our creatures to death, that is 2–4 damage not at our face, and we’re perfectly fine with that. Our life-gain creatures put pressure on our opponent to remove them, but it’s one of those situations in which the opponent is really not happy using resources doing so. Sylvan Caryatid allows us to ramp into our main threats, and it is nearly impossible for the Boros Burn decks to remove.
Thoughtseize in because taking 2 damage from it is better than 3–4 damage from a burn spell.
Moving forward, I have high hopes for this deck. It’s definitely adaptable due to our color combination, as we have a wide range of answers to opposing decks, so from here, it will come down to picking the right cards when the format solidifies. For example, Naya Hexproof is becoming quite popular, so cards such as Celestial Flare might be good to consider in the sideboard, and Golgari and Junk Dredge is showing some play in tournaments as well, meaning Scavenging Ooze could also be another adaptation in the future. There are plenty of options available to us, so for these next few weeks, I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on tournament results.
We’ll have to wait and see, but for now, I’ll keep gaining life, drawing cards, and growing creatures.
- Michael Y.