Howdy howdy! Have you had the chance to draft Journey into Nyx? It’s awesome! Read Zach’s article about how Wizards solved the third-set draft problem. Zach nails it, and so do Wizards. I’ve had the good fortune to draft the new format ten times already, and I’m loving it.

This week I present my initial impressions of Journey draft. The format has truly evolved into one deep with synergy. The tools are there to build a strong deck in any color combination. Gone are the days of aggro dominance, but control decks still have to actually do something to win. The environment seems very deep and I can’t wait to dig in once the set goes online.

dragonlord

I do hope he’s friendly!

So what’s caught my eye so far? Here’s four high level points I’ve noticed.

1. Constellation is Good.

I love constellation. Most of the enchantment creatures and auras are already good. Getting an extra bonus whenever you play one is fantastic. I had a turn in team draft league this week where I played Chosen by Heliod on Ashiok’s Adept with Grim Guardian in play. Trigger, you discard a card, trigger, I draw a card, trigger, you lose a life. Sweet.

The mechanic looks weak at first because you think you won’t trigger it much after casting it. If you don’t have any other enchantments, you think it does nothing. But it triggers when it enters too! You get your value immediately, and any later triggers are a bonus. And it turns out a lot of these creatures are just great on their own while getting better as you build around them.

Whitewater Naiads is a stone bomb. Thoughtrender Lamia isn’t as obviously good, but seven drops are a thing now (see below) so this card is even better than it seems. Imaging playing the lamia on turn six, their hand is land seven and Tromokratis. At least if they discard the land, they can’t cast their seven unless they rip another land. And you can continue to threaten their hand going forward if they can’t draw that land. What if their hand is empty on turn six? Well that’s good too.

Dreadbringer Lampads seems clunky, but it works great with the inspired token generators from Born of the Gods. God-Favored General is a new engine for black-white control. If you can get it through (say with the intimidate trigger of the lampads) you get two constellation triggers each upkeep. Forlorn Pseudamma already has intimidate, but it can help give the 4/2 lampads intimidate each turn you make a token.

maniac

Much flow chart!

2. Red-Black is the best aggressive deck.

Red-white and blue-white have been the champions of aggression, but now black-red seems poised to take over the crown. Mid-range decks have become more resilient, so you need the robust removal suite of red-black to force through damage. Nightmarish End and Feast of Dreams offer more cheap removal, along with Magma Spray. Gnarled Scarhide and Grim Guardian provide additional punch, while Satyr Hoplite helps get the game going. Flurry of Horns is a nice curve topper.

Threaten effects are especially useful, and red got a new amazing one in Harness by Force. One way to play around Portent of Betrayal is playing out extra blockers. But if that just prolongs the game, Harness will eventually end it when you have enough mana to take three of their creatures at once.

3. Seven mana creatures are important now.

As the format slows down, huge finishers become essential. Eater of Hope and Silent Sentinel used to be filler that stayed in the sideboard, but both are now amazing bombs. Many games of Journey draft get to seven mana with relative board parity.

bomberman

Don’t burn yourself with those bombs!

Kraken of the Straits does work as a finisher in blue-black and is worth picking up in the second pack in case you don’t find a rare finisher. That deck can durdle with the best and draw a ton of cards, but needs a way to force through large chunks of damage. Kraken is basically unblockable in such a deck. Scourge of Fleets does similar work.

Even at the lower points on the mana curve, aggressive decks now want powerful fours and fives. You’d always play Hundred-Handed One in a white aggro deck, but now you want Supply-Line Cranes as well. The format is slowing down. Be prepared to spend your mana on big effects!

4. Strive offers a new powerful mana sink.

Strive is basically monstrosity for spells. early in the game you can get a solid cheap effect out of Ajani’s Presence or Consign to Dust. If the game goes late, you have a devastating play at seven or nine mana. Options in limited are so powerful because you fill multiple roles with a single card slot. Strive is amazing. Take advantage of it.

Marble Madness, 1992, Mark Cerny, Steve Lamb, SEGA Master System

Don’t get eaten!

So there you have it. The format seems balanced and exciting to explore. Aggressive decks aren’t as oppressive now, so we have time to try to go deep. Oracle’s Insight may have its time to shine now. Blue looks very strong, as it is the slowest color and does best when it has time to durdle a bit.

But the best card drawer in the set may be Eidolon of Blossoms. Boy is that card incredible. I hope to first pick it often in the weeks ahead. And with that, I wish you good drafting!

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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