I, like most people I know, have gotten sick of the BNG format, so luckily for us a new set is coming out. In order to get a head start on the draft format, I will be looking at the strongest archetypes from BNG draft and see what they gain and lose. In this article, I’ll be looking at UW and RW.
UW Heroic was probably the strongest archetype in BNG draft. This archetype loses a pack of Favored Hoplites, Phalanx Leaders, Battlewise Hoplites, Wingsteed Riders, Wavecrash Tritons, and of course two of the best Ordeals. It also loses two of the best bestow creatures: Hopeful Eidolon and Nimbus Naiad, both of which help the deck recover from unfavorable board positions. Here are the best creatures the archetype gains at common and uncommon:
- Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
- Sightless Brawler, Oreskos Swiftclaw, Battlefield Thaumaturge, Stonewise Fortifier
- Crystalline Nautilus, War-Wing Siren, Tethmos High Priest
- Akroan Mastiff, Leonin Iconoclast
The two key cards to note are Lagonna-Band Trailblazer and War-Wing Siren, two heroic creatures at common that can replace Favored Hoplite and Wingsteed Rider respectively. Both of these have smaller power, but the extra toughness is relevant against all of the cheap removal spells that deal damage: Magma Jet, Pharika’s Cure, Lightning Strike, Bile Blight, Bolt of Keranos, and Fall of the Hammer. The smaller power can be relevant in many games, making games potentially last an extra turn or two.
Since they’re at common in a smaller set, there will be more of them than the total number of good heroic creatures in Theros. There are also enough creatures in JOU to fill out the rest of a UW curve, so UW doesn’t lose much in the creature department.
Akroan Mastiff is an important card to take note of. On paper it doesn’t look very good, and in other sets, it would probably be unplayable; however, in a format all about building your own Baneslayer Angel, tapping down a creature is huge, and will commonly be a two for one or even more if there are enchantments attached to the creature.
Now let’s take a look at the tricks and removal. I’ve included the strive cards multiple times at their reasonable curve levels.
- Aerial Formation, Oppressive Rays, Mortal Obstinacy, Ajani’s Presence
- Hubris, Reprisal
- Armament of Nyx, Banishing Light, Ajani’s Presence, Phalanx Formation
- Aerial Formation
- Sightless Brawler, Crystalline Nautilus, Phalanx Formation
There are a lot more tricks and removal compared to creatures, so it’ll be important to prioritize the creatures in the first pack, since a good UW deck requires at least 16. Even though a lot of the tricks in JOU are spicy and exciting, it will often be better to pick up the creature. You can only get so much better than Battlewise Valor, and a trick without a creature might as well be a blank. Nevertheless, the cards with strive do seem insane. You will most often be casting them to target two creatures, but the flexibility make them much better than Dauntless Onslaught.
In order to maintain a healthy amount of creatures and target effects, the bestow creatures are key. Unfortunately, there are only uncommon bestow creatures in JOU. Other than the lack of bestow creatures, UW seems to still be a viable strategy for JOU draft. Crystalline Nautilus type cards have a lot of variance, and in a set with so many target effects, it might not be the best bestow creature, but it is very aggressively costed. Putting this on a Vaporkin when the opponent is tapped out can often be enough to win the game.
Oppressive Rays is very good at locking down an early blocker. The cheap cost allows you to eliminate a blocker and play another creature on turn three, perfect for the curve. Unfortunately, it’s terrible in the late game, and you probably don’t want it in multiples. Armament of Nyx, on the other hand, is better in a controlling strategy. Giving one of your enchantment creatures double strike isn’t very exciting since none of the enchantment creatures also have a heroic effect, so it’ll most often be used to negate the damage of an opposing creature.
Of all of the UW cards, including rares and mythics, I would first pick Dictate of Heliod, Dawnbringer Charioteers, War-Wing Siren, Hypnotic Siren, Banishing Light, Sage of Hours, and Godsend to move into the UW heroic archetype. Getting any of these, along with Sightless Brawler, Aerial Formation, Hubris, Launch the Fleet, and Ajani’s Presence, as a late pick is probably a signal to move into the archetype or color.
The introduction of BNG interestingly enough made RW a weaker deck even though white and red were two of the strongest colors in BNG. This was probably because players were over-drafting red and white in BNG and ended up fighting for playables during the THS packs. Nevertheless, there was always the chance that the colors were wide open, allowing a player to draft an insane RW deck. As with UW, RW loses all of the excellent heroic white creatures, as well as Akroan Hoplite. Here are the creatures it gains:
- Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, Satyr Hoplite
- Sightless Brawler, Mogis’ Warhound, Oreskos Swiftclaw, Sigiled Skink, Stonewise Fortifier
- Akroan Line Breaker, Tethmos High Priest
RW decks are typically very fast, so we won’t consider the creatures that cost 4 or more unless they are insane (Akroan Conscriptors and Ornitharch). RW gets a huge boost in terms of Lagonna-Band Trailblazer and Satyr Hoplite, more so than UW does. The best RW decks hit fast and hit hard, and both of these creatures contribute to that cause. There are also plenty of decent two drops and three drops that fill the rest of the curve, which was one of the problems with red in BNG and THS. The filler creatures were very mediocre, but Sigiled Skink and Akroan Line Breaker are both decent and will probably contribute to making RW a little better than it was before.
In terms of tricks and removal:
- Blinding Flare, Oppressive Rays, Magma Spray, Rouse the Mob, Spite of Mogis, Ajani’s Presence
- Blinding Flare, Reprisal, Desperate Stand
- Mogis’s Warhound, Armament of Nyx, Blinding Flare, Banishing Light
- Rouse the Mob, Ajani’s Presence, Desperate Stand
- Sightless Brawler
Again, there are plenty of tricks and removal spells in JOU, and it’s important not to take too many of them early. Overall, RW will become stronger with the introduction of JOU, but that just means more people will draft the archetype.
Mogis’s Warhound and some of the other bestow creatures in JOU actually have three modes. Although this will rarely be the correct play, you can bestow Mogis’s Warhound on your opponent’s creature in order to make it attack the following turn, thus getting rid of a blocker.
Blinding Flare may seem very good, but compare this to Seismic Stomp from M14. Seismic Stomp was generally left in the sideboard. Blinding Flare, however, does trigger heroic, and will probably see more play than Seismic Stomp did. Just don’t value it too highly.
Desperate Stand seems insane at first, but then you realize that it’s a sorcery. Casting this for two is pretty unplayable, and it doesn’t become exciting until you’re casting it for 6, in which case your mana also has to align perfectly. RW generally has smaller creatures and relies on its instant speed pump spells to clear blockers. Unlike Dauntless Onslaught or Coordinated Assault, Desperate Stand will rarely be a blowout.
Launch the Fleet is much better in RW than it does in UW. RW generally has more, although smaller creatures than UW, and RW wins by overwhelming the opponent with attackers rather than building up a large attacker and bouncing the opponent’s blocker repetitively.
Flamespeaker’s Will is much worse than Mortal Obstinacy. That is all.
Here are the first pick cards for this archetype: Iroas, God of Victory, Dictate of Heliod, Dawnbringer Charioteers, Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, Prophetic Flamespeaker, Banishing Light, Satyr Hoplite, Godsend. Again, it’s much more important to solidify creatures than pump spells when deciding whether to move into an archetype.
Picking up Mogis’ Warhound, Sightless Brawler, Magma Spray, and Launch the Fleet are all good signals to move into the archetype.
One final note for this archetype is that JOU lacks premium removal spells in Red such as Fall of the Hammer or Bolt of Keranos. Magma Spray is decent, but all of the creatures you want to kill generally have three toughness (because they block your two power creatures so well). There doesn’t seem to be very many first pickable commons and uncommons in red in JOU which means that red will probably be under-drafted at the table. White however, has two premium removal spells, two excellent rares, and a very good mythic, so white will continue to be over-drafted.
Fewer ordeals and bestow creatures along with more removal means that the format should slow down a bit. Although they aren’t losing much more than they gain, UW and RW will be worse off comparatively. Other archetypes are gaining removal spells that help them combat the fast aggressive decks, and most of the creatures in JOU seem to be more on the defensive side. Next time, I’ll cover some of the other strong archetypes from BNG and see what they gain and lose with the introduction of Journey into Nyx.