by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos
We’ve been used to a creature-filled standard packed with ‘enter the battlefield’ permanents and little to fear but Supreme Verdicts and the odd counterspell here and there. It’s time we switched it up a bit. At first, when Theros was revealed to be an ‘enchantment matters’ set people went and snatched up any seemingly worthwhile enchantment they could. It stood to reason that these would rise in price because they should be seeing some play. It was almost all for naught, as Theros brought in its own set of enchantments with not so many cards that would interact with them. We got Nykthos instead of a functional reprint of Serra’s Sanctum and no Argothian Enchantress -style card. That’s fine though, we can still do quite a bit with that.
The following list is not my own invention but rather Sam Black’s. I really like the decks that he comes up with as they seem to emerge from another world. He made the now-famous Zombie Bombardment deck that sees some niche Legacy play. The following decklist may seem super weird, but upon testing it and seeing the various synergies …. Well, it’s really something else.
UW Sphere Control
3 x Sphinx’s Revelation
3 x Supreme Verdict
3 x Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
2 x Gideon, Champion of Justice
2 x Spear of Heliod
4 x Sphere of Safety
3 x Martial Law
4 x Blind Obedience
4 x Detention Sphere
4 x Security Blockade
32 Other Spells
Don’t let the little number 2 fool you next to the word ‘creatures’. Technically, Heliod is a creature. In a lot of the games you play he will either never become one or become one in the late game. The original list featured only one Heliod and 3 Gideons. I decided to switch it up a bit because I wanted to see Heliod in action. The other advantage that Heliod has is that he can pump out creatures that block/attack and contribute towards your enchanment count for Sphere of Safety. Sometimes with Nykthos in play and enough enchantments you can churn out 3 tokens a turn which is pretty insane.
As far as the Gods from Theros go, Heliod has proven to be a beast both in limited and constructed for me. Granted I have not seen many of the others in action save Purphoros, but he has not been all to great (except for the combo with Elspeth in Sealed play). It’s also worth noting that while not extremely impressive, Security Blockade is pretty much a creature as well. If you’re planning to play this deck be sure to pack your tokens.
That’s quite a unique token
No Counters ?
Woah! now it’s getting weird. We are used to almost creatureless Blue/White or Esper builds that only run something like 1 x Aetherling as a win condition, but this is just too much. No counterspells means we can’t really protect ourselves from some nasty spells. It’s actually not that true. While we don’t have a counter for something like Rakdos’s Return, we probably don’t need one. Thee thing with counterspells in the beginning of a format is knowing what you need to have an answer for. Seeing as though most new formats are filled with quick monored decks and other aggressive decks, counterspells are a lot less appealing. This is also somewhat my argument for not running something like Thoughtseize in your maindeck at the moment eventhough you have a strong urge to do so. It’s a card that is more effective in a format like Modern due to the speed of the format and the prevalence of combo decks.
The deck is more of a tapout control deck. I floods the board with hard to remove permanents and eventually overtakes it with a Gideon, Elspeth or Heliod. Sure it runs Sphinx’s Revelation to get some more cards mid to late game, but that and Supreme Verdict are the only non-permanent cards in the main. With cards like Blind Obedience and Detention Sphere, it’s almost like you had countered their haste creatures anyhow. The main thing this deck is countering is your opponent’s ability to attack you. This is the main way most decks win, right?
You probably want to run out the Azorius Guildgates and Hallowed Fountains out first. It will let your opponent know that you’re probably running Supreme Verdict and that you mean business. It may not cause the ‘no fear’ players to care about potentially losing their whole board to a Supreme Verdict, but that’s ok. With 0 possible turn 1 plays, you then try to drop a Blind Obedience on Turn 2. This is not to say that you absolutely need to keep a hand with it, but it’s probably good to have it in your opener.
Turn 3 is where the ‘action’ begins. You’re either going to:
A) Detention Sphere one of their permanents that’s already beginning to annoy you
B) Cast Spear of Heliod because you eventually need to start casting stuff
C) Cast Security Blockade so you can make a 2/2 Knight token and be ready to trade with one of their small aggro dudes
D) Play a land that comes into play tapped so you don’t have to look like an idiot when you need to cast Supreme Verdict on turn 4
The best option is probably C) and sometimes D). You probably want to be ready to tangle with their creatures by turn 4 and those are the two plays that prepare you for it.
Turn 4 is pretty crucial. You cannot yet animate a Heliod, but it can be a good turn to cast him versus black-based decks that are just itching to Hero’s Downfall what would otherwise be a Gideon, Champion of Justice. Alternatively, you may want to prepare for setting up a ‘fat’ Sphere of Safety and minimizing damage by playing a Martial Law (yay!). Against a more control-oriented deck I feel that Gideon is the correct play since he can just start attacking as a 5/5 on the following turn and put your opponent on a 4 turn clock that dodges a lot of removal (except for Detention Sphere and Hero’s Downfall).
Supreme Verdict is the most common card you will be needing to cast on this turn. If you get any kind of value, go for it. Don’t just burn the card because it’s sitting in your hand and you feel the need to absolutely take out his random attacker though. Just because you clearly have too many options does not give you the right to make the worst choice. Play safe 🙂
Congratulations you have reached turn 5 and are not yet dead! Your main goal should be putting that Sphere of Saftey into play as soon as possible. Just cast that bad boy and watch your opponent pick up the card, read it and let out a great big *SIGH!* You should have pretty much mitigated most of the aggro that your opponent will be trying to win with. Please feel free to repeat this play on Turn 6 as well in order to make it almost impossible for your opponent to attack with more than one creature.
You now have X turns to win the game. What is X you ask? Why, it’s a variable of course.
It’s approximately measured as the # of turns your opponent can draw enough land to eventually attack you, the # of turns it takes you to draw Elspeth and spam the battlefield with filthy 1/1 soldier tokens, the # of turns it takes you to attack your opponent down to 0 with Gideon, the # of turns it takes you to ultimate a Gideon or the # of turns it takes you to make enough cute little inoffensive-looking 2/1 tokens and beat rain down the wrath of Heliod on your unsuspecting opponent.
if you squint hard enough you can see that those are 2/1 Cleric Tokens raining down at that poor guy
Regardless of your ‘Hero’s Path’, you will eventually draw a win condition. You can almost last an insane amount of time on this board state without ever being in trouble. What’s your opponent going to do? Cast more creatures? Yes, they might have a random answer to your Sphere of Safety, but probably not in Game 1. Just draw your cards and the Gods will guide you to victory! Well, maybe not… but you get the picture.
Why would I play this?
For starters, it’s actually fun. It’s just different. It’s not a 10-planeswalker superfriends deck. It’s almost all entirely Sorcery Speed, runs pretty smoothly and just messes with people because you run so many WTF? cards. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary to play instead of just goodstuff.dec, then give it a shot. I got so many weird looks just by playing Security Blockade and putting down a token. People were amazed at how awesome the cards is. Truth is: it’s really not, but it’s the card for the job. It allows you to minimize some burn or combat damage by tapping your land and you can probably trade your 2/2 Knight token for anything that’s attacking you or just chump block to buy yourself more time.
Not all tokens are created equal
You get to even kill a few creatures with Spear of Heliod if you absolutely have to. I mean, how cool is that? You almost never have the mana or time to do that in a White Weenie deck running that fabulous Legendary Artifact Enchantment. You also have the opportunity to maybe potentially drain your opponent with Blind Obedience. Spam more enchantments, use the extra mana to drain your opponent’s life little by little and stay alive.
You get to finally play with Gideon, Champion of Justice.
Finally, you get to show everyone that Gideon doesn’t suck!
Between threatening lethal late game and detaining their irrelevant creatures, you can force them to block with creatures they don’t want to block with. The deck grinds everything to a halt that you can achieve his ultimate and go ‘better than a Planar Cleansing‘ on their @$%. If you have to ultimate him while at 15 loyalty, please make sure to at least float some mana and be ready to cast something like Elspeth, Heliod or another Gideon afterwards. At the very least, just go for a huge Sphinx’s Revelation with enough mana left to cast one of the above cards should you draw it. Also, please remember that your Detention Spheres are going to go bye-bye so have something ready for whatever is coming back (unless it was just some random God that can’t do much when nothing else is left in play).
Sometimes you don’t necessarily want to pop everything on the battlefield. You can just keep swinging with a really big Gideon and win that way, forcing your opponent to lose creature after creature. If your opponent is running Black, please beware that Hero’s Downfall is a real card. If you feel that your opponent will eventually draw something like a Detention Sphere (well, maybe just a Detention Sphere since Oblivion Ring is no longer in the format) you can go ahead and rush that ultimate even if it means losing Gideon. The more dedicated control decks will have a really tough time recovering from this as they tend to play all the lands they can.
The Detention Sphere warning is a double-edged sword however, since whatever your opponent exiled with it would come back as well. Be sure to watch for that and don’t just blindly D-Sphere things, especially since a Detention Sphere can’t target another Detention Sphere.
Side what out?
Your sideboard is a mish-mash of anti-control strategies. First there’s the obvious Negates that are there to take out other Sphinx’s Revelations, planeswalkers, Fade to Antiquity (you never know) and maybe a random big burn spell. You also have a couple of Gainsays that are going to probably perform similar duties as well as maybe countering something like an Aetherling or Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver.
There’s still another Jace in Standard …
Despite the sudden rise in Popularity of Jace, Architect of Thought, some people forget that there’ another Jace that you’d rather have in play during control mirrors. You might also want to sideboard him in versus the suddenly more popular Maze’s End decks that are surfacing.
Celestial Flare is another nod to the aggro decks. You get to slow them down on Turn 2-3 and maybe even hit a real baddy like Blood Baron of Vizkopa who is just really bad news for this deck. Casting it against an attacking God is probably more dream than reality though. Still, there are nuissances like Witchstalker that can be taken out with this little gem.
White on white hate? Can’t we all just get a long?
Glare of Heresy is there because sometimes you will each have something like an Elspeth in play and casting Detention Sphere is kind of bad. It can also be used on opposing Detention Spheres as well. Depending on how popular white decks are in your area you might want to increase the count. I hear it’s also very good versus opposing Heliods.
Finally we have Solemn Offering, a card that has not really seen play in forever. It’s probably something I would carefully consider siding in versus decks that can win with Assemble the Legion or even some black decks running Whip of Erebos. Of course you’ll also side it in against opposing Detention Spheres, Crackling Perimiter ( Maze’s End sideboard card) and maybe even Pithing Needle ( a card that affects your deck a whole lot),
It’s about time!
Ready to take to a Pro Tour Qualifier?
Probably not just yet. Most people will probably know what you’re up to and be somewhat able to interact with your deck. Cards like Ashiok can be a real pain unless you can find your Detention Sphere early on, otherwise you’re stuck attacking him (which is not where you want to be). I would really play this often at local store FNM’s or GPT’s and tweak it based on what I found to be under-performing.
More to Come …
I will be completing my article on Modern Mill and some more Standard stuff in the very near future. If you have anything you would like to write about please do not hesitate to contact carteblanchehobbies AT yahoo DOT com. It doesn’t need to be about any Magic: the Gathering format in particular, so give us a shout.