Xenagos in Akros

As I look back and forth through the Theros previews, I’m starting to shape more ideas about potential combos in various formats. For this week, I decided to start with the innocuous common Akroan Crusader for its synergy with the recently-popular Young Pyromancer.

The Crusader generates a token every time you cast a spell that targets it, and if that spell was an instant or sorcery, the Pyromancer will generate a token as well. My impulse from there was to build a mono-red aggressive deck full of cheap creatures and pump spells to create an early army. Like last week, I decided to stick with Standard, both as a deck-building challenge and to potentially inspire Friday Night Magic lists. Let’s take a look.

Akros Aggro

While we’ll definitely need some instants and sorceries to trigger both the Crusader and the Pyromancer, I think we’ll need a few more creatures as well. I started with Legion Loyalist for its mana efficiency and the superpowers it grants when battalion triggers, which should be often. With bonus power from the pump spells we’ll see in a moment, both first strike and trample can be very relevant.

Burning-Tree Emissary provides the same caliber of explosiveness as our other creatures but in a different form. However, being able to play a 2-drop while playing combo–aggro cards seems quite potent.

With all these creatures entering the battlefield, Theros’s red deity Purphoros, God of the Forge seems to be a great inclusion. His activated ability can pump all our token and nontoken creatures, but perhaps more importantly, he acts as a doubled Warstorm Surge with all our 1-power creatures. (And he’s a nondoubled Warstorm Surge with 2-power creatures. Oh, but he only hits players. Okay, I guess this comparison isn’t working out.)

Purphoros also has a third, hidden synergy with our deck: His devotion could really matter. With, for example, an Akroan Crusader, a Young Pyromancer, a Burning-Tree Emissary, and Purphoros, we have 5 devotion to red, which means our forge God can charge in there for 6. And if we have a Loyalist around, that 6 damage will be trampling over.

For instants and sorceries, we definitely want to focus on things that can target the Crusader. Perhaps that’s not the optimized list, and perhaps the optimized list wouldn’t have the Crusader at all, but since this deck started with him, we’ll give him his due. Dynacharge, Thunder Strike, and Weapon Surge all can target him, allowing him to push damage through potential or ill-fated blockers all while making extra combatants for our side. Awkwardly enough, we’ll often want to play our combat tricks precombat in order to create the hasty token in time to attack. Also awkward is that fact that when we want to overload one of our Izzet spells, it won’t be able to target the Crusader in order to generate that token. But I suppose every opportunity has its cost.

Every red deck needs a burn spell, and even as I started typing Lightning Strike, the new Searing Spear, I realized the reprinted Magma Jet would probably be a better fit. While it might be a close call between an additional point of damage and scry 2, that probably comes down to how the competitive Standard format shakes out. But for our deck here at least, finding the right pieces at the right time can be more important.

Finally, I realized a shortcoming of this deck would sometimes be mana. Against some opponents or in multiplayer situations, playing a 1-drop, followed by a 2-drop, followed by a 3-drop could be mostly inconsequential. It might often be correct to wait for a turn-four Purphoros and then dump our hand the following turn for a ton of damage from God triggers, a fair amount of hasty damage, and a bunch more damage through attacks on the next turn.

While I originally had a single copy of Chandra, Pyromaster in the deck—which I think would be a great option for a list that stuck to mono-red—I decided to instead include the new R/G planeswalker Xenagos, the Reveler. He helps a great deal for the dump-everything-post-Purphoros plan by providing a bunch of mana to have a storm-like turn that can deal a bunch of damage or create a bunch of tokens. His 0 ability even creates a Satyr token to deal 2 with Purphoros and add to the board for overloaded Dynacharges.

To go along with the green and to add additional mana to the game plan—as well as an additional body—we have Satyr Hedonist, which acts as an aggressive 2/1, but also as a red Dark Ritual on later turns.

The deck doesn’t have card-draw, but both Magma Jet and the new dual land Temple of Abandon provide scry, which is a great mechanic for a card-advantageless combo deck.

Beckon the Reveler

Liking the nonaggro plan of the tokens combo, I decided to push the theme a little harder. The last element missing from such a deck, which I mentioned a few times above, is card-draw. Fortunately, there just so happens to be a card that potentially draws a lot of cards in Standard, and it directly correlates to how many creatures we can generate. Also, I don’t remember building with it yet, so that’s exciting.

In this deck, Beck // Call won’t be cast with its W/U half or fused (though more power to you if you find room for white and 8 mana for a single spell!), but setting up with this spell with a Crusader, a Pyromancer, and Purphoros already onboard is really the dream here. We’ve moved from mostly red with a splash for green to fully R/U/G, adding Teleportal for some flare for our finisher. I upped the number of copies of Xenagos, the Reveler because, with the new planeswalker uniqueness rule, on a potential combo turn, we can generate a ton of mana with Xenagos’s +1 and then cast another as a follow-up ritual spell. If controlling just five creatures means a net mana gain, and with a big Beck // Call turn with token-generators around, I can imagine Xenagos’s mana-generation being well more than just 1.

Finally, for a bit more flare and to help set up mana-hungry turns, let’s have a play set of Plasm Capture. I imagine countering any random 4- or 5-drop just to be able to go off on the following turn.

Andrew Wilson
fissionessence at hotmail dot com

Order your Theros singles and booster boxes today from CoolStuffInc!