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Reaping the Graves: Ephara, Pain Seer and Synergy

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, FNM, Standard

If you’re like me, whenever a new set is released you start looking for all of the interesting cards you can build with. Born of the Gods has quite a few cards I’m interested in working with. One of the cards I was excited about was Ephara, God of the Polis. Card drawing is generally powerful, and I’ve found devotion to be a pretty fun mechanic.

Originally I just slotted the God of the Polis into the white devotion deck I had been tinkering with before Born of the Gods released. I played that deck at open in Nashville the week the set came out and after being quickly dispatched from the event I started looking for other places I could use Ephara. I think synergy is something that appeals a lot to people brewing decks in a new format. Synergy is what led me to the next Ephara deck I designed, the white-blue-green deck from my last article. Here is that deck again for reference:

Ephara’s ability interacts very well with being able to generate creatures on your opponent’s turns as well as your own. I thought this made cards like Advent of the Wurm and Prophet of Kruphix powerful inclusions in a deck centered on Ephara. In addition to being able to play creatures on your opponent’s turn, I was playing cards that would allow me to generate creatures on my own turn without spending resources such as Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Progenitor Mimic. Prophet was helping with this too through untapping your lands.

Despite the synergy of my cards with Ephara, I found the deck struggling to perform to my expectations. Drawing cards is powerful, but it doesn’t usually kill your opponent or prevent their creatures from attacking you. I won a small percentage of games in which I didn’t draw Detention Sphere. A lot of decks in this format add a lot of pressure to the board, and the card drawing engine Ephara provides starts fairly slowly.

Another significant issue with this deck was the lack of devotion my cards provided. A lot of other Ephara decks play cards like Lyev Skyknight, who does a great job of providing devotion as well as having a reasonable ability and power/toughness.

I found during testing against Andrew Shrout, piloting the blue-white deck he had been playing lately that Prophet of Kruphix was somewhat underpowered in the deck. Lacking counterspells and cards like Sphinx’s Revelation, he had nearly nothing to fear from my Prophets. My cards weren’t interfering with his plan at all.

Another deck I have been working on lately is also based around synergy, but it uses it in an much more aggressive way. Here is the deck:

Pain Seer is another card I’ve been hoping to make work in this format, and I think this deck might be the one that does it. Once again I’ve taken a focus on synergy. The cards I’ve chosen to a good job of making it so that Pain Seer is always going to be inspiring.

Boon of Erebos has been one of the most impressive cards in the deck. It does a lot of things for you, and almost nobody expects you to be playing it. One of the biggest appeals is allowing you to just attack with Pain Seer into most creatures. With the exception of Boros Reckoner, Desecration Demon and Polukranos, you’re generally going to be killing something with that attack as well. Against the blue-white control decks you can use Boon to counter Last Breath, as well as keep something important alive through Supreme Verdict. Triggering heroic on Tormented Hero can add up throughout a game as well.

The two bestow creatures, Herald of Torment and Spiteful Returned are another way I’m allowing myself to keep Pain Seer attacking. They do more than that though, in that they progress your aggressive strategy on any creature. Spiteful Returned gives the deck a little reach allowing you to deal damage even through blockers. Bestow is a powerful mechanic in a deck based on attacking, often allowing you to trade your smaller creatures up while maintaining threats after the bestowed creatures fall off.

Mogis’s Marauder is also one of the important aspects of the deck. Intimidate might as well be unblockable against most decks. The exception being the black devotion decks and decks containing Nightveil Specter. Against the other decks though, you can use the Marauder to push through a lot of damage and gain Pain Seer activations.

Ultimate Price is the removal I’ve chosen for the deck because it deals with more of the black creatures than other removal spells while also dealing with important cards like Brimaz, Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon.

The sideboard of the deck is designed with Marauder’s weakness to black decks in mind. The full set of Dark Betrayal are available to help compensate for intimidate being so bad.

Lifebane Zombie is a good attacker as well as disrupting the green and white based decks. It can come in against blue-white decks if you’re expecting Archangel or Brimaz from their sideboard.

Doom Blade is to give you some help against basically any non-black creature deck (Gr Monsters, Blue Devotion, White-Green, etc)

Gift of Orzhova comes in against essentially all the decks Doom Blade comes in against. It’s a helpful way to recover some of the life you lose to Seer, Herald, Boon and creatures who cannot block.

This deck has been performing quite well during testing. I think an important difference between this deck and the other deck is that the synergy in this deck is focusing on killing your opponent. The deck is using it’s synergy to create pressure in addition to fueling an engine.

One last deck I want to show you is using both of the cards I’ve talked about wanting to play with. Here is the deck:

This deck was designed as a mix of things I had seen other people playing. It has a bit more of an early game than the other Ephara deck with cards like Soldier of the Pantheon and Precinct Captain.

Lyev Skyknight and Spear of Heliod help your Pain Seers, Precinct Captains and Brimazs keep attacking. They also provide strong devotion to Ephara.

Obzedat gives you a heavy hitter to help finish opponents, as well as a way to gain some of life you’re losing to Pain Seer and your manabase back. Whip of Erebos helps with the life as well as making Obzedat even better. Obzedat also has a cool interaction with Ephara, guaranteeing that you will have something to trigger her ability and draw you a card on your opponent’s turn.

Springleaf Drum is an attempt to help the manabase as well as provide a few interesting opening hands. A Springleaf Drum before a Precinct Captain allows you to attack on turn three, get your token and cast Ephara. Or follow up a Brimaz with an Obzedat. It also allows you to get immediate and consistent activations of Pain Seer.

I’ve haven’t had much of a chance to play games with this deck yet, but the few I have played have been promising. There is a good chance I’ll be discussing this deck again with you in the future. Until then, I’ll encourage you to go looking for something new and interesting to do with all these new cards. Good luck brewing!

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