Carrie On – Initial Views on BNG in Limited

Sorry for the lack of an article last week. I was relocating to New York, so I had the week off. Writing an article with the stress of moving 3,350 miles just wasn’t going to happen!

On the plus side, my move went smoothly enough that I did manage to make it to a prerelease event for Born of the Gods on that Sunday. I entered two Sealed events and then, this Friday, I got to do my first BNG draft.

I love talking about the new sets in Limited. I like to read the spoilers and speculate on what is going to play well. However, there are always surprises. Some cards exceed expectations while other just turn out to be lackluster. Today I’m going to share with you my three decks, and talk about the new cards that did or did not impress.

From the spoilers, white and black looked to get a ton of really top tier cards for Limited. So, clearly, being the spike I am, I picked blue for my first event. My main reason for picking blue was simple—[card]Retraction Helix[/card] looked amazing and I wanted to maximize my chances of getting to try it out.

I opened really well. Nothing too splashy in terms of rares, but just a really solid deck. I ended up UB:

[deck]2 Retraction Helix
1 Stratus Walk
1 Meletis Astronomer
1 Pharika’s Cure
1 Deepwater Hypnotist
1 Nullify
1 Returned Phalanx
1 Nyxborn Triton
1 Nimbus Naiad
1 Drown in Sorrow
1 Servant of Tymaret
1 Necrobite
1 Griptide
1 Chorus of the Tides
1 Fate Unraveler
1 Weight of the Underworld
1 Thassa’s Emissary
1 Sudden Storm
1 Cavern Lampad
1 Warchanter of Mogis
1 Shipbreaker Kraken
1 Arbiter of the Ideal
9 Island
8 Swamp[/deck]

This deck crushed my first event. I went an easy 4-0 and only lost a single game. It’s interesting that I had 16 BNG cards in my deck. It will be slightly tilted in the favor of BNG due to the skewed prerelease pack. I also expect this is because you are less able to evaluate the new cards and tend to leave them in when you shouldn’t. At least I have a lot of cards to talk about, then.

I think the real surprise was just how well [card]Servant of Tymaret[/card] worked. This deck relied heavily on evasive damage sources. I basically ran Servant in order to determine if it was any good. It was easily one of the MVPs of the deck. Triggering inspired on this guy is exceedingly easy, since I didn’t come up against many early 3-power blockers. As a result, Servant could frequently attack and just bounce off an opposing blocker, allowing a free untap trigger next turn. It didn’t even seem very often that a profitable double-block was available to my opponents because if one of their blocking creatures had 1 toughness then Servant could just regenerate and take it out.

Later in the game when I had enough mana, Servant could either attack and simply regenerate or he made an amazing blocker. If you haven’t realized why, then the important thing to remember (which is often skipped by players) is that creatures become tapped when they regenerate. By “regenerate,” I don’t mean when you use the ability: I mean when the regeneration shield is used due to your creature taking lethal damage or being otherwise destroyed. So not only do you get to block that monstrous [card]Nessian Asp[/card], taking no damage and not losing a creature, you then get to drain your opponent for 1 when you untap for your next turn.

This slow and steady damage fits well into the BW control decks I enjoy drafting that normally win with [card]Scholar of Athreos[/card]. It’s surprising how relevant a small but steady trickle of drain damage can be in Limited. While Servant can’t get the job done as quickly as Scholar, he certainly brings a lot of utility to the table.

Speaking of slow but steady damage that requires a removal spell: [card]Fate Unraveler[/card] was another excellent card. As a 3/4 for 4, I was happy but not excited to be running… her? (I feel Hags should be female but I can’t really tell from the art). But actually a 3/4 is a nice blocker in Theros/BNG Limited and that steady tick of damage every turn is incredibly frustrating to deal with. If you are getting to beat with the Hag as well then you can basically count it as a 4/4 for 4, which is perfectly respectable. I won’t first pick it in draft, but happily take it 5th-8th. Oh, the other reason Fate Unraveler can be especially good is it makes [card]Divination[/card] and (even more so) [card]Read the Bones[/card] that little bit less appealing for your opponent to cast. Don’t forget, too, that this card slightly deviates from black’s usual template: this is actual damage, not life loss. It can be redirected to planeswalkers! I got to use it to finish of a [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card] at my prerelease.

I was pretty sure that [card]Meletis Astronomer[/card] was going to be a 1/3 for 2 and nothing more than that. However, I was running 7 enchantments and it basically gave me a nice place to bestow and occasionally get bonus value. I’m not saying the guy is some super awesome all-star. Just a much better 23rd card than it looked like it would be.

A card that severely disappointed me in this deck was [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card]. I thought it would be of use to me. Only 4 of my 13 creatures had 2 or less toughness and two of those were bestow creatures that I didn’t really intend to cast as Creatures. Despite this, I never found a good time to use Drown in Sorrow. It wasn’t that people didn’t have creatures with 1 or 2 toughness—my [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] and [card]Weight of the Underworld[/card] did some work, after all—it was more that, at best, it was a weird and sometimes awkward removal spell. I boarded it out for something more relevant every game as I just got frustrated with it sitting in my hand continuing to be useless. I feel it could have sideboard potential against a very aggressive (small) deck but it falls short of having maindeck potential. This was exactly the sort of deck for it, and it just didn’t work here.

[card]Retraction Helix[/card] was as sweet as I expected it to be. Cheekily enabling inspired and heroic, and just providing the sort of tempo plays that limited can thrive off. [card]Sudden Storm[/card] (a.k.a [card]Frost Breath[/card] that costs 1 more and scrys 1) was also a Limited all-star, just turning races into slaughters all day. It kind of feels like cheating.

[card]Nyxborn Triton[/card] was another over-performer. 2/3 is a nice defensive stat line on a 3-drop, and his bestow cost is nice and cheap. I suspect he will play nicely with [card]Wavecrash Triton[/card] in the months to come.

Obviously my two sweet 6-drop blue rares helped too…

This deck won by pecking away at the opposing player’s life total using evasion and/or non-combat damage and occasionally dropping a powerful 6-drop.

For my second pool I picked black. My reason for this was simple: I really like removal in Limited and black always has plenty. Unfortunately, I ended up UB again, but I got to play with a few different cards:

[deck]1 Annul
1 Retraction Helix
1 Aqueous Form
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Deepwater Hypnotist
1 Nyxborn Eidolon
1 Spiteful Returned
1 Triton Fortune Hunter
1 Divination
1 Wavecrash Triton
1 Herald of Torment
1 Servant of Tymaret
2 Chorus of the Tides
2 Weight of the Underworld
1 Sudden Storm
1 Cavern Lampad
1 Strike Harpy
1 Sphinx’s Disciple
1 Keepsake Gorgon
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Eater of Hope
9 Swamp
8 Island[/deck]

This deck didn’t finish as well as the previous one but the games were really, really close, and often came down to my opponent topdecking to swing the result in their favor.

The new cards of note in this deck (not already discussed) include [card]Spiteful Returned[/card] and [card]Shrike Harpy[/card]. Spiteful Returned is another one of those frustrating sources of damage. I really enjoyed bestowing this onto a Wavecrash Triton. You get a 2/5 which isn’t easy to kill in combat. Although your opponent can normally find something for it to bounce off, it’ll still cause them to lose 2 life from the trigger when it attacks. As you can probably tell by now, I really like irritating damage sources and I just got so many new toys.

I found [card]Shrike Harpy[/card] could really put my opponents in nasty situations and most of the time he acted as a removal spell as they couldn’t afford to give me the 4/4 flier.

Interestingly I wasn’t that impressed with [card]Herald of Torment[/card]. He’s like the opposite of Servant of Tymaret in that he is providing a damage source for my opponent. As a 3/3 flier for 3 he should more than make up for that small life loss but I just couldn’t get him to be game-changing. I think maybe I was trying to bestow him too much and should just run him out on 3 more often. Still I had him several times and several times he was mediocre for me.

I briefly want to mention a Theros card. While the playability of most cards will be unchanged new strategies develop with the addition of another set and other cards shift in usefulness. [card]Annul[/card] was always almost maindeckable in Theros Sealed and a fine sideboard option. Born of the Gods contains a whole plethora of (non-bestowable) enchantment creatures in addition to the new bestow cards and as a result I think [card]Annul[/card] is now absolutely maindeckable. I was really happy with mine as there are now just so many targets.

Moving onto my draft deck, I didn’t play blue! I’d like to tell you I didn’t end up playing black either but that’s all they passed me. Constantly! I had enough to go mono but it wasn’t worth it considering the five sweet support cards I got to go alongside them…

[deck]4 Baleful Eidolon
1 Pharika’s Cure
1 Scholar of Athreos
1 Herald of Torment
1 Fabled Hero
1 Mogis’s Marauder
2 Asphyxiate
1 Excoriate
2 Weight of the Underworld
1 Insatiable Harpy
1 Fate Unraveler
1 Cavern Lampad
1 Erebos’s Emissary
1 Warchanter of Mogis
1 Sentry of the Underworld
2 Sip of Hemlock
1 Marshmist Titan
10 Swamp
7 Plains[/deck]

This is a really nice example of a BW attrition deck. True, it’s mostly black, but the components are all there. A nice set of removal (yes I really did get 4 [card]Baleful Eidolon[/card]s), some evasive threats, and some game stalling cards.

I took [card]Herald of Torment[/card] first pick to give it another try but sadly I never drew him, so my question as to how good he is in Limited will remain unanswered for now. I played [card]Marshmist Titan[/card] because a mostly black deck is where he belongs if he is playable. He was… fine, I guess, but nothing to write home about and I would look to pick him around 11th, which I think is precisely where I got my copy.

[card]Warchanter of Mogis[/card] is a really nice card, if you can get him going. Unfortunately a 3/3 for 5 can be hard to attack with on turn 6 profitably. [card]Mogis’s Marauder[/card] can help with that and I did get to apply this to game winning success in one match.

The rudest game involved two removal spells and the three creatures: [card]Scholar of Athreos[/card], [card]Fate Unraveler[/card], and [card]Sentry of the Underworld[/card]. If you have 6 lands, this is 6 damage a turn cycle, with you gaining 2 and having a quite impressive set of defenders as nothing has to tap to do this damage. When I had this set of cards in play I saw the light go out in my opponent’s eyes over the next turn as we both came to realise what a truly suffocating trio they are. I think he managed to kill one but it was too late.

[card]Asphyxiate[/card] is an interesting card to play. You have to judge if you will need to use this as an immediate answer to a threat. Because once it’s started hitting you it’s now… what, like, immune to suffocation or something? Sounds like serious flavor fail. Anyway while you might not need to kill something like a [card]Blood-Toll Harpy[/card], now it’s possible you will eventually. Maybe your opponent has a deck with ordeals or bestow creatures, or you are slightly weak to fliers. You basically need to be slightly more gung-ho with this card than most removal spells. My deck certainly had enough answer to threats that I could use it on anything a) big, b) evasive, or c) powerful without much hesitation.

All in all I really enjoyed my first adventures in BNG Limited. I participated in lots of intense and close games, so hopefully this is a good sign of things to come. What cards impressed you in your first Limited events? Feel free to share them in the comments below or @onionpixie on Twitter, and I will see you next week.

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