The hottest topic nowadays seems to be the new Modern ban list, which, if you’ve been living in a cave, unbanned [card]Bitterblossom[/card] and [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and banned [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]. I don’t want to talk about Modern because of the PT, however, so instead I’m going to give you my “second impression” on Born of the Gods—now that the whole set has been released and we’ve managed to play with some of the cards and seen how they actually work in a game, I think we can better analyze which cards are going to have some impact on the formats.
For Limited, my very first thought is that the set is a little boring—for Constructed as well (since the power level is overall low)—but particularly Limited. That was what I thought as the cards were being spoiled and I didn’t really see anything that made me change my mind. The cards just feel very vanilla to me; the bestow guys are actually vanilla, and the heroic and inspired cards are all the very basic abilities and effects. Discard a card? Yeah, let’s make a heroic guy with that ability, and an inspired one as well. Draw a card? check. Gain 2 life? Yep, heroic and inspired. Theros wasn’t great in that regard, but at least we had novelty and great flavor—Born of the Gods falls short on both.
I also have to say that, without the whole Guild thing happening, I don’t think the prerelease boxes were very interesting. Having a surprise is a big reason why I like Sealed deck, and knowing which color I’ll be before I even open my cards definitely takes away a lot of the excitement. It also makes for very feel-bad moments when you can’t actually play the color, leaving you with an underpowered deck compared to everyone else. It’s possible that they are enough of a boost to new players (by giving them a direction) that they should stay even if most veteran players I know do not like them, and I really am not qualified to judge on that, but for me personally they have overstayed their welcome.
The best part of the set for me is that there are now different ways to trigger heroic that are not just pumping your guy even more, which is a huge improvement. With Theros, you had to enchant a guy that would get bigger because of the enchantment and then would get even bigger because of heroic, creating an “all your eggs in one basket” feel that would lead to you getting blown out if your guy got removed (and bestow didn’t usually make up for that since most of the bestow guys aren’t actually worth a card by the time they get into play). This would also create somewhat of a waste in the sense that, if your guy is already getting enchanted, then he doesn’t need heroic bonuses, and if he is getting heroic bonuses, he doesn’t need to be enchanted—he’s already going to be a big guy they have to deal with.
With Born of the Gods, there are now excellent ways to trigger heroic almost as an afterthought—the kind of card that you would normally play and then think, “oh wait, I can use this to heroic my guys!” Examples of this are [card]Acolyte’s Reward[/card], [card]Glimpse the Sun God[/card], [card]Retraction Helix[/card], [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card], and even [card]Sudden Storm[/card] if you’re really desperate. What this means is that now you can run more heroic cards while also running “real spells”—before, a deck wouldn’t be able to play many heroic creatures, enablers, and removal, but now it has stuff like [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card] that counts for two of those.
As far as colors go, I think nlack aggro got a boost, with many new good aggressive commons. Red gets a considerable amount of good cards, as opposed to the roughly 1 it got in Theros, but still only has one direction—aggressive. White, blue, and green seem to remain largely unchanged; I still think blue and green are the best colors in a vacuum and can be played both aggressively or controllish. UR and GR might be archetypes now that red actually has good cards, but the problem is that you only get one pack of Born of the Gods and it’s the first one, so people are going to see all those good red cards pack 1, move into red, and then you’ll have a ton of people fighting for the very few good red cards in packs 2 and 3 (ok, not necessarily a ton, but more than you would have in a triple-Theros draft).
[draft]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/draft]
For Constructed, I think the biggest winner is probably mono-white because [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card] is so powerful and it’s one of the few additions to the format—a deck like Mono-Blue is still probably good, but didn’t improve in any way with the new set, so it’s not really worth talking about.
[draft]Ephara, God of the Polis[/draft]
[card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/card] is also a good addition—when I first reviewed her, I wrote this: “The ideal scenario for Ephara is a multicolored guy that can make a creature for no mana—with inspired, for example. That way you can play her and get a guy into play on the same turn and already draw a card for your troubles.”. With [card]Precinct Captain[/card] and Brimaz, there are two creatures that fit this requirement. Captain might be hard to “trigger” on turn four, but Brimaz can certainly attack and guarantee a card. It can also block and let you draw an extra card for their turn too, but I think that’s a little too ambitious—a card like [card]Moorland Haunt[/card] would be perfect with her but I don’t think we have anything like that nowadays.
I think the best shell for her is a white deck that splashes blue. If you’re heavy blue, then [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card] is probably a better card. Ephara is similar to [card]Heliod, God of the Sun[/card] because it invites an attrition battle, letting you grind out their removal and winning the long game, but I think she is better because Heliod’s static ability isn’t that relevant and drawing a card is free and potentially more powerful than making a 2/1. I’d start with something like this:
[ccDeck]4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Dryad Militant
1 Boros Elite
4 Daring Skyjack
4 Precinct Captain
4 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
3 Banisher Priest
3 Imposing Sovereign
2 Ephara, God of the Polis
3 Spear of Heliod
1 Ajani, Caller of Pride
4 Brave the Elements
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Hallowed Fountain
There are some blue options you can play, namely [card]Detention Sphere[/card], but I think I don’t want a card this reactive, even if it’s reactive to basically anything. There are also other 2-drop options ([card]Vanguard of Brimaz[/card], even [card]Deputy of Acquittals[/card] if you want to go big with Ephara), but I think [card]Daring Skyjek[/card] and [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card] are simply better, even if they don’t boost your devotion quite as much.
[card]Bile Blight[/card] is a very good card, but it’s ironic that it only answers [card]Pack Rat[/card] out of the Pack Rat deck, because it costs double-black. For this reason, I don’t think Pack Rat is getting any worse; it’s not like the decks that lost to it can now deal with it, they still can’t. Sure, it’s worse in the mirror, but it’s worse for both players, so while now they can beat Pack Rat, so can you—it’s a tie in this regard. Mono-Black can also toy a bit with the new bestow [card herald of torment]Serendib Efreet[/card] and with sideboard [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card], but the core of the deck should remain unchanged.
[draft]temple of plenty
temple of enlightenment
temple of malice[/draft]
The other relevant addition are the scry lands, particularly the UW one. I was not a fan of the [card]Dark Betrayal[/card] sideboard in Saito’s list—to me, it felt like more of a reason to justify playing scry lands than the other way around. i.e. people wanted to play those but didn’t want them to be off-color because that looks silly, so they tried to think of a black card they could add, and hopefully not bring in very much because they can’t cast it half the games. Now you can just forget that completely and have a great mana base staying only in two colors! You also get [ccProd]Fated Retribution[/ccProd], though I’m pretty sure the correct number of that is between 0 and 1. I think 2 is just too many heavy cards. UW also gets [card]Revoke Existence[/card], which, besides having a great new art, helps you dealing with many of the problems the deck had—Gods, weapons, and [card]Underworld Connections[/card].
[draft]Courser of Kruphix[/draft]
The card that interests me the most in the entire set is actually [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]. It might not be the best card in the set (maybe Brimaz is?) but it’s definitely the one I’m looking forward to playing with the most. 2/4 for 3 is not bad a bad stat, and both abilities are very relevant. Gaining life might not be useful against some decks, but it’s certainly a very good ability against some others, and I like that it makes having two Coursers not redundant. I especially like that he has an ability that gets better the longer he stays in play, and another that helps you prolong the game, so you can make even more use of his ability—in that sense, he’s like a mini-planeswalker.
The key with this guy is that being able to play a land from the top of your deck can effectively be considered drawing a card even if you don’t need it for anything—if you need a land, then it’s like it drew you a card immediately, but if you do not, then it’s like you drew a card next turn (because you would have drawn the land). Doing that roughly 40% of the turns is pretty good for a card that is likely to survive for many turns.
It gets especially great when you combo it with library manipulation; it’s a fantastic combo with [card]Domri Rade[/card] because it lets you know which ability to use, and having one makes it way more likely that you’ll “trigger” the other, since it gets the wrong type of permanent out of the way. It also protects Domri with its excellent stats and even fights stuff relatively well. It’s not as great a combo with scry lands as one might imagine, however, since you can’t scry a land on top and play it (since you had to play a land already), but it’s still good because it lets you know when you want to play the scry land (if the card is good, then keep the land in your hand for a later turn).
Right now, I think the best home for him is the Green Devotion deck, very similar to the one Makihito Mihara played. That deck has Domris, wants to find specific cards, and can use the defensive status. This is how I’d build it:
[ccDeck]3 Arbor Colossus
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Courser of Kruphix
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
4 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Voyaging Satyr
4 Domri Rade
4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon[/ccDeck]
You could play [card]Xenagos, God of Revels[/card] in this deck, since it seems very easy to activate, but I don’t actually think he’s better than [card]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/card] here; the problem with him in this build is that your big guys are already gigantic and don’t need to get any bigger, whereas they can certainly use trample. Xenagos seems great when he is making any single one of your guys a threat, but in this deck he’s going to be either redundant or not necessary.
[draft]Xenagos, God of Revels[/draft]
The other option is RG Monsters. That deck is less interested in a 2/4 body, since it wants to attack, but it also has Domri (and I can’t stress how good a combo those two cards are) and enough late game cards that you don’t mind the defensive stats and the life gain as much as one would think. Its competition is [card]Witchstalker[/card], [card]Boon Satyr[/card], and [card]Fanatic of Xenagos[/card], and I think he’s better than all of those, but I’m not sure. In any case, this deck certainly doesn’t want four—I’d rather have two and four of another guy, for example:
[ccDeck]4 Elvish Mystic
3 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Fanatic of Xenagos
2 Courser of Kruphix
4 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Mizzium Mortars
4 Domri Rade
3 Xenagos, the Reveler
2 Xenagos, God of Revels
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Stomping Grounds
In this deck, the God Xenagos is much better; you can still activate him (though not as easily), and the effect is very relevant because you will be pressuring their life total and because you have medium-sized guys. He’s also good with Rampager, since you can give your big guy trample.
I also think it’s possible Courser spawns entire new control archetypes, since it’s so good in those decks and provides such a strong defensive position; it also combos well [card]Anger of the Gods[/card], though that’s probably not going to happen since any deck that wants Courser probably wants some form of mana acceleration and those all die to Anger of the Gods nowadays. Still, Bant and RUG control are definitely decks I’ll be looking to explore when I am done with Modern.
The Courser is also a great combo with fetchlands—he counters their drawback, you get to shuffle your deck when you don’t want the card, and if you have multiples of him a fetchland gains more life than a regular land. I actually considered playing him in Legacy, where you can assure you’re going to “trigger” him every time with [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] and cards like Brainstorm, Jace, and Ponder, but the set is not on MTGO yet so the Courser Legacy deck is probably not going to happen for Paris, as I have no way to test it. If it did, though, it’d probably be something like [card]Brainstorm[/card], Top, [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], maybe [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], [card]Force of Will[/card], [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], perhaps even a red splash for [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]/[card]Punishing Fire[/card]/[card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card]. If I get the chance to test it before GP Paris, I’ll report back.
That’s what I have for today; not a lot of exciting new stuff in the set, I’m afraid, but hopefully once we start playing more with it new combinations will come up and some cards will prove to be better than we originally thought.
See you next week,