Breaking God-Eternal Bontu In War Of The Spark Standard

God-Eternal Bontu seems powerful, but what’s the best way to use it? Wyatt Darby presents two versions of sacrifice decks before getting wild with World Shaper!

I’m incredibly excited to play with God-Eternal Bontu in War of the Spark Standard. Today I’ll break down why I believe there’s so much to like about the second incarnation of the God-Eternal.

In a format like Standard, it’s incredibly important that, when you decide to invest five mana into a creature, you get some kind of return on your investment immediately. Bontu passes that test with flying colors with this unbelievably powerful line of text:

When God-Eternal Bontu enters the battlefield, sacrifice any number of other permanents, then draw that many cards.

This allows you to generate value even in the face of immediate interaction and firmly avoids the pitfalls of the powerful creatures that simply die to Doom Blade or, in more recent history, the pair of Ravenous Chupacabra and Vivien Reid.

It might be more accurate to say that Bontu can meet that criteria if you’re willing to work for it. The natural follow-up question is, what plays can we make before Turn 5 that would allow us to maximize the potential of the Zombie God? My first inclination is toward cards that generate value with enters-the-battlefield triggers – think explore creatures – or cards that can generate value when they die. This leads to the natural home for Bontu and the shell that I think may gain more than any other archetype in War of the Spark Standard – a new version of The Aristocrats.

My friends from the Atlanta Magic scene also love to sacrifice creatures to generate small amounts of value, and after talking to Justin Gregory, I’m inclined to think this would be an excellent place to start.

You can see that this maindeck is full of new cards that increase the overall power level of the archetype. Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord can support Bontu by producing an endless stream of sacrifice fodder when returning a Hunted Witness turn after turn. That’s not the only use for Sorin, as the bursts of lifegain he can provide should also provide a tangible edge against the aggressive portion of the field.

God-Eternal Oketra also makes an appearance to give us another powerful play to make with all the extra cards we produce. There will be matchups where drawing a grip of extra cards won’t be enough, and the ability to produce a free 4/4 with all the creatures you’re drawing can bring the game to a close. That’s just one application of the white God-Eternal, so be sure to check out Ari Lax’s breakdown to see more ways to use Oketra.

Bontu also has the important distinction of playing exceptionally well with the ability that is stapled onto all five of the new Gods:

When God-Eternal Bontu dies or it’s put into exile from the battlefield, you may put it into its owner’s library third from the top.

The cards you draw from the enters-the-battlefield trigger allow you to restock your battlefield, allowing you to have the tools needed to generate another burst of value when Bontu is eventually drawn again. While this type of recursion is much less punishing than the indestructible status the Amonkhet Gods possessed, Bontu in particular will be a nightmare to try to play a grindy game against.

The final aspect of Bontu that I don’t want to overlook is that it’s a sacrifice outlet in a format that has some powerful cards dedicated to that mechanic. Beyond Cruel Celebrant triggering upon the death of any of your creatures, dipping into red unlocks Judith, the Scourge Diva and Mayhem Devil. Having such a high density of drain and ping effects means that casting Bontu has the potential to end the game immediately upon resolution.

With the addition of red, here is where I stand.

Part of the reason that I’m so excited to dive into Mardu is that I think it might just give us enough multicolored spells to reliably play a pet card of mine, Hero of Precinct One. Hero is exceptional at curving out before a Judith to give you some go-wide aggressive potential, but it shines as the card that can singlehandedly produce the most individual permanents before Bontu is castable. It’s possible we should make more card choice concessions to increase the gold spell count above the seventeen we currently have, but I don’t want to lower the overall card quality just to help boost the Hero unless absolutely necessary.

One interesting thing that I’m trying out with this build is eschewing traditional removal, instead leaning on the sacrifice ability from Priest of Forgotten Gods and the pings from Judith and Mayhem Devil to control the battlefield in creature matchups. While I’m not sold on how effective this will be, it’s important to note how important Mayhem Devil not being legendary is. When you begin to stack multiple Devils on the battlefield, a Priest activation can mean much more than the two pings we were limited to when Judith was unique in granting that ability. If you have four or six damage to spread around before you resolve your Edict, it becomes much more likely that you remove the premier threat your opponent is playing.

To enable these powerful cards, you do have to make some concessions. I’m currently running ten cards that enable you to sacrifice your own creatures, and while Bontu is almost assuredly powerful enough to deserve play, Pitiless Pontiff has yet to hit that bar. My inclination is that the increase in power of payoffs that the deck has, plus being a gold card to further power out the Hero, will result in enough relevant synergies to earn its place.

Another home I’d like to consider Bontu in is Golgari Undergrowth. The deck has existed on the periphery of Standard for many months now and the new God does some compelling things here. The main thing I’d like to try is playing Bontu alongside the oft-forgotten rare World Shaper. When casting a Bontu with a World Shaper on the battlefield, you can sacrifice it, along with all your lands, to draw an obscene number of cards. At that point the World Shaper puts its triggered ability on the stack, and you then return all the lands you just sacrificed back onto the battlefield, along with any others that you had milled previously.

I’d like to start messing around with a shell that looks something like this.

While this type of strategy will likely have real issues beating the most linear and aggressive decks War of the Spark Standard has to offer, it seems almost impossible to grind through a deck with so many opportunities to accrue value. Even if World Shaper isn’t powerful enough to make the cut, this seems like another excellent shell for the new God. With so many spell-like effects stapled onto your creatures, finding a way to put them into the graveyard turns your Memorial to Folly into an incredibly flexible card advantage tool.

These are just a few of the many things you can do with Bontu. The card has the kind of build-around potential that really excites me, and I look forward to seeing just how the community will maximize it moving forward.