Messing Around With Born Of The Gods

See what cards from Born of the Gods Michael thinks haven’t enough press along with his perspective on a few cards that have already been discussed.

Looks like we have an entire spoiler for Born of the Gods to work with. So let’s get to work!

I want to do what I usually do and look at some cards that haven’t seen much press from other writers, but I also want to possibly give some new perspective on cards that have been discussed ad nauseam. There’s always a card or two that escapes the spoiler season hype, so hopefully together we can discover whatever card that is.

Before we jump into the less-talked-about cards, I want to give my perspective on a card that has already been discussed:

This card is fine, folks.

It’s not a world beater by any means is definitely not Dark Confidant, but it’s a fine card in its own right. I have a theory as to why this card is being bashed as much as it is, and it all relates back to the Carolina Panthers.

Wait . . . what?

For those of you who watch sports, you might have seen the Monday Night game between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers that ended in what some would call controversy. (Full disclosure, I’m a diehard Panthers fan.) Tom Brady threw the ball in the vicinity of his tight end, Rob Gronkowski, and it was intercepted by the safety for the Panthers, Robert Lester. Game over.

Yet a flag was thrown, and Patriots fans (and pretty much anyone who was enjoying a great game and wanted more drama to unfold) everywhere rejoiced at their redemption. The replays showed the Panthers’ Luke Kuechly "interfering" with Rob Gronkowski, preventing him from being able to catch the ball. However, the refs picked the flag up and declared a "no call," and the game was over.

The sports world collectively flipped its lid. "How could that not be a penalty?! The Patriots were robbed. The Panthers are cheaters. Rabble rabble rabble." Explanations by the refs and officials at NFL headquarters did nothing to soothe the rage that Patriots fans felt. However, the best-case scenario that Pats fans could have hoped for (pass interference) would have only led to another try from the one yard line, meaning they really weren’t robbed of a win but another chance.

The reality is that there wasn’t a callable penalty on the play based on the written rules of the NFL. (I’m not going to get into it more than that; I wrote a long blog post explaining the merits of that claim.) The reason that people got so upset was because the flag was thrown in the first place. If the flag had never been thrown, sure, ESPN would have aired the last play and maybe would have questioned whether it was pass interference, but there wouldn’t have been the fervor that there immediately was.

The flag gave fans false hope, and then the declaration of a "no call" made the fans feel like something they deserved and were going to get (another play) was taken from then unjustly. In all reality, there should have never been that feeling of false hope, but because the fans had hope and it was squashed, it made the negative emotions stronger.

That’s what happened with Pain Seer, though on an obviously different level. Pain Seer has text that reminds us all of one of the best cards of all time, Dark Confidant, with roughly the same body and cost as Bob himself. Our minds are predisposed to making shortcuts, leaning on previous memories and thoughts, and when it’s able to make an easy connection, it does. Just look up "mind games" or "playing tricks on your mind" or anything of the sort if you’re not sure of what I’m referring to.

So by default we automatically make the association of "Pain SeerDark Confidant." It’s understandable and explainable yet wrong. Pain Seer is Pain Seer; its merits depend on different factors than "can this measure up to the best black creature ever printed?" such as "is this better than just playing Pack Rat?" or "is the format such that we can’t expect to attack with Pain Seer and have it live?" 

Those last two questions are the actual relevant ones.

(If you come at me with "but . . . removal spell," I reserve the right to ignore that particular criticism, as it’s been said about almost any creature ever.)

We tend to only think about the best- and worst-case scenarios for cards, but what if Pain Seer is just a 2/2 beater in an aggressive deck that occasionally draws an extra card? What if it’s just a lightning rod for removal so your bigger and badder threats can survive? For two mana, I wouldn’t mind either of those things in the right deck.

We’ll get back to what "the right deck" might look like later.

Another card that’s been discussed somewhat already is Courser of Kruphix. This is another case of a card that’s compared to a card that was good at one point, this time Oracle of Mul Daya; again, this is a case where the new card doesn’t measure up. In my opinion, it’s nowhere close. The two points of extra toughness are nice, as is the life gain, but you’re not getting an extra land per turn; you’re simply able to play the land on top. While that is good for filtering through your draws (and ensuring more gas as you go), Into the Wilds does the same thing (better) and has seen all of zero play. If you’re looking for that specific effect, is two power really better than being able to get an additional land drop?

Can it see play? Sure. It’s a somewhat unique effect, after all, and it does gain you extra cards. I just don’t think it’s exciting. I could see playing a couple in a Prophet of Kruphix deck since it filters you to more gas, but its niche is rather small in my opinion.

And then there’s this card that hasn’t been talked about much at all. I think it should be receiving much more hype than it currently is.

I find it hard to believe that more people haven’t picked up on how deceptively strong Brimaz, King of Oreskos is. I mean, I get it; it’s difficult to see the true power behind a card like this, but I really think that Brimaz has the tools to maybe be a fringe card in Standard . . .

Okay, let’s be honest—Brimaz has been discussed by almost every author who’s done an article on Born of the Gods. The biggest question I have for the card is "what’s the best fit?" Sadly, this question is a byproduct of my biggest complaint about Brimaz—that it’s so independently powerful that it can (and possibly should) be shoved into any deck that can support the color. You don’t have to build around Brimaz at all, and you don’t have to make concessions in deckbuilding to accommodate or make Brimaz "work" (I’m referring to incredibly powerful cards like Domri Rade, Dark Confidant, Stoneforge Mystic, Snapcaster Mage, Young Pyromancer, etc.). You just shove it on in there and let that Cat hunt.

So the biggest question is where to put it. Do we try to see how many Temple Gardens we can draw in the first two turns and play it in a G/W deck, praying that we can play it on turn 2? Do we revert back to the W/R Aggro deck with Brimaz as a curve-topping threat (that once we untap with Boros Charm just ends the game)? How about a new deck, a U/W/x Midrange deck that aims to have Brimaz not only control the board but also pressure our opponents like oh so many threats of yesteryear (Restoration Angel, Blade Splicer, etc.).

Brimaz is quite strong and will definitely see a ton of play. I do believe that if Gerry Thompson were still around and brewing there’d be a U/W/R deck somewhere with Brimaz in it (and it’d probably be the best deck in the format as well). I’m no GerryT, but I’ll give it the good ol’ college try.

This entire deck is based on the fact that an unanswered Brimaz will simply dominate the board. Similar to how Boros Reckoner held the ground during last year’s reign of U/W/R in Standard, Brimaz will simply stop most ground assaults on the spot. The difference is that Brimaz can hold the ground while still getting aggressive.

Think Precinct Captain, but with more defense to go with more offense. Oh, and a Precinct Captain that can survive Anger of the Gods, which is the main interaction I wanted to try to build around. I hedged and included one Supreme Verdict over the fourth Anger of the Gods in the maindeck, but the fact that Brimaz allows you to play out pressure while still being able to control the board seems to be a powerful strategy that could be built around.

The numbers seem odd, but I wanted three counterspells, three Sphinx’s Revelations, four mass removal spells, and the rest of the spell slots to be filled by point-and-click removal spells. This again is an early draft, and numbers are easily changed with testing.

Another card that people have talked about yet haven’t been raving about is Herald of Torment. Between Herald, Pain Seer, and possibly another Born of the Gods card in Fate Unraveler, the makings of a black-based aggressive deck is finally taking shape. We already have Tormented Hero and Rakdos Cackler to start the beatings.

Let’s take a look at what we can do with what we have available.

This deck has a bunch of stuff seemingly going on, but as with any deck running black, if you have access to a turn 2 Pack Rat, everything else is irrelevant. However, if we don’t have the Rat on turn 2, we need a plan to win the game regardless.

This deck is the latest in a long line of black creature + red spell aggressive decks (Vampires, Zombies, now . . . Rats?). I’ve wanted an excuse to run Mogis’s Marauder for a while now, as the card seems incredibly good in a deck that aims to push through the last points of damage on a clogged board.

A card that may get some weird looks is Marshmist Titan; however, people didn’t give a ton of credit to Fanatic of Mogis before it was released because they didn’t realize how out of hand devotion counts can get. Even a curve of one-drop into Rakdos Shred-Freak creates a four-mana 4/5. If we play anything on turn 3, we’re now looking at a two- or three-mana 4/5. Yes, it’s not as good on an empty board, but it allows us to press our advantage. It could easily be incorrect, but I think it deserves a slot in the early drafts to test it out.

People didn’t think Burning-Tree Emissary was very good when it was first released, but a spell that’s free (or in this case, nearly free) is pretty good.

A card that hasn’t gotten any press as far as I’ve seen is Raised by Wolves. It’s a card that gives you two creatures and an instant buff to whatever creature you’re enchanting. It’s six power for five mana, and it’s card advantage. I actually went as far as to check for Standard-playable Wolf cards, but the closest thing I could find was Selesnya Keyrune.

Your Mowgli is going to have to do it with the Wolves he came with.

However, I think that it’s enough of a value card that it could and should see some play. The stigma attached to Aura spells that don’t automatically scream "overpowered" will keep it from seeing the play it deserves.

Mark my words though—I will play this card in a Standard tournament before it leaves the format. You can hold me to it.

Before I head out for the week, there’s one deck that I think has a great chance at a comeback: Mono-Green Devotion. You know, the one with Reverent Hunter? Well, that deck got some new tools in Born of the Gods:

Here’s a quick starting point to go off of:

I wanted to try Swordwise Centaur as well, but Burning-Tree Emissary just goes so well with Nykthos and Reverent Hunter. There could be a version that simply runs the Centaur and eschews Emissary and Scavenging Ooze completely as well.

Some last quick hits before I head out:

I’ll see everyone next time when I have a Kiora deck or two for Standard (in addition to updates to current Standard decks with Born of the Gods cards). Yes, I’ll include at least one Fog list, as that’s what most everyone has been clamoring for when Kiora comes up.

If you’re a Fog player, tell me what you’ve been doing lately to get your Fog fix. Perhaps we can build off of that and make Kiora Fog happen right.

As for me, I can’t wait until we get the new tools to work with. I just got back from SCG Standard Open: Baltimore, where I started out 3-1 with Mono-Blue Devotion before losing and dropping. The deck isn’t fun, and I’m hoping Kiora and her friends will help change that.

Lastly, if you’re a Hearthstone player, I’m debating starting up a stream for my Hearthstonery; I was just outside the most recent Top 100 rankings and will put more time into hitting Legendary if you folks are interested in seeing some streaming. Follow my new Twitter account if you just want to hear my rants and comments about that game.