Pro Tour Born Of The Gods: My Odyssey

Pro Tour San Diego winner Simon Goertzen makes his debut on StarCityGames.com, detailing his experience at Pro Tour Born of the Gods just in time for Grand Prix Richmond.

GP Richmond

I’m in Valencia playing round 8. To my right, Patrick Chapin is casting Scaab Ruinator against Jon Stern. To my left, an empty table means that one of my neighbors eliminated his opponent from Pro Tour competition and will be playing tomorrow. I’m shuffling the cards in my hand, knowing that they include Blackcleave Cliffs and Liliana of the Veil. Will the planeswalker provide enough support for my turn 2 Tarmogoyf facing an Amulet of Vigor?

She will not.

Summer Bloom, bounce lands, Primeval Titan, Boros Garrison, Slayer’s Stronghold, attack. "I’ll fetch Khalni Garden and Simic Growth Chamber, returning Khalni Garden," Stanislav Cifka announces. So much for Liliana.

"It was good to have you on the team," Stan lets me know as I extend my hand.

Is he trying to soften the blow of elimination or showing genuine respect? I’m fine with either. He will be fighting for Pro Points tomorrow; my Jund deck and I are done for the weekend. Team Elaborate Ruse puts all but three team members in day 2. Two of them, Matej Zatlkaj and Ivan Floch, will place 10th and 34th respectively.

Team Elaborate Ruse at Pro Tour Born of the Gods


This Pro Tour was special. It was my first professional event since Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, having qualified through an M14 Limited PTQ in Cologne. Thanks to Matej’s invitation, I was part of one of the most experienced testing teams I’ve ever worked with. Sadly, it was also the Pro Tour for which I had the least amount of preparation in terms of games played, in part due to working on the video coverage team for European Grand Prix. And as we soon find out, Pro Tour Born of the Gods was not an easy Pro Tour to prepare for.

Theros/Born of the Gods Draft

I will admit that most of my Magic expertise is in Limited, and I was looking forward to discussing the new Draft format with my teammates. As it turns out, the Draft format has not changed substantially with the introduction of Born of the Gods. The power level of the colors has been shifted somewhat, but the overarching concepts of Theros remain in place. The important thing to note is that some of these concepts are very different from your regular Draft formats.

In a normal Draft environment, you’re happy with seventeen lands, seventeen creatures, and six removal spells. Removal spells are the best noncreature spells because they remove attackers, blockers, and Auras alike. Your creatures will always be limited by their size and keywords, but Terminate has no trouble killing a 10/10 flyer. In a regular format, the player with Auras is just asking to be blown out by the players stockpiling removal spells.

Most of you will know this, but Terminate is not in Theros or Born of the Gods and for good reason. When it comes to Limited, the main theme of this block is to create huge threats with heroic triggers and bestow creatures. This means that the value of sorcery speed and toughness-dependent removal is at an all-time low. Instead, you need cheap instants and ways to interact with even the largest of creatures.

The colors of Born of the Gods play out very differently in this setting. Most importantly, black has the problem of not being a great support color for aggressive strategies, as B/R Minotaurs does not come together all that often. That relegates black to late game strategies like B/G Self-Mill and B/U or B/W Control. While these decks can be fine, I would always prefer an aggressive strategy if I had the choice, which means eschewing black whenever possible.

White: I believe white to be the best color to draft in Born of the Gods. The only problem is that you’re not going to be only one with that idea. I like to start my draft with Akroan Skyguard or one of the many premium uncommons in white. If white keeps flowing, I’m happy to pair white with red or blue for an archetypical tempo deck. W/G is a fine backup plan to that, but you will need to rely on your combat tricks and heroic creatures without access to cheap removal or bounce spells. What puts white over the top is that W/B is a very solid control option as well, especially with a Scholar of Athreos powered lategame. My suggestion is to pick up white cards aggressively at the start but abandon ship just as quickly if all you’re seeing are white’s mediocre commons from the right.

Blue & Red: Those colors are relatively straightforward to draft. I like to move into blue when I see Retraction Helix and Sudden Storm being passed, and the same goes for red with Fall of the Hammer. While Bolt of Keranos would be a premium spell in a regular Draft environment, I don’t really like picking it early in this one. The RR in its casting cost makes it unattractive, and a three-damage sorcery simply does not help you survive against the best starts of the format. It will usually find a target, but I am never excited to cast it.

The quality of both colors drops quite substantially after that. If you are the one or two drafters in the color, this is not a problem. However, there are quite a lot of first pickable cards in U/R, so there might be more players in your color. If this is the case but it’s too late to abandon ship, both green and black play really well with 11-6 mana bases, maximizing their color themes and devotion with a little support from blue or red instants.

Green: Green is currently my favorite color to draft in Theros/Born of the Gods. While our team knew about the power of white and was open to draft what was being passed, we actively wanted to end up in green, as opposed to a lot of players that were focusing mainly on W/R Aggro and U/B Control archetypes.

The big advantage of green is that there are not many green commons that you would pick over the best cards the other colors have to offer. However, green has some very powerful uncommons and rares while also being a somewhat deep color in Born of the Gods. When you add in Sedge Scorpion, Voyaging Satyr, Time to Feed, and Nessian Asp from Theros, it’s not difficult to draft a great green deck.

Swordwise Centaur is a great early pickup to push the devotion aspect of your green deck. If you manage to end up in a heavy green deck, Nylea’s Disciple makes sure that you will not get raced by the decks that start off a bit faster than you but lack the late game punch that your creatures bring to the table.

Black: While I liked drafting black in triple Theros, I try to stay away from black if possible in Theros/Born of the Gods. For a heavy black control deck, you really want to be the only black drafter at the table. However, even that is no guarantee to win a lot of matches. I have seen too many black decks go 0-3 or 1-2 even though their card quality seemed a lot better than that.

There are players that are successful with black aggressive strategies, but I personally haven’t been impressed with those decks. It feels like you are trying to do something that the other colors, especially white, are simply much better at.

When I arrived at my draft pod on the first day of the Pro Tour, I was greeted by Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Brock Parker, and Matej Zatlkaj. Not a bad pod to start the tournament. My draft started according to plan when I first picked Fated Intervention over Sudden Storm and Bolt of Keranos, passing to PV. I think that the cycle of "Fated" cards are a lot worse than they look, but a green rare to start off the day is what I was looking for.

My second pick was the most interesting of the draft. Scourge of Skola Vale and Akroan Conscriptor were both in the pack. I didn’t know the person passing to me, Elmer from the Netherlands, and could only assume that he took a white card out of color preference.

I decided to go with the Akroan Conscriptor, but not only because I thought it was the strongest card in the pack. I was getting both a green and a red signal, but I couldn’t be too certain what my neighbors were up to, so I had to expect the unexpected. If I took Scourge of Skola Vale but my right neighbor started picking up green cards, I would have trouble supporting the GGG casting cost of Fated Intervention, but I also couldn’t easily switch into red if it were open.

The counterargument is that I might be putting PV in green with a third pick Scourge. However, I care much less about what my left neighbor is doing compared to what is happening to my right. Also, if I have Fated Intervention but do not pick up any great green cards in Born of the Gods, it is a lot easier to abandon green without the Scourge in my pile.

I ended up in a green devotion deck "splashing" seven red cards off of six Mountains. I left two Rage of Purphoros in my sideboard to include the maximum amount of cheap instants, including two copies of Aspect of Hydra. My deck was far from unbeatable, but it did exactly what I wanted to do in the format.

I played PV with G/U in round 1. You can read about his perspective here. After a mulligan to five by PV, his 10/10 flying Staunch-Hearted Warrier still beat me quite easily. I knew that my deck had trouble against the Nimbus Naiad he had shown me, and I had passed multiple Chorus of the Tides in the draft, so I brought in Skyreaping to combat that. As it turned out, he only had two Nimbus Naiad, but Skyreaping still won me game 3 when I cast it against his board of Nimbus Naiad with Feral Invocation and Prophet of Kruphix enchanted with Nimbus Naiad.

Round 2 I faced Brock Parker with a great U/W Heroic deck. In game 3, he built a 3/2 flyer with Ephara’s Enlightenment and a 5/5 Wingsteed Rider with Observant Alseid. I was down to eleven from his attack, and Brock was still at fifteen. I was forced to grow my Staunch-Hearted Warrier with Spark Jolt and attacked him with Satyr Wayfinder, a 4/4 Warrior, and Nylea’s Disciple.

Do you block with Wingsteed Rider, and if yes, which creature?

I was clearly representing a trick, and Brock knew that I had Aspect of Hydra in my deck. After a long deliberation, he announced that he would block Nylea’s Disciple. I showed him two copies of Aspect of Hydra to deal seventeen out of nowhere. We discussed his blocking decision afterward, and he showed me his hand of multiple Lagonna-Band Elder that would have kept him alive while his remaining flyer raced me in the air.

I can see not blocking the Warrior in a lot of scenarios. However, I am clearly representing a trick and have shown the Aspect in a previous game. With two Aspects, I actually dealt seventeen damage, which means that blocking Nylea’s Disciple leaves you dead to Aspect and any of the many tricks that grant +2 power. Not an easy decision for sure.

In round 3, I lost a close match to Elmer, who turned out to have drafted a sweet W/B Control deck to my right. Unfortunately, my deck didn’t fully cooperate in games 1 and 3, providing a few too many lands. In retrospect, I could have boarded out a land on the draw in game 3, but I didn’t even consider it at the time.


It’s Sunday night, and I’m in a tournament hall in Paris, France. "Congratulations to Javier Dominguez of Spain, winner of Grand Prix Paris!" Raph Levy, Olle Rade, Matej Zatlkaj, and I were done covering the Legacy GP. We still needed to deassemble the kit before we grabbed pizza and headed to bed. Olle, Matej, and I arrived in Valencia on Monday afternoon, 72 hours before players started registering for the PT.

There’s only a small window of time between a new set’s release and its Pro Tour. If you rely on Magic Online for your preparation, this window is even shorter. For Wizards, this makes sense from a business perspective. For competitors, it means that efficient preparation in the days leading up to the event is crucial. Unsurprisingly, playing in or commentating on a Legacy GP in another country does not help to prepare you for a PT.

With limited time, the pillars of Constructed testing for a known but recently modified PT format are metagame prediction, choice of deck, and sideboard construction. As a team, we felt we should be able to get a good idea of what to expect and find a good deck for the tournament.

However, there’s a big problem with this approach when it comes to an Eternal format like Modern. Due to the size and complexity of the format, choosing a deck a few days before the tournament puts you at a huge disadvantage compared to those that have been practicing their deck and the respective matchups for weeks, months, or maybe years. Having a slightly better idea of the expected metagame and a deck to beat it does not make up for this experience.

The coverage of Pro Tour Born of the Gods put teams in the spotlight like never before. Ironically, this PT was also one in which the big teams failed to perform particularly well. For example, Top 8 competitor Patrick Dickmann was part of a team, but what carried him through the tournament was his mastery of Splinter Twin. If you look at the final standings, the majority of players did well because they knew their deck in and out. Even if you’re part of a big team or even a superteam, no amount of testing will ensure that you will play your deck perfectly.

Having arrived in Valencia, the players in our team were divided into two groups. The players in the first group already knew what they want to play. Stanislav Cifka had been testing Amulet Combo for the past few days, Juliano had been grinding Magic Online Daily Events with R/G Aggro, and Willy Edel, to the surprise of no one, was working on Jund. Olle Rade claimed to be open for anything but was showing a strong affinity for Inkmoth Nexus.

I was part of the second group. I skipped playing in the Modern GP in Prague to do coverage, and most of my Magic Online testing had been before the banned list changes and without Born of the Gods. I trusted the Constructed experience of my teammates and wouldn’t mind playing a team deck if we found one. It turned out that we did.

On Thursday night, we put the finishing touches on the following list. Half of us decided to play Jund with Anger of the Gods.

*This is Matej’s list; I played one Dismember instead of the third Courser of Kruphix.

If you want to play Jund in Modern, be aware that the mana base is not built for consistency. It turns out that supporting double-casting-cost cards in all three colors is not easy. In an ideal world, you would play without Courser of Kruphix or Liliana of the Veil, but we didn’t find a build that we were happy with. For a version with better mana but without access to Lightning Bolt and Anger of the Gods, check out the B/G Midrange deck Reid Duke played at the Pro Tour.

Playing a deck tuned against Zoo and Birthing Pod and with fair game against most of the big decks of the format, this is the Modern gauntlet I faced:

Round 4: Auras (L)
Round 5: R/W Control (L)
Round 6: Zoo (W)
Round 7: Auras (L)
Round 8: Amulet Combo (L)

After losing two matches to Auras and one to R/W Control sporting Blood Moon and Oblivion Ring, I think that some copies of Back to Nature are needed. I’ll gladly destroy my own Courser of Kruphix to get rid of Leyline of Sanctity and Daybreak Coronet. If I were to play the same maindeck tomorrow, I’d start with the following sideboard:

2 Thoughtseize
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Rakdos Charm
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Back to Nature

This build leaves two slots to adapt to the expected metagame. I could see running even more graveyard hate; Torpor Orb; Thrun, the Last Troll, or Batterskull. If you’re afraid of Affinity, there’s always the option of Shatterstorm as well.

I feel like overall the cards we played in the sideboard were a bit too versatile to make the impact that you need from your sideboard cards in Modern. Check out this article if you want to read some more of my thoughts on the topic. For the record, I also covered two interesting feature matches on Saturday.

So where is Modern at after the Pro Tour?

Wild Nacatl is back. It is being played, it is the cornerstone of traditional aggro decks, and it gives those decks a clock to compete with the fastest decks of the format. If you want to race Wild Nacatl with attacking creatures, only the combo-based approaches of Affinity, Infect, and Auras are viable. Alternatively, you can build your deck to outlast Wild Nacatl: Jund, Big Zoo, and various Birhing Pod builds go bigger, whereas U/W/R Control aims to stabilize the board just long enough for more powerful spells to take over.

This is the Nacatl/anti-Nacatl part of the Modern metagame. Most of the above decks are willing to interact with the opponent’s creatures, at least to some extent. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the constraints that Wild Nacatl and friends put on deck construction and attack the format from another dimension.

Splinter Twin, Storm, Scapeshift, Living End, Amulet Combo, and Ad Nauseam are all more or less viable in Modern. Because there are so many different combo decks, nobody is going to have specific answers to all of them. Given how popular Blood Moon is right now, I don’t think that Scapeshift and Amulet Combo are great choices, but playing one of the many resilient combo decks (and playing it well) is a great way to win a lot of matches that more reactive decks wouldn’t have.

If you’ve been playing Modern for a while, there has to be a deck that you feel most comfortable with—go with that (and a high-impact sideboard)! If not, it sounds easy to just pick up an aggressive deck and attack the format from a tried angle. However, be aware that everyone is prepared for Zoo, and Affinity and Infect are very difficult to play optimally. If I were in that position, I would instead put in a couple of days to learn one of Modern’s combo decks, as the risk of getting hated out of the tournament is quite low and the rewards are potentially huge.

That said, I believe that Jund remains one of the best decks in Modern. We only need to prove it.

GP Richmond