This has been one of the most exciting weeks of the new year thus far. After about a trillion Theros drafts and a Standard format dominated largely by the same few decks, Born of the Gods is finally knocking on our doors. With it comes fancy new mechanics, multicolored Gods, and a few cool cards sure to shake things up. Although only the first wave of spoilers has poured in, it already looks like this is going to be a set to remember. Today I’d like to take a closer look at some of these bad boys and see if we can figure out what’s going to be hot and what’s not.
Are you excited? I know I am.
When Theros first introduced Gods, I have to admit I wasn’t too excited. They looked kind of cool and seemed like they would see some Constructed play in one form or another, but they lacked that "wow" factor. However, something about a cycle of multicolored Gods really gets me going. Just like with Alara block and Ravnica block, meshing the color wheel is absolutely awesome and keeps players coming back for more. As I type this article, three of the five Gods that will be in Born of the Gods are up for examination:
First, we have Ephara, the U/W God. Right off the bat a few similarities and differences are noticeable between the new and the old Gods. They are still indestructible enchantments that use the devotion mechanic to become animated creatures. However, the way their devotion works is a bit different. The required devotion count is now seven as opposed to the previous five, but you can build that devotion from both of the God’s colors. Plus the Gods have two colored mana symbols in their casting costs, which means you really only need five other devotion sources to turn them on. With the original Gods, you only needed four. Although this means you’ll need one more mana symbol to animate the new Gods, it should be much easier when you can pull from two colors.
It looks like the new Gods are only going to come equipped with one ability in addition to their devotion. By forgoing the activated abilities that the monocolored Gods have, we’ll probably be getting some stronger static abilities.
Take Ephara for instance. "At the beginning of each upkeep, if you had another creature enter the battlefield under your control last turn, draw a card." In the right deck, this ability threatens to draw a lot of cards, which in turn will provide even more creatures to trigger more draws and creep toward the seven devotion count. Keep in mind that with the way the ability is worded you can even have a creature enter play during your opponent’s turn to let you draw a card on your upkeep. Could it be time to dust off the ol’ Deputy of Acquittals?
While most U/W decks lately have been oriented in a spell-heavy direction based around Sphinx’s Revelation, Ephara might just be the card to change that.
Next up is the God of fanatics and marauders alike: Mogis. Along with the most power seen on a God to date comes a very powerful ability that somewhat mirrors a one-sided Sulfuric Vortex. Anyone who has played with that card can tell you just how dominating it can be, and although Mogis offers your opponent a way out of taking the damage, it comes at a steep price.
Against control decks especially Mogis offers an inevitable way to close out games that’s hard to come by. Although Elspeth and Assemble the Legion do offer some solace from the slaughter, it might actually be Rakdos Shred-Freak’s time to shine.
For those of you interested in flavor, this is indeed the same Xenagos that was churning out 2/2 hasty Satyrs not too long ago. It appears he got bored with the trivialities of being a planeswalker and decided it would be much more fun to return to his home plane of Theros and scheme his way into becoming the God of Revels. One crazy ritual later and here we are. Although he may be the same Xenagos in reality, you don’t need to worry about the planeswalker and God legend ruling each other out when it comes to gameplay.
It reminds me of having these two in play at the same time:
As for his ability, Xenagos offers up something incredibly powerful (if a not a bit awkward) to go with his new godly stature. Turning any reasonably sized creature into a powerhouse is no joke. Giving said creature haste on top of the pump is the most likely thing to push this Xenagos into Constructed play. However, five mana is no small order, and it’s going to take some keen deckbuilding to properly utilize Xenagos. I don’t think the deck that wants him exists yet, but when it comes around, Xenagos could easily be the best card in the 75. I’m sure Burning-Tree Emissary will have something to do with it.
Inspired is a new triggered ability that gives you something whenever one of your creatures packing the keyword untaps. As a quick aside, I have to say I hate when they make "mechanics" like this. Untapping feels like such an ordinary circumstance that it doesn’t warrant a keyword. A card could easily say "when X untaps, do this" without "inspired" next to it and no one would bat an eye. Just ask my friend the Hollowsage.
Although it might not be the most inspired mechanic to date, it looks like it will at least offer up some interesting cards. The award for the most exciting inspired card so far has got to go to Pain Seer:
Fellow writer Jim Davis already wrote an entire article about Bob Jr. and the inspired mechanic here, so I’m not going to talk about it. Instead, let’s take a look at the inspired cycle that’s clearly intended for Limited:
This cycle comes in at uncommon rarity, sporting one of the set’s new keywords across five cards. It seems safe to assume that Wizards intended for these cards to be role players in Limited that drafters would potentially want to pick highly. If this is indeed what they are intended for, I have to say Wizards missed their mark. Sure, the cycle comes with the promise of free creatures, which can be very strong, but it appears like it’s going to be way too hard to get them successfully tapped through combat. Only the black one has a form of evasion, and only the green one has respectable enough combat stats to survive the red zone. To top things off, most of them come at spots on the curve where you probably would rather just make your normal play than waste your entire turn for a token or two.
If any of them see consistent Limited play, I think it’s going to be Pheres-Band Raiders. A six-mana 5/5 is already decent in terms of power and toughness for Limited, and you can actually attack with it and expect it to live to untap. Also, by the time you reach six mana, you’re going to be low enough on action that spending three mana for a 3/3 is an appealing mana sink. The other four are going to need more enablers, like Springleaf Drum, to stand a chance.
Now here’s a more exciting mechanic I can get behind! Tribute appears on creature cards and comes with two options for your opponent: give your creature counters equal to the tribute number or give your creature some other and potentially devastating effect. Harkening back to typical Magic axiom, effects that let your opponent have a choice are normally bad. This is because your opponent is always going to choose the one that’s better for them at the time. The only way for effects like this to be good is if both options are so abysmal for them that they are really just choosing between one death and another.
As such, at first glance it looked like tribute was going to be another non-Constructed mechanic. However, it seems like Wizards really made a push to get these cards into tournament play. Just check out this monster:
Wow, that is one spicy number! On one hand, your opponent could pay the tribute cost and give you a Loxodon Smiter with trample. On the other, they could get smashed in the face by a hasty Smiter that will become a 3/3 the following turn. I can safely say that if my opponent played this card against me I wouldn’t be in love with either option. The fact that this card has trample either way you slice it means that G/R decks are going to have another powerful tool at their disposal.
As for Limited, I’ve been ecstatically playing Nessian Courser for quite some time now. That should tell you something about how phenomenal this creature is going to be.
The other tribute creature that has me interested is this fiery bird:
Talk about a hard-to-evaluate Magic card. In a vacuum, both halves of this card are objectively strong. This might be the place where letting your opponent choose which half of the monster they want to face is the limiting factor. If they have the removal spell, they can just let it come in as a 5/5, kill it, and move on. When they don’t is when this is going to be a true menace.
Flame-Wreathed Phoenix also poses the problem of not really having a home just yet. It reminds me of Thundermaw Hellkite in a way. It took quite a while for Thundermaw to make an impact on Standard, but once it did its presence was felt until it rotated.
Rise Of The Minotaur?!
Is it finally time for my dream of tribal Minotaurs destroying Standard to come true? Probably not, but if it’s going to happen, a card like this is a good place to start. Giving double mana-cost reduction is significant, and if the right support cards come our way between Born of the Gods and the third set, who knows what could happen. We’ve seen a card like this before in Edgewalker, and it had a lot of the problems I see Ragemonger having. Minotaurs don’t cost too much to begin with, so reducing their cost isn’t as impactful as it could be. Also, just like Edgewalker’s BW reduction, the RB reduction from Ragemonger is going to be hard to efficiently utilize.
A man can dream . . .
So what about you? What cards from Born of the Gods are you excited for?