I wish I could say that when I first looked at the Born of the Godsspoiler I felt inspired, but I would be lying. Just like Magicians everywhere, I eagerly devour new sets, but my appetite is for Pauper playables. Most of the time something will catch me on the first pass and scream "build with me!" This time it took a number of visits to the product page before something started hammering ideas into my head. After another pass or twelve, I’m ready to have them spill forth from my cranium and onto this digital page.
Born of the Gods is an interesting set for Pauper. The new mechanics, inspired and tribute, are relatively complex, meaning that Pauper will get the simplest possible execution of these cards (thanks to the design directives of the New World Order). Looking at the card list, very few of these cards make the cut. Tribute is an interesting mechanic, but the two commons with the ability, Pharaxgax Giant and Snake of the Golden Grove, are too slow to see play. Inspired is another creature mechanic that does not immediately impact the board. This sets the bar rather high for inclusion in Pauper decks, but there are two that might get the call.
The additions that excite me most are those that expand upon the mechanics from Theros. This is because they help certain strategies approach the critical mass required to be a deck. Considering that the themes in Theros block are not likely to be pushed in a similar fashion in the immediate future, it’s important to extract every possible ounce of value from the current block if we want to build around its themes.
Take Akroan Skyguard for example. Being a white creature means that it will almost certainly be looked at through the lens of aggression. The premier white creature deck is White Weenie, but it does not run any cards that play well with heroic at the moment. Akroan Skyguard does not want to be in this shell, but it could find a home in a deck like Hexproof. This is a better parallel because it seeks to craft the one big threat. Combining Akroan Skyguard with its Therosian antecedent Wingsteed Rider can provide the core for a solid mono-white heroic deck:
This is quite a straightforward deck and makes use of another new card in Nyxborn Shieldmate. The Shieldmate has a low enough bestow cost to make it an attractive option for any deck looking to put multiple pairs of pants on a creature. This deck can get off to some incredibly potent starts, such as Hopeful Eidolon into Ethereal Armor and Nyxborn Shieldmate for a 4/4 lifelinker on turn 2. Or we could really live the dream with double Ethereal Armor for a 7/7 with lifelink.
Empyrial Armor is an older card that was the foundation of a US Nationals-winning White Weenie list from two decades ago. Combined with Squadron Hawk and Kor Skyfisher, it provides an attractive option for punching through more damage, and we even borrow the shadow-graced Soltari Trooper from Matt Linde. Cho-Manno’s Blessing is an upgrade over Gods Willing in this deck since it sticks around to make Ethereal Armor that much stronger. Considering Pauper is largely a monochromatic format, Cho-Manno’s Blessing might as well read: "Counter target removal spell. This creature is unblockable." On a creature wearing two suits of armor, well, that’s just dangerous.
Like Pauper Hexproof, Heroes can go the one-big-threat route with a large Wingsteed Rider or Akroan Skyguard. It can also go wide with Squadron Hawks and play like a far more traditional White Weenie deck. While not as robust as the current build, this deck can hold its own with an army of more than one soldier.
Auramancer might be a worthy inclusion in the above deck. It can play its traditional role while also playing out of position as a Gravedigger. When combined with Kor Skyfisher, it could help provide this deck with some late-game staying power against the more removal-minded opponents in the common queues.
Akroan Skyguard also enables two-color heroic strategies. Unlike Wingsteed Rider, the Skyguard is not nearly as devoted to white, making it easier to cast in guild-aligned decks. Nyxborn Shieldmate can come along for the ride again since its bestow cost is low enough to make both halves an attractive option. Green’s heroes, Staunch-Hearted Warrior and Setessan Oathsworn, have the most impressive bonuses, but each comes with some baggage. The Warrior costs four and does not immediately impact the board, making it unlikely to see play. The Oathsworn suffers the same problem as Wingsteed Rider when playing with a guided mana base.
The last action hero for Pauper is Akroan Crusader. A powerful card without a home, the Crusader can pump out an army by itself while protecting other creatures from Diabolic Edict effects. It also happens to share a color with the cheapest bestow card to date in Nyxborn Rollicker. A Boros take could look something like this:
This deck might want access to some number of Galvanic Arcs for extra Lightning Bolts or Dynacharges to make the army more impressive (also more heroic triggers). If you want to rip through the deck faster, Dragon Mantle can be considered. Madcap Skills shines in a deck like this. Even if the creature only connects once, Skills will produce at least four damage when tacked onto a soldier from Akros.
Nyxborn Rollicker is one of my favorite cards from this set. Creature combat in Pauper is largely a fair fight, which is why cards like Bonesplitter and Rancor are so important. Nyxborn Rollicker (like Hopeful Eidolon and Leafcrown Dryad before) allows your creature to win brawls while also leaving something behind in case of Doom Blade. Sure, the 1/1 body is not that impressive, but in the above list it does a fine job of wearing Ethereal Armor or Madcap Skills. I don’t think Nyxborn Rollicker is going to break the format in half, but it does provide a tool for any red-based deck that wants to attack since it acts as both a one-drop and two-drop.
This deck is less consistent than the white Heroes above but has more staying power. The additional bestow creature and potential army from Akroan Crusader makes this deck stronger in the face of removal.
If there is one thing I have done for nearly every set review, it is to scan the new goodies for anything that could help out Mono-Black Aggro. This time around the card that gives me hope for the dark side is Nyxborn Eidolon. While the bestow cost is a prohibitive five, this creature fits right on the curve for a beatdown-minded Swamps deck:
Here the Eidolon is just fine as a beater on turn 2 with all its friends. In the midgame, it can come down and provide a boot to a Dauthi Horror or Vault Skirge, helping to edge the game closer to an end. The bestow of five might be too high, however, meaning that people looking for Mono-Black Aggro might have to wait for another set’s worth of two-drops before trying again.
Maybe Journey into Nyxwill provide us with the right card. Until then I’ll remain hopeful.
Green is the big winner in Born of the Gods. Typified by the Stompy deck—cheap green creatures backed up with pump and Rancor—Forest mages get solid options that can do some heavy lifting. Stompy is currently an underplayed deck, in part because it lacks enough robust creatures to survive the removal from the black control decks at the moment. Stompy is very much a deck that plays out on the board and does so rather well in the early turns. Take for example this list from October:
- 4 Quirion Ranger
- 3 Wild Mongrel
- 1 Shinen of Life's Roar
- 3 Silhana Ledgewalker
- 4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Young Wolf
- 2 Leafcrown Dryad
- 17 Forest
Stompy is one of the best decks at flooding the battlefield on turns 1, 2, and 3. However, it is turn 4 when Crypt Rats takes over. But what if Stompy can win before Crypt Rats comes online? Aspect of Hydra helps in this pursuit. Fighting with Groundswell for slots, Aspect of Hydra can easily be cast for five damage on turn 3 for one mana. That is damage output that Patrick Sullivan can appreciate.
Building around devotion makes sense in Pauper. As mentioned before, the decks are largely one color, so acquiring some bonus from mana symbols is not a hard achievement to unlock (just look at Mono-Black Control). This shift does require reconfiguring Stompy to care more about green mana symbols. Cards like Garruk’s Companion and its trample-less friend Swordwise Centaur are both candidates. Leafcrown Dryad also makes sense (as it is a two-drop again). Alas, Multani’s Acolyte is not hearty enough to make it in an aggressive build. A Devoted Stompy deck could look something like this:
Briar Shield replaces Hunger of the Howlpack and Bonesplitter here to add more green pips. Stompy is a proven contender, and changing a few slots to maximize Aspect of Hydra might be enough to push this deck back to the top of the standings. The following opening isn’t too hard to imagine:
Turn 1: Forest, Nettle Sentinel.
Turn 2: Forest, attack for two, Skarrgan Pit-Skulk, Young Wolf.
Turn 3: Quirion Ranger, return and replay Forest for Rancor on Pit-Skulk, swing, and Aspect of Hydra for five.
That’s twelve damage. It isn’t too hard to seal the deal from there before removal can take over.
But devotion is only one way to go with Stompy. Setessan Oathsworn is an absolutely monstrous 5/3 trampler when wearing a Rancor (and is only going to get nastier with pump spells). Pheres-Band Tromper, on the other hand, plays very well with Stompy’s suite of Quirion Ranger and Gather Courage, making it likely to get far larger than it would by simply attacking. If there is a creature with inspired to watch, it’s the Tromper, as it only takes one attack to be ready to attack through the best blockers Pauper has to offer.
My personal favorite card in the set is Satyr Wayfinder. There’s nothing I like more than flipping cards into the graveyard for value, and this little critter does that very well. In conjunction with Commune with the Gods, I think Golgari Tortured Existence is poised to make a comeback:
- 4 Wild Mongrel
- 3 Basking Rootwalla
- 3 Vampire Hounds
- 3 Golgari Brownscale
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 3 Grave Scrabbler
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 4 Fume Spitter
While I don’t have a working list for this one just yet, I’m definitely excited to give it a go. I’m also looking forward to flipping over Viscera Draggers with it, but that’s because I always look forward to binning my Viscera Draggers. Satyr Wayfinder is an incredibly powerful effect tacked onto a reasonable body. In the right deck, it can "draw" four cards, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Satyr Wayfinder also shows that commons can be potent under the New World Order. The faux Impulse is quite strong even if it "just" gets a land. The point is not about weak commons but rather reducing board complexity for Limited. This is a powerful and interesting card that fulfills this requirement. You can be sure I’m going to have a few brews with this creature moving forward.
A few other cards that caught my eye:
Another reasonable Auramancer style card for Orzhov Tortured Existence or Pestilence based decks. It definitely plays nicer in the latter due to its four toughness. While not a game changer, this definitely makes playing with enchantments a little safer.
I know War Falcon, and you’re no War Falcon. This card cannot attack before turn 3 and unlike War Falcon cannot trade with Delver of Secrets on turn 2. While it looks similar, it’s woefully worse than its core-set cousin. Mogg Flunkies saw play in Goblins before the advent of Foundry Street Denizen, but Goblins also has access to Goblin Bushwhacker, making it easy to have an attacker off the top turn off the bad text. White has no such card, so that Pegasus is going to stay lonely.
A potential include for the Nivix Cyclops deck. Crypsis will fight with Apostle’s Blessing as a way to fight through blockers. While more expensive, Crypsis does not cost life points. This could matter if the format becomes sufficiently aggressive.
This is a great counterspell against both Stompy and Hexproof. While blue has fantastic options (including, oh I dunno, actual Counterspell), this does not hurt to have as another weapon.
The earliest it’s going to come down is turn 4, and even then it doesn’t do enough. Maybe it sees play in the sideboard of slower black decks, but its creature type is wrong to dodge Victim of Night. If Grasp of Darkness becomes the go-to removal spell, I could see the Titan seeing more play.
Excellent but slow. If a slower red deck emerges that wants the scry, it will run this card.
When it untaps, it has the magic stats of 4/3 that lets it win fights against both Spire Golem and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. I’m not sure that’s enough, but it warrants consideration as the format evolves.
Good enough on its own stats, but pushed out of the bestow game by Leafcrown Dryad. If Stompy wants to try to play a longer game and have more cards that combat removal, it makes sense for Nyxborn Wolf to get the call.
Well, that’s my take on Born of the Gods. Here are the cards I would pick up right away:
And the cards I would grab at the end of drafts:
What do you think? What cards are you excited to build around and use in your Pauper decks? Sound off in the comments below!
Keep slingin’ commons –
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