Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been hearing the same sentiment everywhere among Magic websites and social media. This past weekend was a huge deal, and everyone was excited leading up to the Born of the Gods prerelease. With cards like Brimaz, Mogis, and Xenagos, God of Revels headlining the set, all people were talking about was this weekend’s Banned & Restricted List changes, specifically with respect to Modern.
That’s about the extent of the discussion of the actual cards in Born of the Gods I’ve read.
For good reason, I would argue. Modern is on everyone’s minds, being the next Pro Tour format and incredibly stale for the past six months. However, the set Born of the Gods itself isn’t all that much to talk about; it doesn’t look to make a huge splash in Modern or Standard (a couple of big cards and nothing else). In Modern, you can even completely ignore the set and pretend it didn’t happen, and your play probably won’t suffer at all.
This isn’t the case in Theros Block Constructed.
Theros had 249 cards in it. Born of the Gods adds another 165 cards to the format. This means that Born of the Gods is about 40% of the total Block Constructed format. It will shake things up considerably… which is good, because I’m a bit tired of Naya Monsters. However, Born of the Gods seems to be filled to the brim with support cards rather than strong standalones, so I’m just going to see what each of the existing archetypes gains from Born of the Gods as a means of trying to assess the new format. I don’t have decklists at this point because my early decklists are usually very, very bad and I need time to put in games and actually tune lists.
This is the elephant in the room. Luckily, the big Naya deck doesn’t gain a ton from this set, mostly just because all of the fatties in green, red, and white are all smaller than corresponding fatties in Born of the Gods. The deck gains a dual in Temple of Plenty, plus a few removal spells in Revoke Existence/Unravel the AEther and Fated Conflagration.
The big addition to the deck is likely Xenagos, God of Revels. Xenagos, likely as a 2-off or 3-off, can just sit on the board and give every single creature in the deck haste and make them even larger, quite threatening when you’ve stabilized and the Monsters deck is in topdeck mode. Xenagos also becomes a creature when the deck is sufficiently devoted, which is rather easy with Arbor Colossus and a few stray Sylvan Caryatids.
The deck doesn’t gain much from Born of the Gods as other archetypes do, which is a great thing to stop its complete dominance.
People were finding out how weak Mono-Black is at the end of the last format due to its lack of card variety and very slow gameplay. Luckily, Born of the Gods can fix both of those issues! Bile Blight and Gild combine to give the deck more removal (and in the case of Gild, more mana!), while Herald of Torment gives the deck an axis of attack other than, “Hope I draw Agent of the Fates by Turn 4.”
However, while I think black is strong in this set as a color, I don’t think the Mono-Black Devotion deck will continue to exist in its current state. The Devotion deck doesn’t have a god in this set (Mogis skewing the deck toward hyper-aggression and Phenax toward high-toughness creatures), it didn’t gain any good permanents in the 2- or 4-drop categories (its old weak spots) to really boost its devotion, and Born of the Gods didn’t introduce any good uses of devotion near the power level of Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
My prediction is that Black Devotion will shift towards a more blue-black shell, either going the control route with Ashiok, or perhaps the aggro-control route with Pain Seer.
This deck existed in the hands of a few and fell off pretty quickly, so let me give a quick reminder for those who may not remember what it was. RBW Control was a simple deck that packed all of the red and black removal spells and sweepers under one roof, used Stormbreath Dragon as its only creature, then added Chained to the Rocks and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion for white and called it a day. The deck had horrendous mana and card advantage problems (since board sweeps are pretty weak when just one monstrous creature forces you to use it – and then Anger of the Gods doesn’t hit it) but could win games due to the sheer power of Elspeth.
Now, the deck gets an extra dual land in Temple of Malice, plus two removal spells in Fated Conflagration and Fated Retribution to cover some of its weak spots. Unfortunately, it still has pretty horrendous mana, so I think it will be replaced by a Jund version that does mostly the same thing.
With Jund, you don’t get to play Elspeth, but you do get Xenagos, the Reveler and Sylvan Caryatid, all of the non-Chained to the Rocks removal spells you were playing before, and Nylea’s Presence, if you really need it.
This deck is actually a pretty big winner with the new cards, acquiring a variety of options. You get Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Kiora’s Follower for additional power, Retraction Helix and Nullify for more control over a game, and Arbiter of the Ideal so you have a card that finishes a game faster than Prognostic Sphinx. The best part about Arbiter is you can double-dip with inspire if you have a Prophet. Attack with your Arbiter, untap on their turn and trigger inspire. At some time on their turn, Retraction Helix your Arbiter to bounce one of their guys. Untap on your turn and trigger inspire again. Or, if you’re dreaming big, untap it with your Kiora’s Follower the turn you target it with the Helix to trigger inspire yet again and get to bounce another creature.
By the way, I’m pretty sure Retraction Helix is my favorite card in the set. I’m not sure why now – I don’t recall falling in love with Banishing Knack – except for that it has some really sweet combos with Kiora’s Follower and inspire/heroic creatures.
I’m not sure if the deck is yet good enough; it really depends on how you build the deck, and there are a ton of options on how to do so. But I’m really excited to try this deck out again
RW Heroic might also exist, but it’s also probably just worse than UW Heroic now, since UW plays a much more unfair way with its spells than the simple removal or pump spells of RW. UW was good in the last format, albeit in a fringe way. This set dumped heaps of good cards on top of the format. With regard to spells that work with Heroic, you have Retraction Helix for the classic “Helix my Wavecrasher Trident, tap your guy, bounce your guy” that I feel will blow me out for months to come. The deck also gains another way to make Fabled Hero evasive other than Aqueous Form in Stratus Walk. A cute thing about Stratus Walk is that it can also double as a Stun if you really need to get in for more damage (though I imagine this situation comes up more in Limited than it will in a dedicated Heroic deck).
The deck gets Brimaz, King of Oreskos for more straight power, as well as a ton of options in the creature department – Nyxborn Shieldmate, Vanguard of Brimaz, Flitterstep Eidolon… I could go on, but it would be easier to just set a sortable spoiler to blue or white creatures – a majority of them are playable.
The real story in this deck’s rise to power lies in two cards – Temple of Enlightenment and Ephara, God of the Polis. Temple of Enlightenment solves the deck’s mana problems and lets it scry (you know, it’s a dual land), while Ephara gives the deck additional gas through normal play while being able to become a creature fairly easily due to the permanent-based play pattern of the deck.
I expect this deck is the real winner of Born of the Gods, at least for the first few weeks.
Of course, Born of the Gods also introduces some new archetypes that were impossible previously. I don’t pretend to know them all, but these were a couple that immediately jumped out at me:
Mogis, God of Slaughter is a powerful Magic card. It’s rather cheap for what it does – either The Abyss or Sulfuric Vortex (the two things an aggro deck wants), but it’s also one-sided. That wouldn’t be enough for me to play the card, though, so Wizards also let me turn it into an indestructible creature with 7 power for simply playing creatures. Oh, and there was no RB dual in Theros, so we threw in Temple of Malice. Okay, fine, Wizards, I’ll play some RB.
Red and black get quite a few good cards from the new set, so you can build this deck any number of ways – minotaur-based with Ragemonger and Rageblood Shaman or just good-stuff aggro with Pain Seer, Herald of Torment and so on. There are actually a few different combinations of strategies within the RB aggro archetype, and I want to play with a couple when the set comes out.
RUG Good Stuff
With duals and two planeswalkers and good creatures and spells, maybe RUG will be able to compete with decks in the format. However, I’ve thought this about almost every format at some point or other within the past two years, so maybe this is just me being hopeful.
Okay, now I know this is me being hopeful, but I really want to play a deck with Ashiok and Phenax, God of Deception and any number of random creatures. Maybe stall them out with Returned Phalanx, Wavecrasher Triton+Retraction Helix, and then keep them at bay with removal spells plus Nullify?
I’m probably dreaming too big here, but I really want to live the dream of having two creatures and Phenax in play, tapping them to mill, then in response Triton Tactics them to untap and give toughness, then milling again. That’s a huge amount of value since you get the +3 added onto the original activated abilities and get to double-up on activations, but I don’t know if that value alone will make the deck work.
But I can dream, can’t I?
That’s all I have for today. I’ll be spending the next few weeks traveling all over the place for Magic and non-Magic reasons. Next week in particular is exciting for me, as I get to play in one of SCG’s Classics – which normally wouldn’t be exciting, but it’s a Team Sealed tournament! I’ve never played in a team event before, so I’m hoping that I’m not much of a detriment to my team. Just have to hope I can carry them during deckbuilding and that they can carry me during the actual playing of Magic cards. By next time, I’ll have a lot more of an idea of what cards from Born of the Gods can do, and hopefully I’ll have some decklists or some videos for you guys. Thank you for reading!
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Gard on MTGO
Nice article. Thanks for keeping me posted on the block formats!
Note that Kiora’s Follower gives UG access up to 12 2-mana Acceleration creatures, allowing for very consistent turn 3 Kioras and Polukranoses.
If u/b mill is a thing in block, I will cry tears of pure crystalline joy.