Born of the Gods in Standard.

Written by Mike Keknee on . Posted in Competitive Magic, FNM, Standard

Born of the Gods in Standard.

Mike Keknee

Mike Keknee is a Magic grinder from the Columbus area. He has managed to put together a solid resume with four StarCityGames Open top 8s, including a win, as well as a Pro Tour appearance. He is also a co-host of the At Your End Step podcast available on iTunes and MTGCast.

With the prerelease for Born of the Gods just days away, players will soon be able to get their hands on all of the new cards. Unfortunately, the general feeling in the Magic community is that Born of the Gods is going to be a low impact set when it comes to constructed formats. Some of this has to do with the size of the set. Barely clocking over 160 cards, this set offers far fewer options than the last format did. Gatecrash was a much larger set that helped complete the puzzle of a block full of two-color pairs. In general this was a much larger release that helped piece Standard together. Inherently, the small size of Born of the Gods is going to do far less to drastically change Standard than a larger middle set. That being said, there are still some interesting and powerful cards to be found here. I am going to try and look at a few and some possible archetypes they might fit into. I am going to avoid discussing the current big three of Standard (U/W, Mono-black, & Mono-blue), mainly because they get slight upgrades and don’t look to change very much. Please know that these are preliminary lists, so the numbers should be played with and are probably wrong.

The New Demigods

Overall, this new crop of gods seems difficult to assess. The original Theros gods were obviously powerful, while the demigods are a bit more subtle and niche. The problem with these gods is still the same problem that devotion decks in Standard have. They need to have a high density of mana symbols on the battlefield. To do this, many decks must play subpar creatures for their strategy to work (I’m looking at you Cloudfin Raptor and Tidebinder Mage). The payoff is there if the strategy and god is powerful enough (Thassa and Purphoros), and I am not quite sure that payoff is there for most of the demigods. Karametra, God of Harvests seems destined for the casual/commander table. The same goes for the intriguing, yet underwhelming Phenax, God of Deception. Mogis, God of Slaughter and Ephara, God of the Polis are a bit better, but they still feel underpowered. There is, however, one god that has a distinct and powerful ability, Xenagos, God of Revels.

Xenagos looks to be the second coming of Fires of Yavimaya. If you didn’t play when Fires of Yavimaya was in Standard, then you may want to review this. While Xenagos doesn’t give every creature haste, he does give the one that needs it haste. Additionally, Xenagos doubles the power of that creature. Interestingly, Xenagos seems to play pretty well with his planeswalking form, as well as Domri Rade. Do you like 4/4 Satyrs? I sure do. Let’s turn all of this hyperbole into a list.

Above is a preliminary monsters list featuring a bunch of Xenagos. Here, we are not playing a straight devotion game. It isn’t too hard to turn Xenagos, God of Revels on, but it isn’t the primary game plan. I am a huge fan of Flesh // Blood here and Domri Rade. Is Polukranos a 10/10 after combat? Awesome, let’s kill some stuff. I also want to try things like Fanatic of Xenagos and Kalonian Hydra in conjunction with Xenagos. His ability begs for creatures with trample, and playing a hydra onto a board with the God of Revels means you are attacking for a truckload. Also, how does U/W control beat a stream of 8/8 Stormbreath Dragons? Overall this list has a lot of raw power, and I expect to see a lot of decks like this pop up in the new format.

The Return of Bant Ramp

Bant (U/W/G) with Prophet of Kruphix has made appearances since the release of Theros, but overall the deck has failed to do very much. While pros like Reid Duke have backed the card, I personally am not a big fan of the prophet because it is a five mana investment for something that almost always quickly eats removal with no gain. I think this, and the loss of Farseek, have caused Bant ramp strategies to fall out of favor. Luckily, there are some spicy cards in Born of the Gods that may resurrect this strategy. Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Courser of Kruphix are both powerful options in this vein. Kiora, is an interesting planeswalker. She helps ramp when need to, but she can also effectively lock certain threats down while working towards a back breaking ultimate. Unfortunately, her low loyalty can make protecting her tough against creature strategies. Courser of Kruphix is Kiora’s best friend on curve. A 2/4 body with relevant abilities is the perfect complement to Kiora and the ramp strategy. The Bant colors also offer a diverse range of finishers to put games away. Let’s look at a possible list.

I will submit that this is a crazy list. It has a bunch of spicy finishers, and you get to play Sphinx’s Revelation to find them. A real plus to this list is the sideboard options available. As to the main deck, the mana base may be to awkward/painful, but it is worth testing. This deck can play a number of powerful cards well ahead of time, but may be weak to some creature strategies. It does present a tough set of permanents for both U/W and Mono-black to deal with. You can also tune it to play whatever you want. In fact, this is the kind of shell that may allow for something like Angel of Serenity to make its grand return. It will definitely be interesting to see where lists like this go.

The Resurgence of White Weenie

According to the circle of life, a king was destined to be born in the pride lands. Well, Craig Wescoe’s prayers were answered and Born of the Gods certainly gave a gift to the smattering of white creature strategies with the creation of their lion king, Brimaz, King of Oreskos. For a white three drop (Loxodon Smiter notwithstanding), his stats are quite pushed. The normal body for a white deck in this slot looks more like Mirran Crusader or Fabled Hero. Both of these cards are powerful, but they unfortunately die to innocuous things like Shock. Brimaz fears no Shock, no Lightning Bolt, and most importantly in new Standard, no Bile Blight (black’s new removal spell). Brimaz brings friends to the party as well, conjuring memories of another great mythic: Hero of Bladehold. While the Mono-black menace looks to get even stronger with the aforementioned Bile Blight and the Infest variant Drown in Sorrow, it seems like the lion king may be the key to a white strategy that may be a viable way to fight against it. With cards like Spear of Heliod to counter the -2/-2 effect and Brave the Elements to fight through removal, it definitely seems like the tools are available to make this a winning strategy. Here is a possible list.

This is a pretty basic list. You get a powerful aggressive strategy with a low/smooth curve. You have a perfect mana base that gets to play all of the Mutavaults possible. Unfortunately, your creatures do not match up well (minus the king for course) with much else. This strategy may lean too heavily upon Brave the Elements to get ahead. Much like in the current Standard format, your best bet may be to splash a different color. The most popular have been red and black. The red splash allowed access to Boros Charm for protection and reach. The black splash allowed access to removal like Orzhov Charm and Xathrid Necromancer. These options both come with slower mana due to the necessity of temples and gates, but it may be worth it to add a little bit of an extra utility to the deck.

Notables

There are a number of other cards that may very well find a place in Standard. Many of these cards are more likely to help support strategies more than to define new ones. Specifically the uncommons in this set are amazing, and while I am no finance guy, picking up a common and uncommon set for Born of the Gods seems like a no-brainer. Anyways, here are some cards to look for in the coming months.

Fated Conflagration
I mention this card because it is important to my favorite archetype: Big Boros. This card isn’t perfect, but it is an answer to some hard to answer cards for red decks. Specifically, it kills Stormbreath Dragon, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Obzedat, Ghost Council, Polukranos, World-Eater, Jace, Architect of Thought, and Elspeth Sun’s Champion. It has a home in my sideboard for sure.

Satyr Firedancer
There is a burn deck in Standard, and it may very well want this card that makes each spell a Searing Blaze. This probably isn’t a main deck card, but it has a unique effect. It may be better in a format like Modern where the decision to Bolt the player or the Deathrite Shaman is frustrating.

Archetype of Courage
This is the archetype that is by far the most playable. In a creature mirror, making a force of creatures with first strike is big game. The three spot is competitive, especially with Brimaz around, but this might make a splash in sideboards.

Spiteful Returned
The attack trigger on this card is pretty powerful, and aggressive black decks have already found success in the current format. The body is weak, but its bestow cost is affordable. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this card across the table.

Eye Gouge
A friend of mine was really excited about this card, and I was a bit confused at first. Sure, that card has sweet flavor, but what else? It in fact does something pretty important right now, it kills Mutavault at instant speed for one mana. This, surprisingly, may see play.

Bile Blight
This is the premiere removal spell coming out of Born of the Gods. Echoing Decay was powerful back in the day, and this steps it up. Not every deck can cast it consistently, but Mono-black sure can. Expect to see it day one.

Glimpse the Sun God
This is an interesting tool that the white decks gain access to. If there is a white heroic deck that may exist in Standard, then this is probably a key card in it. The ability to attack, then tap their guys and target yours is pretty exceptional.

Searing Blood
This is a pretty powerful burn spell. Once again, it is a bit difficult to cast for the decks not featuring a ton of Mountains, but the utility is powerful when you are trying to stay aggressive.

Kiora’s Follower
In the decks that can cast is consistently, it is better than the already played Voyaging Satyr. Being able to untap anything can make things difficult for your opponent. This also plays well with the inspired mechanic, although I don’t see many of those cards making it in constructed.

Overall, Born of the Gods may not be able to shake the stigma already associated with it. Hopefully people continue to push new ideas in the format, lest we have 3 more months of Mono-black mirrors. I am excited to try some of new cards in a few weeks. Let me know what you think of these lists, and what you might be interested in trying in the comments!

Thanks for Reading

-Mike Keknee
@Big Tears
@At Your End Step

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