By the time this gets posted, JOU drafts are probably ready to fire at full capacity and it looks like a good moment to remember what has happened in THS Block before Journey into Nyx shakes all that.
DISCLAIMER! This article is not going to provide much meaningful information for a competitively-minded spike. It was written to have some fun while ranking cards and recreating recent past. The most to be gained from this article is in new set‘s evaluation considering previous experiences. Maybe this time around we will be able to adapt JOU into Block format faster than BNG.
Below I will write down top 5 lists on certain rankings, expand a little on each card and what led me to put it there. I will begin with the most honorable "Top 5 most impactful cards from BNG" list.
The most impactful in Block Born of the Gods cards
1. Satyr Wayfinder
3. Courser of Kruphix
4. Herald of Torment
5. Spiteful Returned
1. I I was reluctant to award the most prestigious place to this measly green common. Despite its innocent looks, this little 1/1 Satyr works like a horse in this format and is the sole reason why Junk Reanimator exists. Considering that Junk is the most dominant deck, Satyr Wayfinder deserves to be the face of BNG era just like Stormbreath Dragon was for THS-only period.
2. In my opinion, as a generic card, Gild warped the format more than anything else. It made control archetypes viable as they didn‘t have to rely already taxed Hero‘s Downfall too much anymore. Without this card, Naya might have ruled for much longer with one less efficient answer for huge monsters in the format. In addition to all that, Gild is the only troublesome removal spell for Junk Reanimator. If this beautiful answer for Ashen Rider didn‘t exist, I would have resolved infinitely more ExtB (Exits the Battlefield) triggers. Allowing every Ashen Rider to use its effect twice might have been too strong for the format and Gild did its job to protect us from such an oppressive power. Gild keeps an unfair environment at least a little bit honest and because of that scores the second place on this list.
3. Oracle of Mull-Daya v 2.0 received loads of hype from the very beginning and it all was well deserved. Courser made it into every deck running green mana and singlehandedly decreased the numbers of viable aggro decks in the metagame. The existence of this enchantment creature shatters the dreams of Mono-Red while also providing crucial land drops for always mana-hungry decks like Junk or Naya. As MJ has said, Courser feels „like a fair card“, yet, it is incredibly strong and efficient at its own job.
4. Mono-Black has been Tier 1 since the beginning of THS-BNG Block format and remained so until this day. The contribution of this powerful Bestow creature is likely one of the main reasons why aggressive Black keeps winning. Herald of Torment fills multiple spots on the curve, has evasion and haste in certain situations. This whole package has everything aggressive deck could hope for and that‘s why we are giving Herald a honorable 4th place in the ranking.
5. Spiteful Returned is a very pesky game-winning 1/1. As a cheap threat, it demands immediate answer or ends the game in a quick fashion. In comparison to its grandfather, Baleful Eidolon, Spiteful Returned almost belongs to the Power Nine. It is the second Bestow creature from BNG enabling the premier aggro deck in Block and its ability to threaten opponent both early and late leaves our little creature 5th in the most impactful card rating.
The most overrated cards from Born of the Gods
1. Brimaz, King of Oreskos
2. Xenagos, God of Revels
3. Ephara, God of the Polis
4. Fated Conflagration
5. Fanatic of Xenagos
1. The king is here! Right on the top of our useless cards list. Brimaz fell short of its expectations in both Standard and Block. Everyone expected a pushed card like this to do well in Block, yet a 3/4 vanilla body matched-up quite poorly against the rest and ended up on the sidelines.
2. Just like Brimaz, Xenagos looks insanely powerful. Just like the cat king, the God of Revels lacks impact against the top decks – Junk, Esper or Mono-Black. It has seen some play (mostly in sideboards) in Naya decks but the deck didn‘t really need him and died out in the meta regardless of this God.
3. Ephara outlasted a similar fate to Ashiok in Standard. It was deemed useless at the beginning, then hyped up to the skies before crashing down again as people realized that the card was too weak. What‘s different between Ephara and Ashiok – the latter became decent in Block. The goddess, on the other hand, hasn‘t found a good home for herself nor created an entire archetype on her own shoulders. The card might be fine but it has no effect on Block whatsoever and belongs to the overrated list.
4. Fated Conflagration is a costly 4-mana removal spell. I couldn‘t say it was rated very highly but it was considered as a decent option against Naya‘s monsters and planeswalkers. Nor Naya, nor heavy-red control decks exist in the metagame (there is a mono red aggro deck.) and Conflagration is left to rot for a time being.
5. As was the case with the previous card, none of the Tribute cards were seriously overrated. But from all of these Fanatic of Xenagos was seen as the one with some applications in the format. It is aggressively costed, in favourable colour combination and with an impactful text on it. Unfortunately for the Fanatic, none of its abilities qualify for our current metagame, which leaves him in the corners of dark MTGO collections.
Sleepers list from Born of the Gods
1. Kiora, the Crashing Wave
2. Oracle‘s Insight
3. Hunter‘s Prowess
4. Fated Return
5. Hero of Leyline
This is the section I was happier to write than any other. It is possible that there are better unexplored cards in the format than these five, yet the five listed down are my personal favourites. I made this list with no awareness of any JOU spoilers (that‘s a while ago...).
1. Block has a limited number of overpowered Mythics and almost every Standard-viable planeswalker should qualify here. Despite that, Kiora doesn‘t. Her powers are not in high desire in this format and she‘s situated in awkward colours. Simic is nowhere near to the level of playability it had before BNG (and it wasn‘t very much anyway). I don‘t know where she could fit, I just know that I like her and I sincerely hope Kiora will get some attention before the end of this Block.
2. While Kiora made the list due to her awesomeness, Oracle‘s Insight has some real hidden value. It is a little fragile Underworld Connections of this format. Sticking it to a hexproof creature like Sylvan Caryatid gets rid of Insight‘s vulnerability to creature removal. Ever since I lost to this unstoppable card advantage engine, I was pondering about deck to play this combination of cards in. It doesn‘t seem that such a deck exists right now but maybe JOU could make Oracle‘s Insight a role player.
3. Hunter‘s Prowess is a cool card in green to punish any opponent for tapping out. It isn‘t a complete unknown because it has seen play in Gruul decks. In my opinion, other green decks like Junk or Green Devotion could make a good use of this card against slower decks too. People seem to be too afraid to get blown out against removal, but it is not so difficult to find a turn where our opponent is tapped out and we are safe to draw a pile of cards. This card has potential with the current card pool and might become even better with JOU added into the mix.
4. Fated Return recently had a sure in playability within Esper and Junk. This list was written before these changes happened in the metagame.
Eventhough, Fated Return is an expensive recursion spell, usually costing as much as the creature we‘re reviving, it has some real blowout capabilities against Junk Reanimator. Playing it in response to Whip‘s targeting ability is undeniably strong, but simply stealing a creature from opponent‘s graveyard is harmful enough. This card is not too spectacular in other match-ups, especially aggressive ones, but it provides an edge in the most likely – Junk mirror this format, which is a promising prospect for the card.
5. Hero of Leina Tower is the furthest from anyone‘s radar and probably the least deserving card to show up here. I just really love that ability and think that it has a lot of space for growth. Green-based aggro didn‘t really exist in THS Block but this card is a good step to begin from. If JOU delivers additional green early drops, Hero could be the lynchpin in deck‘s nut draws. It makes sure you never have to leave spare mana and can end games with a few enormous hits. Unfortunately, aggressive decks are the ones with little spare mana and Hero of Leina Tower is likely to stay 1/1 while the deck is curving out, which leaves me hoping for insane green enablers to make Heroic Aggro with Hero of Leina Tower viable. This card is too cool to never cash in a daily during all this time...
Theros cards revived by Born of the Gods
1. Ashen Rider
2. Whip of Erebos
3. Prognostic Sphinx
4. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
5. Rescue from the Underworld
Let‘s not focus on Born of the Gods card too much. Theros is still the larger part of our card pool and multiples of its cards are performing in every archetypes known. Some of these cards saw next to no playtime before BNG release and the 5 most often played made into this list.
1. The largest and the most powerful guy around was played in Reanimator decks before. But these strategies were fringe and Ashen Rider was not a force to be reckoned with until Satyr Wayfinder got printed. When Reanimator became Tier 1, Ashen Rider went from zero to hero overnight. Right now, it‘s likely the most played big creature from Theros, considering how big Reanimator is in this format.
2. I know, I know, Whip was played before, yet it was a tech card instead of a role player it is right now. Whip is the heart and soul of engines pushing Junk Reanimator forward. This card provides the power and longevity for Junk deck, no other card could. Junk Reanimator is the most played deck at the moment and Whip is one of the most gaining spells after BNG.
3. Sphinx is the 3rd card on the list, which saw moderate play and became a 4-of in one of the strongest decks. Esper needed a reliable win condition, exactly what Sphinx could offer. We don‘t have anything more resilient in the set and Sphinx is likely to be an Ætherling for any blue-based control from now on. Prognostic Sphinx wasn‘t played before BNG because no control deck existed in the circuit back then. Right now, Esper is competing to be the best deck and an unstoppable finisher is a big reason why.
4. Following down the list, Sphinx‘s partner in crime – Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. This planeswalker couldn‘t survive in the meta saturated with monsters like it was before, but excels against slower deck, which are running around at the moment. Strong aggro decks keep Ashiok as a sideboard material but it is a hell of a card when brought in the right match-up. The rise of Junk, which crumbles against Ashiok, puts this guy(?) on the map and 4th on this list.
5. All the other cards on the list saw some amount of play pre-BNG before becoming format staples. If we counted pure increase in popularity instead of current dominance, Rescue from the Underworld should be on the top. It went from „what a joke“ into a 2-of in 30% of the field within few months. The card is still clunky and not necessary to play Reanimator. Nevertheless, the card sneaks into a higher number of decks than ever before and belongs to the list for extraordinary growth in popularity.
The biggest losers from Theros after Born of the Gods release
1. Stormbreath Dragon
2. Fabled Hero
3. Baleful Eidolon
4. Lightning Strike
5. Prophet of Kruphix
1. Stormbreath Dragon was the face of previous format. Right now, the Dragon along it‘s monstrous GR crew are only fringe playable. These certainly lost the most as Naya Monsters was the most dominant archetype, taking up to 100% money from Dailies before BNG. Right now, Monsters are still played but far from what it was before. The Dragon was situated in perfect colour and it‘s protection matched-up ideally against the field. An increase of Black removal spells, counters and bigger fliers in the meta made green/red fatties obsolete.
2. Fabled Hero had the qualities to kill insanely quickly and made the only archetype able to compete with Naya at the end of Theros-only format. With more Heroic creatures and enablers getting printed, I did expect Fabled Hero to stay relevant. Yet, it saw next to no daylight, as aggro decks switched their focus to going wide instead of going all-in on one destined hero. That‘s a logical deviation considering numbers of non-burn targeted removal played right now. Fabled Hero could never grow out of Hero‘s Downfall‘s range and it is hard to keep him alive with only 4 copies of Gods Willing against loads of removal.
3. Mono-Black as an archetype is still standing strong. Only without the poor Eidolon, which got severely outclassed by stunning black two-drops from Born of the Gods. Pain Seer and Spiteful Returned deal damage at much higher rate than Baleful Eidolon ever could. In addition to that, with no Monsters in sight and with the most popular threats flying in the air nowadays, there‘s no need for a little deathtouch critter.
4. Lightning Strike represents burn spells overall in this list (so it‘s pretty much Magma Jet). These cards were quite good against UW Heroic, mana dorks and had some extra utility in match-ups like UG Flash. Also, sending all your burn to the dome after an aggressive start was always an option. Right now, burn is much weaker with Junk Reanimator and Esper Control sitting on the top and not caring about these spells at all. It is still played by Mono-Red (oh, wow) as a finisher and extra reach but has so much less utility than before.
5. This Simic five-drop went extinct just like the whole Simic Flash archetype did. Prophet was a part of Simic‘s nut draws and contributed heavily to its wins in otherwise difficult Naya match-up. Playing threats and leaving mana up for counterspells was the way that deck won and Prophet of Kruphix was a centerpiece there. As far as I know, it hasn‘t been a part of a Daily-winning list since BNG got legal and is the 5th card to lose its relevance in the shadow of other cards.
Format staples from Theros to Born of the Gods and beyond
1. Elspeth, Sun‘s Champion
3. Hero‘s Downfall
4. Sylvan Caryatid
5. Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1. I won‘t surprise anyone by placing Elspeth right on the top. There were people who seriously considered it getting banned in Block after JOU release, which accounts for Elspeth‘s power. She didn‘t get banned and I honestly don‘t think she deserves that. This planeswalker put Naya Monsters completely over the top previously, and does its job for Junk and Esper this time around. However, Elspeth is no longer a must-play card. Aggro decks have no interest in her and Junk Reanimator could live without the planeswalker too. This leaves Elspeth for Esper and Naya. She‘s definitely strong there but it‘s also played in Standard, where she fulfills a similar role for control decks and nobody implies a ban for her there. Of course, I‘m not underestimating Elspeth Sun‘s Champion by any means. She is present in two most powerful decks right now with a background of creating the most powerful deck in previous format. That‘s enough reasons to award Elspeth the first place on this list comfortably.
2. A multi-format star seeing play in a small card pool of Block Constructed is no surprise to anyone. Black is likely the strongest colour and Thoughtseize was driving black-based deck forward for a while already. Mono-Black Aggro, formerly known as Mono-Black Devotion, changed a lot but Thoughtseize never left it‘s place. There‘s no other cheap playable hand disruption spell in the format, which makes Seize even more unique and attractive for players. I don‘t have much else to say, this card kept ruining everyone‘s hands for a long time and, if not for Elspeth, would be the best card in this Block.
3. Hero‘s Downfall is the cheapest „generic“ removal spell and keeps seeing heavy play with no better alternatives available. The fact that Murder is the best black removal spells shows how scarce removal is right now. Extra utility to kill planeswalkers is very welcome and with the amount of huge threats every deck could present, Downfalls are always in huge demand for every Black player since the beginning of THS Block Constructed.
4. The best ramper, mana fixer and early protector found its way into multiple green decks. Most notably, Naya and Simic pre-BNG plus Junk and Green-Devotion post-BNG. Caryatid makes mana in these decks smooth and everyone is always happy to see Sylvan Caryatid in their opening hand. It‘s great that a resilient mana creature like this exists in the format. Caryatid enabled a fair share of multi-coloured decks and deserves it‘s spot on the list.
5. The last on our list is yet another black multi-format all-star, Gary. Black players made a huge error of cutting it in the early versions of Mono-Black Aggro but came back to running 4 copies and Black jumped back to the 2nd place for most popular deck in the Block. Five mana Fireball is usually crippling or helps to stabilize in difficult situations, which is a well-rounded package. You might already be annoyed by Gary but it‘s still finishing games, where you felt like stabilizing, and not going to leave anytime soon.
That‘s it for our wrap-up of Theros and Born of the Gods cards, which were relevant for this Block. If any of you made it to this point of the article, I‘m glad you found it interesting and remember what roles certain cards were taking during the lifespan of this format. Journey into Nyx is likely to be legal Online very soon and we will see, how many changes will be made in these lists by it. If you know other cards deserving an inclusion in any of these rankings, feel free to share your opinion and help us paint even more accurate pictures of THS-BNG Block.
See you guys and girls,