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By: gwyned, gwyned
Feb 03 2014 1:00pm
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I. Introduction

Another set is about to release, and so by now you've all seen the full spoiler for Born of the Gods, the second set in the Theros block. While there's lots of great information on this set for Limited and Standard available elsewhere, it is the purpose of this article to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. Four of the five mechanics from the previous set have returned, along with two new mechanics for this set. Before reading this article, it might be helpful to review each of these mechanics. For the purpose of this article, I will be limiting myself to the creatures and spells that make use of these mechanics as well as the two Common cycles in the set. Then, in my follow-up article, I will review the rest of the Commons in this new set.

If you read my three part review of Theros, you should be familiar with my methodology. Rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead simply note each card as a "hit" or a "myth" and discuss why I believe this card will or will not be relevant. After all, unlike in Limited, you will rarely if ever have an instance where you have to actually prioritize one card over another in any meaningful way, and thus a letter grade is probably not that helpful in actual practice. Let me also give credit where credit is due to ChannelFireball, who inspired the "hit or myth" categories as well as my feeble attempts at humor. And with that, let's get to the cards!

II. Born of the Gods Mechanic Commons
A. Cycle of Bestow Creatures

Born of the Gods brings us two different complete cycles at Common, the first of which is a brand new set of Bestow creatures. Unfortunately, while all of the Theros Bestow Commons were playable in Standard, this new crop of Enchantment creatures doesn't look so promising. While their stats are solid enough, it is the lack of abilities that is the biggest difference between these two sets of cards. While there may be some marginal utility in a dedicated Aura deck, as a whole I doubt these will make nearly the impact their brethren from Theros made in the format.

1. Nyxborn Eidolon is easily the worst of this new cycle of Bestow creatures. While it has one more Power than its cousin Baleful Eidolon, it costs an additional mana to Bestow and lacks Deathtouch. Perhaps the best analog is Child of Night, but with an expensive Bestow cost instead of the relevant Lifelink. Even if this had a casting cost of , and a Bestow cost of , this Eidolon would still be worse than Unholy Strength. Even in a dedicated B/W Aura deck, I simply can't imagine a scenario where you would want to play this card.

Verdict: Myth - I'd slide this right off the table.

2. Nyxborn Rollicker pushes the boundaries of how cheap and aggressive a Bestow creature can be. Only in Red is a 1/1 for worth considering. The fact that it can be Bestowed on Turn 2 is quite good, even if the effect it grants is relatively marginal. In the current Standard Pauper metagame, Red decks based around Akroan Crusader have certainly seen some play, and the Rollicker might find a good home in that deck. Otherwise, even in this format, a 1/1 for 1 just doesn't make enough impact to be worth including in almost any deck.

Verdict: Myth - It might have marginal use, but I say-tyr let it roll on by.

3. Nyxborn Shieldmate is another very aggressive Bestow creatures in the set. It's cheap to cast and to Bestow, although in both cases the effect is fairly marginal. A 1/2 for is nothing new, and cast for its Bestow cost it is effectively Holy Strength with a slight upside. In Standard Pauper, for White Weenie or Aura-based strategies, Hopeful Eidolon is clearly a better choice, with Lifelink being far better than the extra point of Toughness. While being slightly faster to Bestow, the Shieldmate simply lacks enough power to be worth playing.

Verdict: Myth - Drop the shield and find a new mate.

4. Nyxborn Triton is probably the best of this new cycle of Bestow creatures. While lacking a relevant ability, a 2/3 body for is probably borderline playable all on its own. And with a reasonable Bestow cost, the boost in Power and Toughness certainly warrants consideration. On the other hand, compared to Nimbus Naiad, you give up a single point of Toughness in exchange for Flying, which certainly makes the Triton the inferior card. Thus, while decent, I don't think it's good enough to see much play in Standard Pauper.

Verdict: Myth - Try-it-on if you want, but I don't think it will make a splash.

5. Nyxborn Wolf doesn't fare any better than the other creatures in this cycle. While 3 Power for 3 mana is certainly good, in Green one should get 3 Power and Toughness for . Similarly, while an Aura that boosts Power by 3 is strong, paying seems too expensive, especially since it barely boosts Toughness. Most of the time, you'd still probably prefer Leafcrown Dryad to this, given that it comes down faster, is cheaper to Bestow, and has Reach as well. While the G/W Aura deck is a strong contender in the format, I don't think this warrants a spot.

Verdict: Myth - I'm just going to nix this pup.

B. Cycle of Auras with an Activated Ability

It would seem that the Inspired mechanic is getting some strong support at Common, as Born of the Gods also includes a Common cycle of Auras that grant the enchanted creature a repeatable tap ability. In effect, this gives you another method of triggering Inspired even when it would not be wise for that creature to attack. However, it remains to be seen whether this is good enough to overcome the inherent liability of any creature Aura.

1. Claim of Erebos actually boasts a decent effect. Assuming you can protect the enchanted creature, it acts almost like a double-strength Razortip Whip, which has seen quite a bit of play in the format. But as long as your opponent can easily deal with this card by destroying one of your creatures, this probably isn't good enough to warrant play. Enchanting it to a Hexproof creature might be a viable solution, but typically such archetypes have more powerful and aggressive options. Thus, while this isn't terrible, it probably would only see play in a dedicated build.

Verdict: Myth - I don't claim this will be widely played, even if Erebos says otherwise.

2. Ephara's Radiance turns any creature into a Zarichi Tiger for the low cost of . While the ability to gain 3 Life for is not great, it can be used as a cheap Aura to trigger Heroic or create a repeatable method of triggering Inspiration. However, this card suffers the typical weakness of all Auras in that the target can be destroyed before the spell resolves, effectively losing 2 cards while costing your opponent only one. Since it also does nothing to protect the enchanted creature, and costs you a card, this probably isn't worth playing.

Verdict: Myth - Lifegain is shiny, but this card takes you too a-far.

3. Evanescent Intellect is not a card that will see play in Standard Pauper. While it does trigger Heroic and enable Inspiration, this effect doesn't match up well with either of those mechanics. Creature-based Mill strategies have been lackluster at best in the format, and having to enchant a creature for a repeatable mill effect isn't going to change that. For the same cost as casting this Aura, one could instead cast Tome Scour, which immediately mills almost two full activations of Evanescent Intellect without needing a creature.

Verdict: Myth - Intellectually, even I can scent that this is not a smart path.

4. Epiphany Storm transforms your creature into a Rummaging Goblin, which is probably not what your aggressive Red deck wants to be doing. Once more, this effect doesn't seem to play well with either Heroic or Inspiration, since you typically want to be attacking with your creatures, not tapping them for the potential to discard and draw a better card. Like most of the cards in this cycle, the effect granted by the Enchantment simply isn't worth the investment of the card or the potential vulnerability of having your creature destroyed and getting 2-for-1'd.

Verdict: Myth - Don't play this; no epiphany required.

5. Karametra's Favor has two things going for it. First, unlike all the other Auras in this cycle, it replaces itself when it comes into play. Second, it's in the color of Hexproof, which helps sidestep the potential two-for-one of casting Auras. The downside, of course, is that any advantage you might get from the enchantment from Heroic or Inspiration is negated by having to keep the creature out of combat. Additionally, most of the time, casting Nylea's Presence is going to be the better option, since it creates an almost identical effect without requiring a creature.

Verdict: Myth - Do Karametra a favor and play Nylea's Presence instead.

C. Non-Creature Mechanic Spells

Born of the Gods also sees the return of the Devotion and Scry mechanics from Theros. Additionally, for the first time at Common Devotion appears in a non-creature spell. Seems like there might be some value to be had in these spells.

1. Aspect of Hydra is the Giant Growth of the set, and it has good potential. True, it requires that you have multiple Green permanents in play to match the power of Giant Growth, but there is no limit to how much Power and Toughness it can pump. So while its tie to Devotion does mean that your opponent can weaken it through Instant-speed removal, this same tie to Devotion allows this to be used not only as a pump spell, but even as an unforeseen alpha strike to finish off your opponent. The upside certainly seems strong enough to warrant playing it.

Verdict: Hit - I as-pect that many a Green creature will feel the power of Hydra.

2. Bolt of Keranos is our Lightning Bolt of the set, and like most removal in Standard Pauper will probably see play. Even at Sorcery speed, three damage and scry for three mana is good value, even if the makes it more difficult to cast. Still, most of the time you would probably prefer Lightning Strike, since the difference between Instant and Sorcery speed, along with the extra mana cost, isn't worth the marginal value you get from Scry 1. Nonetheless, given how strong most burn spells have been in the format, I suspect this will still see lots of play.

Verdict: Hit. Bolt of course I'll play it - I care-a-not what you think.

3. Scouring Sands gives Red another way of dealing 1 damage to all creatures without targeting, and does so at the same cost as an Overloaded Electrickery. Once more, the trade-off is Sorcery speed for Scry 1. In this case, it's a hard tradeoff to quantify, but generally speaking I would still probably prefer Electrickery over this, even though there will be times in which the Scry could be very useful. Either way, I can't imagine that you would ever want more than 4 spells with this type of effect, so the impact of this card in Standard Pauper will be pretty minor.

Verdict: Myth - Scoured by sand or tricked by sparks, the result is the same.

4. Frost Breath returns in the form of Sudden Storm, with the bonus of granting Scry 1 for the cost of an additional mana. In this case both cards are at Instant speed, which makes the trade-off merely the lower casting cost versus the added utility of Scry. However, Frost Breath has not seen much play in the format recently, since it is typically only useful in a tempo-based Mono-Blue deck. The jump from three to four mana in such a deck is not insignificant either. These factors lead me to believe that this is probably not going to make the cut.

Verdict: Myth - I hope this isn't too sudden, but I would wait out this storm.

D. Mechanic Creatures

Each of these creatures includes one of the mechanics from Born of the Gods. The ability word Heroic returns from Theros and appears on several solid creatures, while the ability word Inspired makes its debut with several interesting abilities at Common. While their power level varies, I predict that several of these will see play in Standard Pauper in the weeks ahead.

1. Akroan Skyguard is an elegant White Common, and seems the perfect companion to Wingsteed Rider. A 1/1 for , even with Flying, generally wouldn't be good enough to see play, so any deck slotting in this card must include a plan to trigger Heroic. In the current White Weenie build, this is a potential replacement for Daring Skyjek or Azorius Arrester. Clearly on its own it is not as good as either card, but once enchanted, it should be able to more than hold its own. Overall a solid card, but it's clearly got a high threshold to clear to see widespread play.

Verdict: Hit - I'm a bit guarded, but this guy should fly.

2. Chorus of Tides joins Prescient Chimera as an enabler for Scry, albeit one that is somewhat harder to activate. Still, a 3/2 Flyer for is perfectly suitable for the format, and the added value of being able to Scry even a couple times in a game makes this creature a winning prospect. But, given the lack of solid Auras in Blue, if this is to find a home, it would probably be in a Control archetype in Azorius or Dimir, since both have solid Aura and/or Bestow options. So, while it's not amazing, I would argue that it clears the threshold of playable.

Verdict: Hit - The chorus brings tidings of playability, even if their song is a bit muted.

3. Deepwater Hypnotist is an average creature with a subpar ability. Sure, a 2/1 for is fine in Limited, but in Standard Pauper demands more from its two-drops. Unfortunately, this particular Inspired ability is anything but inspired. Lowering one of your opponent's creature's Power by 3 during your Upkeep is marginal at best. Using something like Hidden Strings to activate this as an Instant would make this ability far more relevant, but even then one could just as easily cast Lost in a Labyrinth for the same effect. Next!

Verdict: Myth - If you're actually playing this, you're probably in too deep.

4. Elite Skirmisher is interesting but ultimately disappointing. While White creatures with 3 Power for 3 mana are generally pretty good when they include a relevant ability, this one seems an exception. Similar creatures at Common tap opposing creatures when they enter the battlefield, which generally means you only get one activation. Heroic allows you to activate it multiple times, but at the high cost of having to target it each time. Interestingly enough, this could also be used as a tricky way to activate Inspiration on one of your own creatures.

Verdict: Myth - I might trust him in a skirmish, but not as an elite part of my deck.

5. Kragma Butcher is remarkably similar to Minotaur Skullcleaver, save that it gets its Power boost every turn, rather than merely on a Haste-enabled ambush. The extra point of Toughness is also relevant, since it is much more likely to be able to swing in each turn against an opponent's creatures. Throw a few combat tricks into the mix, and this Minotaur has the potential to be a powerful and consistent threat. It certainly seems strong enough to warrant giving it a slot in a Boros Aggro deck and see if that's enough to push that archetype back to the forefront.

Verdict: Hit - Unless I really butchered it, this is no bull.

6. Marshmist Titan is big and dumb, but certainly has the potential to be good value. A 4/5 in Black is quite beefy, but the lack of any relevant abilities certainly hurts its prospects of seeing play. With a base cost of , one wants at least two points of Devotion to keep the casting cost reasonable. Bump that up to four points of Devotion, and you've got quite a potent threat for very little investment. However, even in Mono-Black, you'd be hard pressed to cast this any earlier than Turn 5. And while it's certainly big enough, I don't think that's enough.

Verdict: Myth - If this is what passes today for a Titan, we've come a long way from Magic 2011.

7. Oreskos Sun Guide comes from a long line of White creatures that allow you to gain Life. As a 2/2 for it's reasonable, but not exactly built for long-term survival. The Inspired ability of gaining Life seems quite good, until you realize that most of the time you have to send it into combat and not see it enter the Graveyard to get the effect. And while there certainly are means of tapping this outside of combat, gaining 2 Life doesn't seem worth the trouble. It just seems too fragile and too clunky to be a serious contender for a spot in the metagame.

Verdict: Myth - Listen, my son, and let my words be your guide: no cats!

8. Pharagax Giant is one of only two creatures at Common with Tribute, and is probably the stronger of the two. For you either get a 5/5 creature or a Lava Axe with a free 3/3 creature, both of which are quite good. Both options represent a serious threat to your opponent, particularly in an aggressive Red deck where this giant represents a dependable way to finish off a weakened opponent. Granted, there are cases where your opponent can either ignore the 5 Life or immediately kill even a 5/5, but that should be the exception rather than the rule.

Verdict: Hit - There's no telling how ph-ar this axe will go.

9. Pheres-Band Tromper looks to be the real deal. A 3/3 for , while not great, is borderline playable, and the fact that the first time it untaps it jumps to 4 Toughness is quite solid, particularly since this puts it out of range of most burn spells in the format. This Centaur also seems the perfect target for Savage Surge, turning an already decent combat trick into real value. While a true Gruul deck has yet to emerge as a real contender in the format, this card certainly seems to be pushing the format in that direction. Definitely worth playing.

Verdict: Hit - It might not be fair, but this should tromp all over the opposition.

10. Servant of Tyramet seems underwhelming. A 1/3 for with Regeneration doesn't seem particularly strong, and the Inspired ability of draining 1 Life also seems fairly meager. However, all of the pieces work together to create a repeatable source of Life Drain for 3 mana a turn. Furthermore, this servant does make an excellent chump-blocker, since activating its Regeneration is a guaranteed way to tap the creature and thus activate its Inspired ability. The cost isn't cheap, but it does give Black another way to eke out advantage over a long game.

Verdict: Myth - Extort seems to serve a similar role, and does it better. Sorry Tyramet.

11. Snake of the Golden Grove is the other Tribute creature at Common, but in this case the choice seems much more one-sided. It's hard to imagine very many board states in which an opponent wouldn't gladly allow you to gain 4 Life rather than boosting your 4/4 to a 7/7. That said, a 4/4 for that gains you 4 Life when it enters the battlefield is perfectly serviceable, even in Green. While perhaps not the most exciting card, this seems like a potential inclusion in a Mono-Green or Gruul build in the forthcoming Standard Pauper metagame.

Verdict: Hit - While not golden, it's certainly no snake in the grass.

12. Sphinx Disciple is the only Inspired Common with built-in evasion, which already makes it pretty good. Even better, it's ability makes it a virtual Stealer of Secrets with Flying. However, paying for the privilege is absurdly expensive. The combination of being fragile and expensive makes this the ideal target for your opponent's removal. Even in a Control archetype with the tools to protect it, you have to work very hard to start getting card advantage out of this card. Thus, while the potential is there, the liability is just too great to be worth the risk.

Verdict: Myth - Instant speed removal is the likely discipline for playing this card.

13. Setessan Oathsworn is the poor cousin of Staunch-Hearted Warrior. For one mana less (but an additional ), you get a meager 1/1 for 3, which is simply terrible, especially in Green. And even after you activate its Heroic ability once, you still only have the equivalent of Nessian Courser. While it sounds exciting to boost this up to a 5/5 or better, most of the time you simply won't get there, and as a result will never get the full value out of your investment. Given all these factors, I see very little reason to play this card.

Verdict: Myth - You should swear an oath to never play this.

14. Warchanter of Mogis has perhaps the most interested Inspired ability, allowing you to make any of your creatures (including itself) unblockable. Of course, you have to attack with the Warchanter and have it survive the process at least once to enable this ability. For , one could hope for better than a 3/3. It should also be pointed out that for one more mana, you could Bestow Cavern Lampad for a +2/+2 boost and permanent Intimidate on the creature of your choice. Thus, while there are some good potential plays, I don't think this makes the cut.

Verdict: Myth - Chanting may not be the best way to win this war.

III. Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this first look at the Commons from Born of the Gods. Next time, I'll be back with the second half of my review, finishing up all the Commons in this set. But for now, let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. Finally, you can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy Born of the Gods!

3 Comments

Very nice review! I am ever by Cyrulean at Tue, 02/04/2014 - 14:14
Cyrulean's picture

Very nice review! I am ever appreciative of your insight and hosting.

I 100% agree with you on the Tromper! I can't wait to see it in action.

I am not sold on Snake of the Golden Grove. I think for the mana I would just stick with Nessain Asp. However, the ability to get the 7/7 or the 4 life is not to be over looked...

Maybe I will have to experiment with both to be sure.

Not the tribute you are looking for by ahniwa at Tue, 02/04/2014 - 15:41
ahniwa's picture
5

Great article. I have a couple places I disagree, though.

Namely, I think that Tribute is going to be found to be unplayable pretty quickly.

Second, I think that the tap auras and the Inspire creatures will see play together: a black engine with claim of erebos on the servant of tymaret could be bonkers. It's probably too hard to protect, but I do think these sets of cards will see play together, and that someone will make it work.

Thanks guys. I agree that by gwyned at Tue, 02/04/2014 - 17:26
gwyned's picture

Thanks guys. I agree that people will definitely test the Tap Auras and Inspire creatures together, especially the Servant of Tyramet. But ultimately, I don't think it will prove to be Tier 1, and thus will not be widely played as the new metagame develops.