First off, I want to extend my appreciation to all my readers who have bought my new eBook, The Complete Commander, which went on sale last Friday. I wrote about it in my column last week, and the response from the community has been fantastic! On behalf of me, MJ Scott, James Arnold, and all those involved in putting the book together, thank you all so much!
In anticipation of the release of the book, I've focused almost exclusively on Commander over the past few months, but I know I have some readers who enjoy reading about my adventures in more competitive formats. While I haven't had the chance to play much Standard lately, I have a deck I like and have been keeping an eye on the metagame. I have also been brewing for Modern considering Grand Prix Richmond is happening right here in my backyard next month. Since a lot of people are weighing in with their thoughts on Born of the Gods, I thought I'd do the same with an eye toward the cards I'm most interested in playing with in Standard, Modern, and of course Commander.
I see this as a possibility to play in Commander. Damage prevention isn't quite as useful as protection from colors, but there can be some terrible surprises for people when you redirect damage. I've been on the bad side of a Reflect Damage when my Multani, Maro-Sorcerer was attacking someone! This effect is more limited, tied to your devotion to white, but the tradeoff is not bad since it is very cheap and able to redirect that damage to any creature or player. If you have a mono-white Commander deck that plays quite a few white permanents (especially noncreature ones), this might be a nice trick.
Ah, the chase mythic of Born of the Gods! This is obviously an incredibly powerful and hyperefficient card, so much so that it pretty much demands three or four slots in any W/x creature deck in Standard, probably Modern, and possibly even Legacy. And with vigilance, he goes great in multiplayer decks like Commander. Yeah, all this adds up to being an insanely pricey card that will beat down your wallet nearly as much as your opponents.
For my Commander peeps, his creature type is quite nice for any sort of Cat or Soldier tribal deck, especially since he makes more Cat Soldier tokens. Also keep in mind if you've got ways to give yourself multiple attack steps remember the tokens he creates when he attacks technically have summoning sickness, so even though when they appear they're attacking they wouldn't be able to participate in multiple attacks unless they shook off the sickness (see Breath of Fury + Nacatl War-Pride).
I've always been a fan of Rout in Commander—having the option of sweeping the board at instant speed is quite nice. This basically does the same thing but doesn't give you the option of casting it for cheaper at sorcery speed. Rout also prevents regeneration while Fated Retribution allows that loophole, which will sometimes be annoying but can also allow you to break the symmetry on this card. Of course the big bonus here is that this bad boy sweeps away planeswalkers too—I'm gonna love nuking Jace, Liliana, and Nicol Bolas at instant speed while regenerating my Mossbridge Troll! I don't see the scry option getting used too much, though if mana isn't much of an issue you could cast it during your upkeep so you can dig for a card before your draw step.
As a fan of creature-based strategies, I know I'll be gnashing my teeth having to deal with this card for the next year and a half in Standard, especially given that in the past mixing planeswalkers into your deck was one way of insulating the damage done from creature sweepers from control decks. Now evil control players can easily sweep the board clean of nearly all problems once they get to seven mana.
I keep thinking about this card, a powered down Aurelia's Fury that serves a similar and less colored mana intensive role. I think I want to toss this in my Anax and Cymede Commander deck for both defense and as a combat trick, being able to trigger heroic at instant speed after you've declared attackers and tap down defenders before blockers are declared. Also, this is like the mirror image of how valuable vigilance is in multiplayer since tapping down blockers can potentially leave someone open to attacks from multiple players. I don't think it'll make much of a ripple in Standard, even with the bonus scry attached.
God-Favored General (& Arbiter of the Ideal, Pain Seer, Felhide Spiritbinder, Siren Of The Silent Song)
The thoughts I've got on God-Favored General apply to other creatures with inspired, so I figured I'd go ahead and talk about them all right here. When I first saw the mechanic, I thought it was a little clunky until I started thinking of all the ways to tap your own creatures so they can naturally untap without having to attack with them. The inclusion of Springleaf Drum in Born of the Gods made perfect sense once we saw these guys, and I'm sure you—like me—went searching through card databases to see if there are some ways to tap your own creatures on cards that are actually good rather than marginal or good only for the synergy. Sadly, I didn't see too many, but of course in larger formats there's more to choose from.
In Modern there's Glare of Subdual, a card that has some tournament pedigree already, and in Legacy there's Opposition. In Commander we have access to both of these beauties to help enable inspired shenanigans in addition to instant speed untapping with cards like Quirion Ranger, Kiora's Follower, Rimewind Taskmage (Snow!), Scryb Ranger, Seeker of Skybreak, Thornbite Staff, Captain of the Mists, Crackleburr (!!!), Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite, Puppet Strings, Puppeteer, Staff of Domination, Thousand-Year Elixir, Fatestitcher, Unbender Tine, Mind Over Matter, Tidewater Minion . . .
I'm particularly excited about untapping the ones that don't require mana to activate. Arbiter of the Ideal, my favorite kind of blue card that's all about permanents rather than instants, puts artifacts, creatures, or lands into play off the top of your deck. Siren of the Silent Song is particularly gross given that you can lock someone off any noninstant cards drawn during their draw step and meanwhile all your other opponents have to discard and mill as well! And does anyone else find it a little funny that a zombie siren would have a "silent" song? Vocal cords must rot rather fast on the undead.
God-Favored General is a little dude, but his inspired ability makes two dudes a pop, which works quite nicely alongside Glare of Subdual and Opposition. Felhide Spiritbinder is particularly cool since it can copy anyone's creature on the board for the turn; also, the name is cool because it drops one of the Ls in "fell." I wonder how many editors are going to come to hate that card if it turns out to be good somewhere. Me, I'm going to slot Mr. Felhide in a G/R Commander deck alongside Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro—a mighty fine way to tap Shamans!
If you know me, you know I love graveyard recursion almost better than anything, and I'm looking forward to recurring Soul Snare, Angelic Renewal, Ordeal of Heliod, Seal of Cleansing, Aura of Silence, and Pursuit of Knowledge just in white alone! A big body, evasion, and putting the enchantment directly into play is just phenomenal. Don't forget he can fetch up our bumper crop of enchantment creatures!
Speaking of, if you like white creatures, you probably got a big ol' grin on your face when you saw this latest "hate bear." A tiny part of me wishes it said "each opponent," but that might have been asking for too much. Just a solid little dude that is sure to make a splash in Standard, Modern, Legacy and Commander.
I'm really digging a couple of the Archetype cycle and am a bit surprised by their being uncommon given how potent they are. Is it any surprise that the blue creature seems the most insane? If your first impression is that six mana is too much for a 3/2 creature, think about what you're getting here. Basically the turn you play it all of your creatures become unblockable outside of the reach ability, so even if it's killed later the damage may have already been done. A lot of people will utilize little flying token creatures as their defense and be in for a rude awakening.
I don't think this is going to see too much play given the heavy blue mana commitment, but being instant speed gives it some nice potential if you're playing fearsome creatures of your own. In a way you can use this to "counter" pinpoint creature removal, even protecting your commander from being tucked or stolen given the new legend rules.
At first I thought this was "seal of stealing spell," which seemed pretty insane. Then I realized that it's not really a "seal" because it sticks around, giving your opponent the same opportunity to steal spells as you had, which less insane and more wacky and fun. Then I realized how nicely it would fit into my Roon of the Hidden Realm Commander deck and was back on the pretty insane side of this card.
As a lover of creatures, I'm not very happy with this card since it functions a bit like a Blue Wrath of God and I can see it being a potent tool in Standard control's box of answers. As a lover of flavor, though, I adore the fact that Krakens, Leviathans, Octopuses and Serpents get a pass from getting swept away and can't wait to have a deck to rock this thing in Commander.
This seems like such a sweet answer to two powerhouse cards in Standard right now, Pack Rat and Nightveil Specter, that it makes me wonder if Wizards designed this as a fix to the problem of a format so heavily dominated by those cards. But then I think about whether the Future Future League really could have predicted that Nightveil Specter and friggin' Pack Rat would be such monsters.
Holy moly, but this is a giant mana hog. I kinda wish this were legendary because I'd love to have this bundle of abilities on this body as my commander. So many fun options that I could probably do an entire Commander "Single Card Strategy" article on this guy . . .
I know that most people are dismissing this as a Commander card, and make no mistake—this is a friggin' awesome Commander card! I can't wait to stuff these into every black Commander deck I have. However, I think this card is powerful enough to make waves in Standard. Yes, seven mana is a lot, but we've got Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx floating around out there—if ever there was something sweet to spend a lot of black mana on, putting a dead creature into play at instant speed and making it indestructible is amazing.
Note that it gains indestructible and doesn't go away at the end of the turn, so not only is this creature probably ambushing some hapless attacker and killing it but now that creature is immune to most forms of creature removal. I for one am looking forward to giving this a whirl in Standard!
The main thing that has me scratching my head is this: would this card be too good at 1BB? Keep everything else the same, sorcery speed, etc. Would that really be too good? I don't see this making a splash in competitive play, and it seems awfully slow for a one-for-one removal spell in Commander. Perhaps this is just supposed to be a Johnny card that inspires someone to try and make infinite gold artifact tokens?
Another sweet card from the Archetype cycle, it seems to be aggressively costed enough to possibly break into Constructed play. It seems particularly nice in mono-red to have a way to give all your dudes trample and leave your green opponents looking sad.
I've built a pretty nasty Modern Burn deck for my roommate for GP Richmond, and I think that he might want a few of these in the sideboard to help him deal with creature decks while still launching burn at the opponent's head. I think he adds a nice dimension to Commander red decks too, though I'm a little fuzzy about this: if you deal damage to multiple opponents with one spell, would you get to also deal damage to multiple creatures?
It's big, it's goofy, and it's most definitely a Commander card, and if you can't find room for this in your green-based Commander deck, you're probably doing it wrong. "Hexproof" started out as the green-only ability Troll shroud before WotC decided to stick it on insanely good blue creatures, so steal it back for the green team!
I had a classic RTFC moment when I first saw this card. Basically I thought that as long as the top card of your deck is a land you can play it, so I immediately veered into Treasure Hunt combos and even had a brief detour into Lost in the Woods. Then I had the facepalm realization that just because you can play a land from the top of your deck doesn't mean you get extra land drops during your turn. I still really like this guy and look forward to eeking out incremental advantage and clogging the ground in Standard for the next year and a half.
The thing that pops into my head when I see this card is c'mon. Seriously, c'mon. Born of the Gods is stuffed to the gills with fun cards to play around the kitchen table; couldn't y'all have pushed this one a little harder for competitive play? Instant speed, a little cheaper, maybe in exchange for a little smaller boost . . . or make it a freaking Aura! You know the Captain Picard facepalm meme? Yeah, that's me, with a dash of Jamie Wakefield outrage.
When I was just reading the text spoiler, I glanced right over this one. Oh cool, a bestow critter that Lures. Cute Limited card. But then when I saw the picture it all clicked into place that this was a flavor masterpiece! Yes, people want to chase unicorns, but why not become one with the unicorn and get chased? Who doesn't want to be a unicorn?
I loved me some Kodama's Reach back when it was in Standard. For some reason I didn't really do much with its equivalent, Cultivate, while it was in Standard. Neither card usually makes the cut in my Commander decks because the three-mana slots are precious—way too many good Commander cards cost three mana, and all too often the mana ramp sorceries never seem to make the cut despite being solid cards that seem like they should be in my decks.
At four mana, though, now we're talking! Adding scry to the mix gives it just the right veneer of extra to make it seem alright that it costs one more mana. Give this a try folks—ramping from four to six mana is much more exciting than ramping from three to five!
I think I like this guy for Standard. He's like a little bit of Sylvan Ranger and a dose of Grisly Salvage—now if only we could get our Golgari Temple then maybe we'd have something worth talking about! I just need to remember not to tilt when this guy misses.
I wasn't too impressed with this guy until I realized how helpful it is sometimes to have ways to sacrifice your commander when it's in play and a fate worse than death is looming over him (getting tucked, getting stolen). Getting eaten by a Scourge of Skola Vale only sends our commander buddy back to his Command Zone, but Scourge still gets all the tasty nutrients. He starts off small, but if he gets much bigger, the trample makes sure he gets rather scary.
As you can probably imagine, I have a rather gigantic stash of cards I call my Commander toolkit that's chock full of go-to cards that I stock up when disassembling my decks so I have plenty of goodies to build new decks. Recently I've taken to having a subset of my stash that I'm calling my Heretic's Haversack. In it I keep all the cards that are good at removing pesky Gods from Theros (and now Born of the Gods) that are indestructible and often not creatures, which makes them harder to deal with sometimes. This clone of Deglamer goes right beside Deglamer in my Heretic's Haversack.
The competitor in me laments that the red ability isn't haste because otherwise he might be worth the effort to try to play in Standard—there is a lot of power in this shiny card! But then I realized that this is a casual card through and through. It effectively has haste because you're gonna wait and cast it with bestow first of course, and then when the enchanted creature dies, he comes into play and will get to attack on your turn. You know, I might have to build a five-color Commander enchantment deck mashup of Zur the Enchanter and Uril the Miststalker just so I can do silly things with this.
Ephara, my dear, you rock my world, paying me for playing creatures to the board like I love to do already . . . What? You're not green? AZORIUS?!
Captain Picard facepalm.
Okay, I'm still sore over the Azorius trickery of Ephara, but I'm really picking up what this enchantment is putting down. I like that it's a pretty sweet heroic engine, not to mention all cool interactions with Enchantress type cards from Magic's history.
I just want to mention this guy because there seems to be decent buzz on him from competitive Magic players and I'm unimpressed. I'm firmly in the camp that the tribute mechanic is mediocre at best in Constructed, and even though both choices on this guy are supposedly "bad" for your opponent, neither side really makes him all that impressive when you compare him to the value you get from creatures nowadays. For three mana in green, give me Courser of Kruphix and Boon Satyr all day long.
Love the art. Sad that she's not going to really make waves in Constructed Magic. What's up with the green gods being so tame? I will say that I'm glad the land fetch doesn't specify "basic" Forest or Plains so she's good at fetching up original dual lands or Ravnica shock lands. I will also say I'm sad that she only triggers on creature spells; since green and white are good at making creature tokens, it would have been nice for the green and white god to play nice with that theme, though I suppose it would have broken Avenger of Zendikar in half.
Ah Kiora, I will be interested in seeing how you perform. That two starting loyalty doesn't instill a whole lot of confidence, but I have to admit I hope you languish down in tier 2 land a while so I can afford to nab a playset before someone wins a Pro Tour with you. Say, is that a Whelming Wave behind you?
I'm sad to admit that I've never been a big fan of Merfolk. I dunno, something about being a green mage constantly stomped by blue mages has made me instinctively recoil from that blue tribe outside of a few outstanding individuals that rise above their blueness. Perhaps it's the green mana in Kiora's Follower that makes me smile, but I just love this little guy. I mean, bare minimum it basically taps for green or blue mana (at the least), but after that there's no end to the untapping shenanigans. It plays well with the inspired mechanic, and it plays great defense while you send your large man attacking, knowing that if you need a large blocker Kiora's Follower is there to bring him on home. In Commander, you've got no end of great things to untap. Now this is a five-star winner!
Okay, okay, I'm putting away my Captain Picard facepalm now that we finally got a green God worthy of worship. I can tell you that I'm playing around with a few copies of this in my Modern deck and am pretty stoked to get my hands on some actual copies. By now I'm sure you've heard a lot of good buzz about this guy, and I'm in total agreement. I'm going to work hard to acquire my playset of this guy for Standard (and for Modern) and enjoy smashing face with him for the foreseeable future!
A huge flavor win, even if it pales in comparison to Basilisk Collar. Still, if you're playing a deck with a fair amount of trampling beasties, sliding a Gorgon's Head beside the Basilisk Collar ain't a bad call.
Temple of Plenty, et. al
First off, hugely disappointed that they're making us wait until the last set of the block to round out the scry lands, especially since Golgari is still waiting. By now it's painfully obvious how good scry lands are and just how sucky the Guildgates are in comparison, so I'm still waiting to break out my Deathrite Shamans, my Lotleth Trolls, my Varolz, the Scar-Stripeds, my Reaper of the Wilds. No, I will not play them with Golgari Guildgate; it's just embarrassing, even more so now that AZORIUS got theirs!
What Born of the Gods cards are you excited about playing and in what formats? Let me know in the comments or reach out to me at the links below. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Facebook = Bennie Smith, Writer
Twitter = @blairwitchgreen
Email = email@example.com
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Blog = my fantasy and horror fiction writing
Complete Commander website = completecommander.com
Game of Thrones Ascent = friend request
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Marath, Will of the Wild (Wild About +1/+1 Counters)
- Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge (Suspension of Disbelief)
- Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)
- Roon of the Hidden Realm (Strolling Through Value Town)
- Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)
- Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)
- Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)
- Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)
- Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
- Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
- Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
- Marath, Will of the Wild (Juicing up the Naya Precon)
- Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)
- Nylea, God of the Hunt (Devoted to Green)
- Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)
- Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker (Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling)
- Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)
- Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)
- Aurelia, the Warleader (plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Yeva, Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)