Last week I looked at how Born of the Gods has influenced Standard. This week I want to return to Limited. I like the newest-to-oldest drafting order we’ve had since Scars of Mirrodin, since it forces you to re-evaluate existing cards in a new context. Obviously that card evaluation from the big set is still useful in later months as those packs are still drafted. However, there is a difference between 2nd and 3rd pack picks and 1st pack picks.

In the 2nd/3rd packs you already have a strategy and colors you are working on. Thus while you might open a Keepsake Gorgon, you aren’t going to take it over the Battlewise Hoplite if you are solidly in UW Heroic.

P1p1, on the other hand, is the exciting moment where you take a plunge. You want to take the best card in the pack and hope you get to draft around it. Sometimes it turns out that colour isn’t open and you end up switching away from it while it sits sadly in your sideboard. It’s for this reason that I tend to treat 1st/2nd/3rd pick of pack 1 all as first picks. I just take the strongest/best card as I figure out what I’m actually being passed (see previous article on not over-interpreting early passes for signals).

As such, today I want to talk about what I think are the three priority picks in each color in Born of the Gods. These are cards that I would very strongly consider taking (and thus consider a signal if I get passed them). I’ve decided to only do commons and uncommons for this as you see many more of them than you do rares or mythics. As a bonus feature, though, I have decided to talk about the most underrated rare in each color; interestingly they each have at least one that I think is dismissed too often.

White

1.) Akroan Skyguard

No one is going to be surprised by this one. Akroan Skyguard is probably the best common heroic creature out there. It’s like Wingsteed Rider but less restrictive on mana cost, {W} as opposed to {W}{W}, and comes down a turn earlier. Sure, it’s only a 1/1 as opposed to a 2/2, but heroic decks are normally concentrated on making stuff bigger and are reliant on closing out games quickly. As such, costing one less is much more significant for the deck’s game plan as this creature can start growing (and swinging in) on turn 3.

This card is the cause of a problem I repeatedly see in BNG draft where there appears to be no white in pack 1, and then a ton in pack 2. This is because everyone first picks a white card and then sees no more so they all switch away. Then one drafter profits by sticking with it. While I have selected 3 cards from each color to talk about, White was by far the trickiest color to do this for, as there are so many really strong cards (hence the overdrafting issue).

2.) Akroan Phalanx

This card can be tricky. You really want to be RW for this card as you want to be able to activate the ability multiple times. If you are though, it is really, really good. He is fine in a white, non-red deck as a 3/3 vigilance for 4 but that’s not really what I want from a first pick. If I am taking this card, it’s with the intent of going RW. I would absolutely still first pick it even with the issue of needing to be in red for it to be worth it, because if you are then the power level is very, very high which is exactly the sort of risk/reward you want from a first pick. Returning to my earlier point about priorities shifting from 2nd packs, this card won’t be nearly as pickable once we have <i>Journey into Nyx</i>, as only people in RW will want it.

3.) Ornitharch

While Akroan Skyguard and Akroan Phalanx are both suited to more aggressive decks, this pick is different (and my favorite). While you can run it as the curve topper on a heroic deck, I prefer to use it as a value card in a more controlling or midrange deck—preferably BW so you get to play with Scholar of Athreos.

And the most undervalued rare is: Spirit of the Labyrinth

I’m not saying you should first pick it, but let’s just break this card down. It’s a 3/1 for 2 mana. I would take Swordwise Centaur, a 3/2 for 2, quite highly and the {G}{G} is much more annoying than 1{W} in Limited. Who cares that it’s vanilla apart from that? (Though occasionally you get to shut off a Divination or Read the Bones, which is hilarious). White lends itself to aggressive decks and a 3/1 for 2 is perfect for that. This card definitely goes too late for its statline.

Blue

1.) Siren of the Fanged Coast

Initially I thought this card was a bit rubbish for its cost. However, I had missed one key fact: while my opponent gets to choose if I get a 4/4 or a 1/1 with “Mind Control” attached. I get to pick which creature I take. As such, if they have a good creature I get a 4/4 flier—which might just outclass/outrace their creature anyway—or I get a 2-for-1 of my choice. Notably, unlike Mind Control, the theft doesn’t have the additional clause of returning to its owner if the Siren dies so it’s yours for good. So while Tribute has the downside of letting your opponent pick the outcome better for them, I feel Siren is a lose-lose card for my opponent and I would definitely first pick it.

2.) Aerie Worshippers

I haven’t actually gotten to play with these yet. Probably because everyone is first picking them, with good reason. Fliers are always a safe beat in Limited, and a reasonably costed ground-blocker that makes “free” fliers is a no brainer. Unlike some Inspired cards, it doesn’t suffer too much from the inability to get in, as a 2/4 doesn’t trade easily with many other creatures, so even if it’s only bouncing you still get to start amassing an army of Birds.

3.) Sudden Storm

I actually had difficulty with the final card for blue. I think Retraction Helix and Sudden Storm are both amazing, Sudden Storm being slightly better in a vacuum, but Helix being sweeter in combination with Wavecrash Triton and other heroic effects. However, these cards go so late! No one seems to value them. I have to admit I probably wouldn’t first pick either (except from a weakish pack) but I’m seeing them on the wheel! So I’ve included Sudden Storm on my top 3 picks from blue even if no one else is.

And the most underrated rare is: Tromokratis

While he costs 7 he does essentially win the game unless you are very behind. I would first-pick this card every time, yet I’ve seen it go 5th pick?! Guess some people really hate blue control/UG Ramp in this format…

Black

1.) Shrike Harpy

Like Siren of the Fanged Coast this card is either a sweet 4/4 flier or it’s 2/2 flier with Diabolic Edict attached. Unfortunately this time your opponent get to pick the creature they’re going to lose, making it a slightly weaker card than the Siren. Regardless, I really like this card and would first pick it all day.

2.) Bile Blight

A solid removal spell with the potential for bonus value. Removal is always a good plan in Limited and 3 toughness is a common number in THS/BNG so you should be able to kill something relevant. Because it also gives -3 power, you can probably pull off some combat trick stunt to kill bigger creatures as well at no additional cost to yourself. Its only downside is the double-colored mana symbols making it awkward to cast, but I’ve had great success with this card.

3.) Servant of Tymaret?

Okay, this last card brings me to an important point. Of all the colors black was the most lackluster in priority picks. I genuinely couldn’t find a third card I would be willing to spend my first pick on. I love Servant of Tymaret but I wouldn’t first pick it. I find black tends to be quite open in BNG (unlike white) and perhaps this is why. It has a slew of middle-ish picks but not many you would pick up early.

And the most underrated rare is: Fate Unraveler

This card is perfect in a deck with a slow game plan. A 3/4 for 4 is a serious road block for many decks. Many people think the ability is mediocre in Limited but they couldn’t be more wrong! That one damage a turn is a surprisingly good clock. The body is also awkward to remove (dodging most burn spells) and players don’t want to use unconditional removal on it. In the meantime it slowly ticks away at their life while preserving yours with its big backside. I really like it in the BW decks as Scholar complements its strategy well but I’d also run it in a UB fliers/evasion deck as it holds the ground nicely while still providing damage. I used to say I wouldn’t first pick this card, but after seeing it perform a few times I’m seriously considering doing so the next time I open one, and in the meantime I’ll keep getting them passed to me.

Red

1.) Everflame Eidolon

On an empty board this card goes nuts, dealing insane damage. On a non-empty board it’ll always trade (assuming you have enough red mana). Its bestow cost is very cheap, making it a nice heroic enabler. Assuming you do bestow it (which you should) it’ll trade twice (if it doesn’t kill them). That’s good value in my book.

2.) Fall of the Hammer

This card is rapidly becoming the bane of my life. It always crushed my hopes and dreams. It’s so good! It’s a removal spell, in red, at instant speed. Ah, you say, but it needs a big enough creature. That’s no so hard; any 3-power dude will do for most things. Further, because it’s an instant, you can pull off shenanigans in combat. It’s also rather good with deathtouch creatures. Unlike Time to Feed the other creature doesn’t get to do damage back, so Baleful Eidolon and Sedge Scorpion live on to kill another thing. I like Time to Feed, but Fall of the Hammer makes it look terrible. In short, this card, so good, much death, pick first, wow.

3.) Satyr Nyx-Smith

I also strongly considered Akroan Conscriptor for this slot as that card is really good as well. On a side note while white has lots of very strong picks it appears red does too, it’s just drafted less. Why? Well, the heroic deck is more nuts than any red deck if you get to draft it. But also I think people remember the relative weakness of red in Theros and thus still avoid it.

Back to Satyr Nyx-Smith. Do I really need to say much? This card is very strong in the aggressive decks and unlike many inspired cards doesn’t take several turns to get going as it has haste. I’m surprised to have not seen more of this card yet in Constructed but I’m sure its time will come, and in the meantime it’s still an excellent first pick in draft.

And the most underrated rare is:

Well, actually, there wasn’t one for Red, but there was a really overrated rare: Oracle of Bones

People seem to love this card! Let me summarize: It is a 3/1 for 4 with haste and an otherwise blank text box. That is it. That’s fine and all, but it’s not a first pick. Unlike many of the tribute cards, design seem to have completely fluffed the balance on this one between the two modes. In Limited I don’t expect you to have a card I ever care about you casting with its ability. Sure you might be able to gain some tempo but a lot of the time my opponents don’t even have a spell! Or they use a burn spell at a sub-optimal moment to try to get their value! Or even worse they put really expensive spells in their decks to try to get value. On the other hand, if you ever see this card in Constructed you should always give them a 5/3 because they must be playing it for the shenanigans, and a random 5/3 for 4 is no worse than a Desecration Demon. This card is too obvious to deal with and I don’t see why people rate it so highly.

Green

1.) Noble Quarry

This card is far and away the best green common in BNG and I would first pick it all day every day. Prized Unicorn was mediocre for several reasons: first, your opponent could see it coming and plan ahead. Second, it was a one-shot deal. If you didn’t kill your opponent on that one swing then it wasn’t really worth it a lot of the time.

Noble Quarry is different. Because you can bestow it you get to surprise your opponent. This can let you trade several things for your one Unicorn-ised (it’s a word, trust me. It means to turn something into a Unicorn…) creature as your opponent has to throw everything under the bus, plus you get a bunch of free damage in. This removes the danger of the swing back as you just got to kill off a whole section of you opponent’s forces and then next turn you still have the same effect. If two free swings from most of your team don’t get there when you are playing green then I’m very surprised.

One of the best creatures to Unicorn-ise is Sedge Scorpion. You get to kill two creatures and all your other (presumably more powerful) creatures get in for free. So. Much. Value.

2.) Graverobber Spider

Nothing else in green has quite the same power level as the Unicorn but I really like Graverobber Spider. It’s a Giant Spider, which has always been a solid pick in Limited and will hold off most fliers in this format. Beyond this, its ability is eminently splashable, so you don’t have to commit to GB off the bat. That ability, by the way, is insane in the late-game and works well with Satyr Wayfinder (who also likes to hang out with Nemesis of Mortals and Pharika’s Mender). I didn’t appreciate this card’s power early in the set but I would now strongly consider it as my first pick.

3.) Pheres-Band Tromper

Like with black this was another tricky 3rd card. I also like Nyxborn Wolf. The Wolf and Pheres-Band Tromper can both have big impacts on a game and yet I would be unlikely to actually first pick either as I suspect there would be something that little bit better. I went with the Tromper because it can quickly become an unstoppable force on its own if left unchecked, and so probably deserves to go earlier in draft pick orders than it currently does but, still, not quite as awe-inspiring as Ornitharch.

And the most underrated rare is: Hunter’s Prowess.

Okay, seriously people this card says “draw that many cards.” Drawing cards in Magic is good. So why pass this card? Ah, you say, but you have to be able to get in.

1. It gives the creature trample so you definitely get some damage through.
2. You get to time when you use it so that you’re not blown out by a removal spell.

THIS CARD IS AMAZING WHY WOULD YOU PASS IT EVER! This card wins games hands down. Who cares if you only drew 3 cards because they chumped it with their 2/2? Now you paid 5 mana to: draw 3 cards, kill a creature, and do 3 damage… I think it’s worth it.

Multicolored cards I would first pick Fanatic of Xenagos and Siren of the Fanged Coast.

I’m going to wrap this up here. Do you thing I’ve missed an obvious first pick? Add your thoughts to the comments below or Tweet them to me @onionpixie. See you next week.