A couple of months ago, I offered my pick order list for triple-Theros draft. Since then, a new set has been released, and today I’ll present a pick order list for Born of the Gods.
The goal of a pick order list is to rank all the cards for the purpose of the first-pick-first-pack decision. The list shouldn’t be followed thoughtlessly for the duration of the entire draft, as card valuations depend on what you’ve drafted so far. After all, assembling a deck with synergies, a good mana curve, and a game plan is the key to success in draft. Nevertheless, a pick order list is a good way to convey how powerful each card roughly is, and it is useful to guide the first pick of the draft.
The list in this article is based on my own preferences, experiences, and ideas. However, it is heavily influenced by discussions with other members of Team ChannelFireball. On the Wednesday before the Pro Tour, we sat down and talked about all of the top cards in Born of the Gods. Luis guided the discussion with the help of a flipover, with unnecessary arrows to confuse everyone, of course:
The Pro Tour went fairly well for me, as I posted a 5-1 record in the Limited portion. My draft decks looked like steaming piles, but I somehow managed to win a bunch of matches nevertheless. Case in point: My 3-0 deck ran a [ccProd]Crackling Triton[/ccProd] without access to red mana, a [ccProd]Great Hart[/ccProd], and a [ccProd]Silent Artisan[/ccProd]. Vanilla team for the win, I guess.
The Pick Order List
Before I get to the list, I have a few words on how to interpret everything.
First, the list is intended for a regular Born/Theros/Theros draft and does not take the monetary value of a card into account. Feel free to take [ccProd]Satyr Firedancer[/ccProd] higher if you want a free event ticket, but that’s not what I’m interested in.
Second, the list is influenced by my color ranking. I consider white to be the strongest color, and I prefer to draft aggressive UW, GW, or GU heroic decks. Those decks had the best records in our practice drafts for Pro Tour Born of the Gods, and they feature the most synergy and raw power. White/red heroic and green/red midrange also did well, but red is a dangerous color to draft, as it is not deep at all in the Theros boosters. Accordingly, if a pick is close, I’ll take a green, blue, or white card over a black or red card. [ccProd]Fall of the Hammer[/ccProd] might have been the best common if red were deeper in Theros, but that is not the world we live in.
My color preferences also mean that a card like [ccProd]Sudden Storm[/ccProd] is much higher than you might expect. This tempo card does not synergize very well with black or red creature removal spells, but it is exactly what you want in a blue/green or blue/white deck filled with creatures but no hard removal spells. Besides, the Sudden Storm effect is huge in this Voltron format: Tapping down creatures is sometimes even better than killing them, as any auras bestowed onto them will be locked down, too.
When looking through the list, you may be surprised to learn that “bomb” rares like [ccProd]Phenax, God of Deception[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Tromokratis[/ccProd] are ranked fairly low. There are several reasons for that. First off, this Limited format is fast, and expensive cards are plentiful. Most games end around turns 7-9, and you will often be stuck with a 6- or 7-drop in your hand when a game finishes. Moreover, there are many 5+ drops to go around, and since you don’t want to play too many in your deck, I prioritize cheap creatures over late-game bombs. You should also keep in mind that win conditions often look better than they are when they win the game. Phenax is an impressive win condition in stalemates, but rarely helps you get back in the game when you are behind. Like most Gods, it’s difficult to turn on, and usually doesn’t impact the board when it comes down. Sometimes, all you need to stabilize is a blocker or a removal spell, and Phenax is not what you want to see in those situations.
In the case of Phenax, there is another reason for its low ranking: It is a multicolored card. Recall that my pick order list is meant to guide the first-pick-first-pack decision. And for the first pick of the draft, I prefer to stay flexible by picking a single-colored card over a slightly stronger multicolored card. I don’t want to commit to two colors right away, as I have no way of knowing whether or not those colors are open. The single-colored card has a much higher chance of ending up in the final draft deck. So, multicolored cards are rated slightly lower than their raw power level might suggest.
Enough caveats; on with the list! Although my ranking is only really useful for the top cards—you’re never going to have to decide between [ccProd]Fearsome Temper[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Aspect of Hydra[/ccProd] for the first pick of the draft—I did rank all the 165 cards in Born of the Gods. Here we go:
So, according to my list, the best rare is [ccProd]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/ccProd], the best uncommon is [ccProd]Ornitharch[/ccProd], and the best common is [ccProd]Akroan Skyguard[/ccProd]. The worst card for Limited is [ccProd]Heroes’ Podium[/ccProd]. As this list was comprehensive, I expect that everyone reading this will have some divergent card evaluations, and I hope it leads to an interesting discussion in the comments below.
Twenty Thoughts on Drafting with Born of the Gods
In line with tradition, I have 20 quick thoughts on card interactions and the draft format.
1.) [ccProd]Last Breath[/ccProd] becomes much better once you have [ccProd]Deepwater Hypnotist[/ccProd] in play. Suppose that you’ve hit your opponent with the Hypnotist, and on their turn they play a 5/5 creature. You can then untap the Hypnotist, turn the opposing monster into a 2/5, and take it out with Last Breath. While the [ccProd]Lost in the Labyrinth[/ccProd]/[ccProd]Last Breath[/ccProd] combo was already available in Theros, you can now you assemble it via a playable card!
2.) Remember that [ccProd]Glimpse the Sun God[/ccProd] can also tap your own [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Aerie Worshippers[/ccProd] to get value off of their heroic or inspired triggers.
3.) I like the design of [ccProd]Stratus Walk[/ccProd] because it can be used in many different ways. You can make your own creature evasive, you can make an opposing creature unable to block, or you can go nuts with [ccProd]Floodtide Serpent[/ccProd]. But watch out: When you have enchanted your own creature with Stratus Walk, don’t try to untap it with [ccProd]Crypsis[/ccProd] to ambush a ground creature—that doesn’t work. My favorite combo with Stratus Walk is to use it in conjunction with [ccProd]Bow of Nylea[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Shredding Winds[/ccProd]. This is very useful if your opponent is pressuring you with a creature like [ccProd]Forlorn Pseudamma[/ccProd].
4.) While I think most of my ratings of the Theros cards are still accurate, I have been picking the combat tricks, heroic creatures, and bestow creatures in Theros more highly since I made that list. This is also in line with my preference for drafting aggressive, tempo-based G/W/U heroic decks.
5.) Blue/red is easily the worst color combination in BTT draft. There’s no synergy, no good gold cards, no devotion or heroic synergies to build around, and it rarely wins. Avoid it if possible. However, if you do end up in this color combination, then try to assemble the combo of [ccProd]Flamespeaker Adept[/ccProd] plus [ccProd]Stormcaller of Keranos[/ccProd]. It is quite powerful in the late game.
6.) Inspired creatures work nicely with [ccProd]Savage Surge[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Triton Tactics[/ccProd] from the Theros booster. A nice trick to keep in mind is that if you conscript an inspired creature with [ccProd]Akroan Conscriptor[/ccProd], you (and not your opponent) get the untap trigger.
7.) If you have six mana in play and [ccProd]Chronicler of Heroes[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Reap What is Sown[/ccProd] in hand, then you can play Chronicler, respond to its enters-the-battlefield trigger, and draw a card. Similarly, if you play Chronicler of Heroes with [ccProd]Phalanx Leader[/ccProd] in play, you can profitably use [ccProd]Dauntless Onslaught[/ccProd] with the enters-the-battlefield trigger on the stack.
8.) Sideboard, sideboard, sideboard. I have the habit of writing down all the cards my opponents play (including power/toughness of creatures) while they’re thinking, and then look at those notes while sideboarding. If possible, I try to adjust my creature base so it matches up better against theirs. A 2/4 creature is great against a deck filled with [ccProd]Grizzly Bears[/ccProd], for instance. In this regard, I view [ccProd]Great Hart[/ccProd] as a more valuable sideboard card than [ccProd]Gainsay[/ccProd]. Also, by having a bunch of mediocre creatures in your sideboard, you can do some crazy stuff like board out all of your 2-toughness creatures against the double [ccProd]Magma Jet[/ccProd] deck.
9.) [ccProd]Vortex Elemental[/ccProd] is generally worse than [ccProd]Sedge Scorpion[/ccProd], but it can dominate a game if you can beef it up with, say, an Ordeal. Once Vortex Elemental grows to a 3/4, you can use its five-mana ability to eat freshly cast weenies on the opponent’s side of the board.
10.) Usually, I want to have at least 6 cards that I can play on the first two turns of the game, which implies that I tend to pick 2-drops quite highly. I try to have at most 5 cards that cost five mana or more.
11.) [ccProd]Satyr Wayfinder[/ccProd] is best in black/green decks, but even if I’m not black, I always like to pick one in case I see [ccProd]Nemesis of Mortals[/ccProd] in Theros. Turn two Satyr Wayfinder, turn 3 Nemesis of Mortals is far from an impossible opening, especially if you can chumpblock with the Wayfinder on turn two.
12.) In Born of the Gods, there are many great uncommons, but the top commons are not as good as [ccProd]Nimbus Naiad[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nessian Asp[/ccProd], [ccProd]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd]. Moreover, it always seems like the packs dry up pretty quickly in Born of the Gods—after pick six or so, you’re often scrounging for playables. As a result, drafters are frequently not seeing any incentive to switch colors, and it often happens that two players are drafting the same colors next to each other.
13.) For the first couple of picks of a draft, I usually just pick the best card in any color. If a pick is close, I’ll stick to a color that I have been picking earlier, but I do like to stay flexible early on. This allows me to move in to any color if it turns out to be underdrafted or if I open a bomb rare like [ccProd]Stormbreath Dragon[/ccProd]. It also allows me to smoothly get out of a color if I suspect my right neighbor is drafting that color. Frequently, I postpone choosing my two main colors until pick 16-17.
14.) I usually leave [ccProd]Lightning Volley[/ccProd] in my sideboard unless I have token generators (like [ccProd]Vanguard of Brimaz[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Akroan Crusader[/ccProd]) or deathtouch creatures. However, if I have drafted [ccProd]Archetype of Finality[/ccProd], then Lightning Volley will always make my deck, as that can lead to some incredible blowouts.
15.) Notable Humans from Born of the Gods that work well with [ccProd]Cavalry Pegasus[/ccProd] are [ccProd]Elite Skirmisher[/ccProd], [ccProd]Aerie Worshippers[/ccProd], and [ccProd]God-Favored General[/ccProd]. The inspired creatures in general work pretty well with Cavalry Pegasus, as giving them evasion is a nice way of ensuring that they survive combat.
16.) There are many good common 1-toughness creatures in Born of the Gods, including heroic creatures (e.g., [ccProd]Akroan Skyguard[/ccProd], [ccProd]Elite Skirmisher[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Setessan Oathsworn[/ccProd]) and bestow creatures (e.g., [ccProd]Nyxborn Wolf[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nyxborn Eidolon[/ccProd], [ccProd]Everflame Eidolon[/ccProd]). Although Theros was not devoid of 1-toughness creatures—the set contained [ccProd]Vaporkin[/ccProd], [ccProd]Blood-Toll Harpy[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Sedge Scorpion[/ccProd]—they are more prevalent in Born of the Gods. As a result, [ccProd]Spark Jolt[/ccProd] has gotten better, and I’ll happily play one maindeck right now.
17.) This is a two-color format. I prefer a more consistent mana base over more powerful cards. I rarely splash a third color, unless I have some fixing and don’t have double mana costs in both of my colors. I recently started streaming some Magic Online again, and in one tournament I had a blue/white Sealed deck with [ccProd]Kiora, the Crashing Wave[/ccProd] in the sideboard. Several viewers recommended a splash, but I had an aggressive deck with double-white and double-blue color requirements in [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Prescient Chimera[/ccProd], so I felt that cutting any Island or Plains for a Forest would substantially weaken my deck.
18.) [ccProd]Master of Waves[/ccProd] can be just as powerful in Limited as in Constructed, but watch out for combat tricks. Always think about the worst thing that could happen if you attack or block with it. Speaking from experience: If you attack, then [ccProd]Coordinated Assault[/ccProd] could turn an otherwise lethal attack into a game loss. And if you block an [ccProd]Ill-Tempered Cyclops[/ccProd], facing an untapped white and red mana, don’t make the block under the impression that nothing can go wrong with the pro-red creature. I learned the hard way that [ccProd]Acolyte’s Reward[/ccProd] is a thing in this format.
19.) [ccProd]Chromanticore[/ccProd] is not worth it. Sure, if it stays alive it wins the game, but it is very difficult to cast, and extremely easy to remove. It dies to any enchantment removal spell, and [ccProd]Dark Betrayal[/ccProd], [ccProd]Gainsay[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Glare of Heresy[/ccProd] can all answer it from the sideboard. In testing for the Pro Tour, we kept track of which decks went 0-3, and the “5-color Baneslayer” archetype was right up there with other monstrosities like “UGR 20-lands crap,” “BRgw worst deck of all time,” and “Mono-Black trainwreck splash Ephara.” Don’t try this if you want to win your draft.
20.) The number one item on my BTT bucket list is to cast [ccProd]Breaching Hippocamp[/ccProd] when I have [ccProd]Felhide Spiritbinder[/ccProd] enchanted with [ccProd]Karametra’s Favor[/ccProd] in play. Although it’s not an infinite combo like [ccProd]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/ccProd] plus [ccProd]Pestermite[/ccProd], it does allow you to make a hasty 3/2 creature for every spare mana you have lying around. Definitely a cool way to win the game.
I’ll be back in two weeks to report on my experiences at Grand Prix Vienna and to share my thoughts on the Sealed Deck format. (Spoiler: there’s not a big difference between Sealed and Draft in this format. Sealed decks are a bit slower and less synergistic, but the games still usually resolve around tempo, and I recommend playing first.) Good luck if you are going to compete in any PTQs!