Today I’m going to talk a little about the prerelease, with an analysis of each of the five colors, how they change from Theros to Born of the Gods, and an analysis of the five promo cards.
For the Born of the Gods prerelease, you’ll get three packs of Theros, two packs of Born of the Gods, and one colored pack of Born of the Gods—which is going to be mostly cards of the color you chose (but not entirely), plus the promo. In the color pack, you can have a God of that color but no other mythic rares.
In an ideal world, you end up playing the color you chose; you guarantee a good rare and a good amount of playables. For that reason, it’s better if the color you end up picking is also good in Theros, since half your packs are going to be from that set—it wouldn’t do to have great Born of the Gods cards from one color and then awesome Theros cards from three others. Now let’s go over the colors:
In Theros, white was good in draft, where you could amass a good combination of heroic guys and heroic enablers, but in Sealed deck you’re often going to be short on one of those things. Aggressive strategies in general are usually worse in Sealed, since you will not get the critical mass of aggressive cards that you’d need to be able to kill someone before their powerful cards start mattering, and since white is very aggressive in Theros it ends up suffering as a result. You can play white control, of course, and some pools will definitely have enough cards for a good heroic deck, but I’d say that, as a whole, white is the second color you’re least likely to play in a Theros Sealed, after red.
With Born of the Gods, nothing seems to change—white is still the heroic aggressive deck. [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd] used to be the best white common by a significant margin, and [ccProd]Akroan Skyguard[/ccProd] is not exactly the same—it’s better for your curve, but Wingsteed was somewhat of a threat on its own, whereas a 1/1 flier can largely be ignored, so you need an enchantment of some sort. The biggest issue with white decks in my opinion was not curve (they have a ton of guys at all points), but that the creatures had horrible base stats—being slightly ahead on the curve in exchange for even worse base stats is not a trade I’d like to make.
There are many cheap white tricks in this set, the best of which is probably [ccProd]Acolyte’s Reward[/ccProd]. Historically speaking this kind of effect has been game-breaking, and I don’t see why it’d be different here. It’s also interesting to note that you will always have two targets, so you can target two of your own guys to trigger heroic twice if you want, even if no damage is dealt.
The key for white decks is deciding whether you want to be aggressive or not, because the cards that are good in one archetype are generally not good in the other. In this set, it’s very easy to tell because the aggressive guys all have big power and the defensive guys all have big toughness. RW and GW are almost always aggressive, BW is almost always control, and UW can be both depending on what you have. What you can’t do is make the mistake of playing a card like [ccProd]Griffin Dreamfinder[/ccProd] in an aggro deck—you must decide which one you’re going to play and then dedicate completely to that because halfway white decks are bad.
The Promo[draft]Silent Sentinel[/draft]
The fact that two white decks exist is the main problem I have with the white promo, [ccProd]Silent Sentinel[/ccProd], since it’s only good in one of them (the control deck). Heroic aggro decks would not even play that card, and, since those are the best white decks, you run the risk of not being able to play your promo despite actually being in those colors (and God forbid you open a second one of them in your seeded pack).
If you are a control deck, the card is definitely powerful, and the fact that it flies means that once it untaps you can just keep doing it over and over, as it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to kill it in combat. At 6 toughness, it dodges most of the removal spells in the format and also survives [ccProd]Nessian Asp[/ccProd] combat if it’s not monstrous. Still, seven mana is a lot, and the card doesn’t do much more than what you’d expect of what is probably going to be the most expensive card in your deck.
Overall, I think white got worse than it was in Theros, and, since I didn’t like it much in Sealed to begin with, I’d stay away from it. The fact that the promo is not even good in the best white decks (seriously, if you have a good aggro deck, you don’t have to play it) is the icing on the cake for me.
Red is by far the worst color in Theros, and evidence of that can be seeing in the land station for GPs, where the unused lands pile is usually pretty even for every color except for Mountains, whose pile is twice that of every other land combined. Statistically speaking, you’re just less likely to play red than any other color in Theros because it just doesn’t offer much in quality or in quantity. Granted, you can splash some of the removal ([ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd], [ccProd]Rage of Purphoros[/ccProd] if you’re really desperate) but overall the red cards force you into an extremely aggressive position without the cards to properly support that strategy. The color is also awkwardly costed, with a lot of 3- and 4-drops and not much anywhere else.
I feel like red gets a boost with Born of the Gods—it gets [ccProd]Bolt of Keranos[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd], which are both worse than Lightning Strike but still good, as well as some solid cards like [ccProd]Kragma Butcher[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fearsome Temper[/ccProd]. The most interesting red card to me is [ccProd]Akroan Conscriptor[/ccProd]—you will never catch someone off-guard with it like you would with [ccProd]Grab the Reigns[/ccProd], for example, but the fact that it’s there means your opponents often just can’t attack if you have open mana because the effect is so devastating that they just won’t risk it.
Red also has some interesting tribute cards, most of which I’ll always play, but you need to be careful not to overvalue them; remember, the card is always going to be worse than whichever the worst option is. [ccProd]Thunder Brute[/ccProd] is a worse card than either 4RR 5/5 trample haste or 4RR 8/8 trample would be, and while it’s still good and I’ll still play it in almost all my red decks, you can’t look at those cards and think “either option would be a good card, so this card is good”—that’s not how it works.
The Promo[draft]Forgestoker Dragon[/draft]
The red promo, [ccProd]Forgestoker Dragon[/ccProd], is the best of the bunch by about as much as red is the worst color; 5/4 flying for 6 is definitely not a bad card (even if it dies to two common Theros removal spells), and the ability is very powerful, giving your pick of either killing off an utility guy or simply Faltering your opponent every turn; if you have six mana to play him, that’s three creatures that can’t block, so I can’t imagine many scenarios in which you’re ahead, you play this, it survives and you don’t immediately win the game next turn. It is a very one-dimensional card, but basically every heavy red deck is going to be aggressive, so that’s not an issue.
Theros black is pretty decent, with two common removal spells and some solid role-players, but its truly great common ([ccProd]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/ccProd]) is highly dependent on what else you get—you don’t want to play two Gray Merchants in a deck that ends up with two other black permanents, for example.
As a general rule, black decks in Theros aren’t super aggressive, with the exception of black/red which is very aggressive and may or may not have a Minotaurs theme. I am not a fan of the black/red decks in Sealed because I don’t think they’re fast enough unless you get a lot of cards that support the strategy, and unlike the heroic decks they don’t have a great way to break stalemates.
Born of the Gods black has a lot of removal spells, but they’re all conditional (-3/-3, -3/-2, has to be untapped)—nothing as straightforward as [ccProd]Sip of the Hemlock[/ccProd], but all a little cheaper. This stuff is mostly better for killing blockers than attackers, which would seem to support aggro black more, but they can all also be played in a slower deck. [ccProd]Spiteful Returned[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nyxborn Eidolon[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Forlorn Pseudamma[/ccProd] are all pretty decent and mostly aggressive (the first two, at least; the second one is going to be good in both decks i think), which makes me think we might see a shift in black’s role when it’s not paired with red, and more decks like Tom Martell’s BW Heroic winning list might start showing up.
The Promo[draft]Eater of Hope[/draft]
The black promo, [ccProd]Eater of Hope[/ccProd], is probably the most powerful to have in play but also the most vulnerable. It costs seven, like the white one, but doesn’t actually block well the turn it comes into play, which is a huge drawback. It regenerates, but then you have to play it with eight mana, and that doesn’t even stop two of the common removal spells that kill it, [ccProd]Lash of the Whip[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Rage of Purphoros[/ccProd] (yeah, it has a “can’t regenerate” clause. Was mostly irrelevant in Theros, but seems more relevant now). If you can play it in those epic stalled boards where everyone has ten creatures in play then it seems pretty good, but it’s a very far cry from [ccProd]Abhorrent Overlord[/ccProd]. Also the fact that most of the black cards in the set seem to be geared towards aggression doesn’t bode well for a seven-drop which many black decks would probably not even want to play.
Green was really powerful in Theros sealed, and I think it’s a consensus that blue and green were the two best colors. It is great because it offers under-costed monsters (the best of which is [ccProd]Nessian Asp[/ccProd]), as well as cheap solid guys at all points in the curve (which is not the case with, for example, red). You can pair green with any color and any strategy and it’s usually going to be good, aggressively or defensively.
In Born of the Gods, things don’t seem very different. There are less gigantic guys at common, but you still have a solid repertoire of creatures for every point of the curve, with some individual cards standing out, like [ccProd]Pheres-Band Tromper[/ccProd]. The key to inspired guys is whether they can attack or not—there are some cards that let you tap them without attacking, but I think there aren’t any combos that are really worth it unless the cards are individually good. At 3/3 for 4, Tromper will usually be able to attack for the first time (especially if you’re on the play) and once that happens he’s already a fantastic deal.
Another interesting card is [ccProd]Setessan Oathsworn[/ccProd], the green Akroan Skyguard—the same as [ccProd]Staunch-Hearted Warrior[/ccProd], but costing one less and having -1/-1. The difference is that green is not lacking in bodies, so I think paying one less for one less power and toughness is actually worth it—the card is basically a blank without an enhancement anyway, so I might as well pay less for it (though it does require two heroic triggers to get going whereas the Warriors are already good with one).
One card I don’t like much is [ccProd]Setessan Starbreaker[/ccProd]; people look at it and they see “2-for-1!” but by the time you want the effect a 2/1 body is largely irrelevant and definitely not worth a card (the same way [ccProd]Hopeful Eidolon[/ccProd] is not a “2-for-1”). I think the surprise factor of being instant speed, as well as being able to kill the bestow guys even if they are not bestowed, makes any other enchantment removal spell a better option for the main deck.
The Promo[draft]Nessian Wilds Ravager[/draft]
The green promo is not bad; it’s just a big guy, which is good because green decks always want some amount of big guys. If they can deal with a big guy, then it’s just going to be a 12/12 that dies; if they can’t deal with a 6/6, then it’s just going to be a 12/12, because they’ll have to chump block anyway. If they can deal with a 6/6 but not with a 12/12 they might let you [ccProd]Nekrataal[/ccProd] one of their guys away, though.
Blue in Theros is very powerful, and like green it can be played in an aggressive or defensive deck. Blue offers two common bounce spells, which are huge in a format where everyone is trying to enchant or monstrous their creatures, and you also have a great common that is able to break stalemates in [ccProd]Nimbus Naiad[/ccProd], and overall a solid curve, so there isn’t much more to ask for.
Born of the Gods brings another bounce in [ccProd]Retraction Helix[/ccProd], and one that happens to trigger heroic for that matter, which can prove to be an immensely swing-y combat trick for only one mana. Also worth noting that it combos with anything that untaps your guys, such as [ccProd]Kiora’s Follower[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Triton Tactics[/ccProd], as well as enabling inspired. This might be the best common in the set.
Blue also seems to have more fliers than it did before, including an enchantment that cantrips and gives a guy flying. Pair that with [ccProd]Sudden Storm[/ccProd], the new [ccProd]Blinding Beam[/ccProd], and it seems to me like aggro blue decks got enough cards to remain good. Blue control did well for itself too, since [ccProd]Nyxborn Triton[/ccProd] is the best of the common vanilla bestows, even if it’s not super exciting, and I think [ccProd]Aerie Worshippers[/ccProd] is the best of the inspired guys that make tokens. 2/4 can often attack and not die, and if you make one token out of it then that’s already a good deal, especially considering you’re going to have a 2/4 to block while you attack in the air. Blue also has the best way to tap it in Retraction Helix.[ccProd]Nullify[/ccProd] is also a pretty interesting card, and I think it’s going to be better than [ccProd]Dissolve[/ccProd] in most decks that aren’t trying to assemble a big heroic guy with a lot of enchantments (in those, Dissolve is probably better since it counters their way to stop it, but in all likelihood you don’t want either). In Sealed, you’re assured the opponent is going to have a six- or seven-mana bomb, since everyone gets one, so I’d usually maindeck Nullify in any deck whose main color is blue, unless I’m very aggressive. So far, the only department I see blue lacking in is rares; all of them seem to cost a million mana for a not so great effect.
The Promo[draft]Arbiter of the Ideal[/draft]
The blue promo, [ccProd]Arbiter of the Ideal[/ccProd], is a fine card; the body is good and the ability could be relevant. It’s annoying that it takes so long to actually do something (you need to play it, it survives, it attacks, and then it survives yet another turn and you maybe get an effect?) but drawing like 80% of a card every time you attack is certainly not a bad thing. I’d usually play it in blue aggro decks, but if I’m UW Heroic with a very good curve then I might leave it in the sideboard, though that’s not as big a deal as it is with white since most blue decks will be control.
What to Choose?
So, in the end, what would I choose? I think that, If you want to win the prerelease, green and blue are realistically the only choices; they’re the two best colors in Theros and arguably the best two in Born of the Gods as well. With those two colors, you’re guaranteed to play your promo, since they can be played in both aggressive and controllish decks, and you can pair them with anything and any kind of card you open. Green and blue are also the colors I think are the most fun to play in Theros, so it’s perfect that I think they’re also the best—makes my choice really easy.
The other colors are, in my opinion, very far behind in terms of playability. With red, you get the best promo but the color is simply not good and you might not even have enough playables to play it; with black and white, you get seven-drops that you might not even want to play in an aggressive deck. Overall there is much that can go wrong if you pick those colors and the payout is not high at all from a competitive standpoint.
Well, that’s what I have for today; I hope you’ve enjoyed it, see you next week!