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Frank Analysis – Standard Thoughts on Born of the Gods

The entire Born of the Gods spoiler has been spoiled, so it’s time to analyze its impact on Standard. Today, I’ll go over some of the most important cards for existing Standard decks and brew new decks around [card]Pain Seer[/card] and [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card].

When considering a new set, I always tend to focus on costs that cost three mana or less. In my experience, the lower the mana cost, the higher the impact on Constructed formats. Cards with high mana cost may be splashy and exciting, but there is rarely a shortage of quality 4- or 5-drops. For example, replacing [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] with [card]Xenagos, God of Revels[/card] (if that switch is even correct) is unlikely to make much of a difference. You just replace one good card with another. In contrast, there tends to be less redundancy of cheap spells and lands, so those cards fill important gaps. With that in mind, the cards that stand out to me the most (besides [card]Pain Seer[/card] and [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]) are the following:

[ccProd]Bile Blight[/ccProd]

[draft]bile blight[/draft] [card]Bile Blight[/card] is the spot removal spell Mono-Black was waiting for. A big challenge in Standard was to find a removal spell that could deal with [card]Mutavault[/card], [card]Pack Rat[/card], [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], and [card]Master of Waves[/card]. [card]Doom Blade[/card] and [card]Ultimate Price[/card] could only target a subset of those creatures, so the generally accepted wisdom was to max out on either [card]Devour Flesh[/card] or [card]Last Breath[/card]. However, [card]Devour Flesh[/card] does not always devour the creature you want to get rid of, and [card]Last Breath[/card] has its downsides as well: it doesn’t target [card]Lyev Skyknight[/card] or [card]Boon Satyr[/card], requires a white splash, and is weak in a damage race. [card]Bile Blight[/card] solves all of those problems at once, and I expect most Mono-Black decks will be happy to include four copies. Out with 2 [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] and 2 [card]Devour Flesh[/card]—in with 4 [card]Bile Blight[/card]!

In addition to answering key creatures like [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], [card]Bile Blight[/card] also fights [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] and [card]Assemble the Legion[/card] quite well. Against those token generators, Bile Blight clears the way, which makes [card]Desecration Demon[/card] a happy Demon.

On top of all that, [card]Bile Blight[/card] is an incredible answer to [card]Pack Rat[/card] in the mirror match. This may have various effects on post-sideboarded games. Mono-Black players might max out on [card]Duress[/card], might plan to target their own Rat with [card]Dark Betrayal[/card] to counter Bile Blight, might play a more cautious game with their [card]Pack Rat[/card], or simply board down to fewer copies. One way or another, the dynamic of the mirror match will change.

The only problem of Bile Blight is that it doesn’t reliably kill 4+ toughness creatures like [card]Frostburn Weird[/card], [card]Brimaz King of Oreskos[/card], or [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card]. Interestingly, this implies that when you’re playing against Mono-Black, it may be better to run [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] out there on turn two rather than [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card] or [card]Ash Zealot[/card]. Definitely something to keep in mind for blue and red devotion players.

Finally, I want to remind you that [card]Bile Blight[/card] affects all creatures with the same name, even your own. A couple weeks ago at the Modern Grand Prix in Prague, a well-known pro cast [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card] on an opposing [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], completely forgetting that it would also destroy his own. As he was at 3 life with [card]Dark Confidant[/card] in play, he really needed that Ooze for the life gain, and almost lost the game because of that mistake. Don’t let that happen to you! Always double-check to see whether you have a creature with the same name in play as well. Nevertheless, the ability to sweep multiple creatures will typically be a huge upside. If you ever hit two creatures with Bile Blight, it will be hard to lose that game. To avoid being blown out by [card]Bile Blight[/card] (or [card]Detention Sphere[/card], for that matter) it may be wise to construct decks in which you run non-essential cards as 3-ofs rather than 4-ofs.

[ccProd]Drown in Sorrow[/ccProd]

[draft]Drown in Sorrow[/draft]

[card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] is a great sweeper against aggro decks with [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] or [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card]. This doesn’t mean that aggro is dead, though. When playing against a deck with [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] after sideboarding, aggro players have various options available to them: They can ignore it, play a conservative game, or board into a different deck. Ignoring Drown in Sorrow equates to the risky all-in plan of simply casting all of your creatures; such a play is often the best path when you have a threat-light hand that won’t be able to beat Drown in Sorrow anyway. Playing a conservative game would come down to offering up only two creatures to the sweeper at all times; this is typically the best route when you have a decent hand that is still capable of winning after a resolved Drown in Sorrow. Finally, boarding into a different deck could be achieved by taking out 1-drops or 2-drops in favor of beefier creatures (such as [card]Deathbellow Raider[/card] or [card]Frostburn Weird[/card]) and/or big 4-mana or 5-mana threats that don’t care about Drown in Sorrow. And an extra land. I like lands.

Even though aggro players can (and probably should) adjust, I expect [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] to be a great addition to the sideboard of Mono-Black, where it can function as a one-sided [card]Wrath of God[/card]. Moreover, I think it will be a boon to the Dimir Control archetype that Shouta Yasooka piloted to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Shizuoka. Dimir Control had a hard time dealing with a fast creature onslaught from red or white aggro decks, and it now gets a nice sweeper. Besides shoring up the matchup against aggro decks, Drown in Sorrow is also reasonable against Mono-Blue Devotion. After all, it is an excellent answer to a board of [card]Judge’s Familiar[/card], [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card], and [card]Master of Waves[/card]. I think it’s at least worthy of maindeck consideration for Dimir Control; I would try out a copy instead of [card]Doom Blade[/card], [card]Essence Scatter[/card], [card]Ultimate Price[/card], or [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card].

[ccProd]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/ccProd]

[draft]Brimaz, king of Oreskos[/draft]

It’s not exactly the second coming of [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card], but Brimaz is still one of the best cards to come out of Born of the Gods. In a damage race situation, it is a great attacker that can play defense, too. On top of all that, it lives through [card]Bile Blight[/card] and [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card]. White Weenie decks in Standard will be interested in this kitty.

I would start by running three copies only, as drawing multiples when the legendary Cat Soldier is brickwalled by an opposing [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card] or [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] can be a little awkward, and there is no shortage of alternative 3-drops that you can play instead of the fourth copy. After all, Standard contains [card]Banisher Priest[/card] and [card]Spear of Heliod[/card] (which I think is going to better than [card]Ajani, Caller of the Pride[/card] due to its synergy with Cat Soldier tokens). The fourth copy of Brimaz may be worth having in the sideboard against removal-heavy decks such as Mono-Black, though. If they don’t have a [card]Doom Blade[/card] right away and let you get a token, you can start locking down [card]Desecration Demon[/card]. That’s a lot of ifs, but Brimaz has the power to dominate games.

[ccProd]Temple of Malice[/ccProd]

[draft]temple of malice[/draft]

Temple of Malice will substantially improve B/R, B/R/W, and B/R/G midrange decks, possibly heralding the return of [card]Dreadbore[/card] and [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card]. In addition, it can improve the mana base of Rakdos Aggro—a deck that has fallen out of favor after it took the trophy at Grand Prix Santiago, but is still Standard legal.

You could brush off Temple of Malice as a small improvement, but mana bases—not cards—often dictate which decks are playable and which ones are not. In the last few months, we’ve learned that scry lands are quite powerful, with many players even turning to off-color scry lands for card selection. Getting access to on-color scry lands makes a big difference.

[ccProd]Temple of Plenty[/ccProd]

[draft]temple of plenty[/draft] [card]Temple of Malice[/card] will replace Selesnya Guildgate in Selesnya aggro decks. This archetype is already seeing fair amounts of play, and it now gets a strict upgrade. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] and [card]Selesnya Charm[/card] after the release of Born of the Gods. White Weenie also gains the option of splashing green rather than black.

Basically, compared to Ben Stark’s deck from the Top 8 of Grand Prix Dallas, you could change +3 [card]Brimaz, King of Oreksos[/card], +4 [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], +4 [card]Selesnya Charm[/card]; -2 [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card], -3 [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card], -3 [card]Daring Skyjek[/card], -3 [card]Orzhov Charm[/card]. That has the advantage of making the deck much more resilient to [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card].

[ccProd]Temple of Enlightenment[/ccProd]

[draft]temple of enlightenment[/draft]

Alexander Hayne won Grand Prix Vancouver last weekend with Saito-style Blue/White Control, so the archetype is already quite strong, and [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card] will only make it better. (Tomoharu Saito’s build contains no [card]Divination[/card], no [card]Elixir of Immortality[/card]—no nonsense, and 4 [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] in the sideboard to punish Mono-Blue Devotion players who board out [card]Domestication[/card]. It’s a very solid build.)

Blue/White Control players could simply replace 4 Azorius Guildgate with 4 Temple of Enlightenment and call it a day. Alternatively, they could keep 1-2 Azorius Guildgate, switch around the lands a bit, and end up with a mana base allowing for 4 [card]Mutavault[/card].

Temple of Enlightenment might also open up new possibilities. Blue Devotion players, for instance, might consider splashing 4 [card]Detention Sphere[/card] off of 4 [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card], 4 [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card], and 3 [card]Azorius Guildgate[/card]s. I don’t know whether or not that is better than staying mono-color with [card]Rapid Hybridization[/card] and [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card], but it’s certainly an option available to them now.

The Verdict on Born of the Gods

There are other relevant cards in Born of the Gods apart from the ones I mentioned, but the above ones are likely to have the most impact. The fact that half of them are lands is telling. Overall, I think the set is fairly weak for competitive Constructed purposes, even if I’m looking forward to trying out the inspired and tribute mechanics in Limited.

Brewing with [ccProd]Pain Seer[/ccProd]

Originally, I was planning to brew with Spirit of the Labyrinth. I saw that card and immediately thought how awesome it would be to combine it with [card]Whispering Madness[/card]. I went to work, brewed up a cool deck, added some additional synergies and combos, and was quite satisfied with the end result.

And then I read [card]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/card] again. Apparently, it reads “each player,” not “each opponent.” Bummer. Playing [card]Whispering Madness[/card] with [card]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/card] in play went from an absolute blow-out to a [card]One with Nothing[/card].

So, I quickly took out Spirit of the Labyrinth and ended up with a different deck that featured [card]Pain Seer[/card] as its linchpin card.

[draft]pain seer[/draft]

On its own, [card]Pain Seer[/card] is a nice card against control decks that lack blockers. It’s effectively a [card]Dark Confidant[/card] that doesn’t trigger on the first upkeep, which is still quite decent. Against control decks, it seems better than [card]Precinct Captain[/card], so there’s potential. The problem is that it is hard to trigger inspired against decks that plan to block our creatures. One solution is to play Pain Seer in a deck with a lot of removal to clear the way and [card]Xathrid Necromancer[/card] to get value out of a trade. But that’s kind of a boring solution.

Let’s go deeper. How about these two cards?

[draft]springleaf drum
hidden strings[/draft]

Consider the following sequence:

Turn 1: Play [card]Springleaf Drum[/card].

Turn 2: Play [card]Pain Seer[/card]. Tap [card]Pain Seer[/card] for a mana and use it to play another 1-drop.

Turn 3: [card]Pain Seer[/card] untaps for a free card. In your main phase, tap [card]Pain Seer[/card] for a mana. Cast [card]Hidden Strings[/card], untapping Pain Seer, tapping an opposing blocker, and ciphering onto [card]Pain Seer[/card]. That gives another [card]Pain Seer[/card] trigger for another free card. Attack with [card]Pain Seer[/card], triggering cipher. Untap [card]Springleaf Drum[/card] and [card]Pain Seer[/card], yielding another free card! Finally, tap [card]Pain Seer[/card] for a mana, cast a 3-drop, and get another free card in your next upkeep.

Not bad! So, right now our deck is based around [card]Pain Seer[/card], [card]Springleaf Drum[/card], and [card]Hidden Strings[/card]. Given that starting shell, the deck needs more cheap creatures to use in conjunction with Springleaf Drum, some life gain to mitigate the life loss of Pain Seer, and a way to get value out of Hidden Strings when you don’t draw Pain Seer. So let’s add these cards:

[draft]nivmagus elemental
soldier of the pantheon
fabled hero[/draft]

Casting [card]Hidden Strings[/card] when you have [card]Nivmagus Elemental[/card] and [card]Fabled Hero[/card] in play is a big game. You target [card]Fabled Hero[/card] to get a +1/+1 counter, tap down an opposing blocker, and cipher onto [card]Fabled Hero[/card]. Having tapped down the opponent’s creature, you can now swing in unopposed. Because Fabled Hero has double strike, you get two cipher triggers that allow you to target your [card]Fabled Hero[/card] for more +1/+1 counters. However, you only need the targeting effect—there’s no benefit to letting the copies resolve. So eat them with [card]Nivmagus Elemental[/card]! The end result is seven +1/+1 counters distributed over your creatures, with the promise of more to come on subsequent turn as [card]Hidden Strings[/card] is still ciphered onto the Fabled Hero. Not bad for a 2-mana spell.

Next, we need some another instant or sorcery spell for our deck as snacks for [card]Nivmagus Elemental[/card], preferably ones with cipher. It would be best to have a cipher card that works well in a game in which we quickly dump our hand on the table with [card]Springleaf Drum[/card]. Guess which card fits perfectly?

[draft]whispering madness[/draft]

Although the combo with [card]Nivmagus Elemental[/card] is cute, [card]Whispering Madness[/card] is still a little lackluster in the deck we have so far. Sure, you might get some value when you are holding 3 cards versus your opponent’s 6, but overall we need more combos to make [card]Whispering Madness[/card] good enough. So let’s add these cards:

[draft]cyclonic rift
notion thief[/draft]

The dream is to overload [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card] at the end of our opponent’s turn and to follow it up with [card]Whispering Madness[/card] with a [card]Notion Thief[/card] in play. The end result of that sequence is drawing 14 fresh cards, while our opponent is left with nothing—no board and no hand. Ding!

Here’s the final deck:

[ccDeck]4 Springleaf Drum
4 Nivmagus Elemental
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Pain Seer
4 Fabled Hero
4 Whispering Madness
4 Notion Thief
4 Hidden Strings
4 Cyclonic Rift
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Watery Grave
4 Godless Shrine
2 Temple of Enlightenment
3 Temple of Silence
1 Temple of Deceit
3 Island
3 Plains[/ccDeck]

I could have added good cards like [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card], [card]Dissolve[/card], [card]Detention Sphere[/card], [card]Pack Rat[/card], or [card]Thoughtseize[/card], but I wanted to see what would happen if I could try to push synergies to the max. Looking at the end result, I doubt that this deck is going to shake up Standard, but it has a lot of interesting things going for it, and it looks like a ton of fun to try out.

Brewing with [ccProd]Courser of Kruphix[/ccProd]

Take [card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card], make it cheaper, add toughness, give it a life gain ability, and you get [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]. Sure, it does not allow you to play an additional land, but you can’t have everything.

[draft]courser of kruphix[/draft] [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] can help you survive the early rush against aggressive decks, is cheap enough to slip under countermagic against control decks, and is impressive in combination with scry lands.

Accordingly, it could be a solid addition to green devotion decks. In that deck, it fills an important spot on the mana curve, can come down on turn two thanks to Elvish Mystic, adds two green mana symbols for devotion, and plays very well with [card]Domri Rade[/card]. [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] may also facilitate a Gruul midrange deck due to its synergy with [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] and [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card].

However, I’m more interested in pairing it with [card]Archangel of Thune[/card]. Archangel is a powerful card, but it’s often difficult to get value out of it before it falls to a [card]Detention Sphere[/card]. However, if you play Archangel of Thune when you have [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] in play, you can immediately follow it up with a land and dish out +1/+1 counters right away.

This leads me into a white-green shell that needs creatures to get value out of [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] triggers, so let’s add [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], and [card]Experiment One[/card]. All of those play quite nicely with [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], so let’s add a few copies of that card as well. Opponents will never see it coming, and because many of the creatures have built-in [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] protection, the sweeping will often be rather one-sided. Moreover, opponents may have to overextend to mount a defense to the white and green creatures, which makes Supreme Verdict even better. To break the symmetry on Supreme Verdict further, let’s add a few copies of [card]Frontline Medic[/card] as well.

What else to add? I don’t want [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] or [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] because lands will be better in a deck with [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]. Instead, I’ll round out the early drops with a few copies of [card]Selesnya Charm[/card]. I also don’t want [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] or [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] because I already have double green and double white spells, and adding double blue to the mix would be too much of a strain on the mana base. Instead, I’ll add a few single-blue cards, in particular [card]Detention Sphere[/card] and [card]Kiora, the Crashing Wave[/card]. Kiora’s -1 ability has a lot of synergy with [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], so it should fit the deck well.

Finally, we need something to when we have a lot of lands on the battlefield. We already have the monstrous ability on [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], but let’s round out the deck with a few copies of [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card]. That should do it.

Here’s the brew in its full glory:

[ccDeck]4 Experiment One
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Fleecemane Lion
2 Selesnya Charm
4 Courser of Kruphix
2 Frontline Medic
2 Detention Sphere
2 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
2 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Supreme Verdict
4 Archangel of Thune
4 Breeding Pool
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Plenty
2 Temple of Mystery
2 Temple of Enlightenment
3 Forest
2 Plains
1 Mutavault[/ccDeck]

Not quite as powerful as Mono-Blue or Mono-Black, but the deck does showcase come neat possibilities.

What do you think? How will Born of the Gods affect Standard?

Discussion

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