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Black Cards, Bulls and White Devotion in BOTG

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A cursory glance at the Born of the Gods spoiler shows black as the clear front-runner for most powerful color in the set. Obviously there's plenty to be revealed as of yet, but black players should be more than happy just having what has already been revealed.

Bile Blight, Drown in Sorrow and Torment's Herald will all see Standard play in some capacity. Blight and Sorrow both offer potential two for ones in Black Devotion, which is certainly a boon for the deck. These cards not only afford the deck more wiggle room against the very fast aggressive decks, but they also give the deck some game against Assemble the Legion. They might only offer the deck a one-turn window against Assemble, but that is often enough to win games with Desecration Demon-particularly one that has munched on a soldier token or two.

Torment's Herald is unlikely to end up in the Black Devotion deck, but I would wager than any black aggressive deck would want some number of these guys. My money is on that number being four. A quality evasive threat on its own in addition to being a very impactful card to Bestow, I don't foresee anybody calling this one a sleeper.

These cards definitely change the format- both in terms of what people play and how they play them- but there's not a ton to talk about in terms of their application. They're fairly straightforward.

Instead I'd like to take a closer look at a couple and their potential applications. I'll start with the one I'm less sure of:

Ragemonger

A 2/3 for three is basically piss-poor, but any ability that discounts mana costs is worth looking at. Rageblood Shaman and Kragma Warcaller give a good amount of incentive to jam a bunch of Minotaurs, which is only more tempting when their mana-cost is reduced.

I could see this card being constructed playable, but there are a few factors keeping it from looking like a good option in Standard. For starters, the Minotaur tribe could use some cards that cost less than three, but there's a bit more than that missing from this puzzle.

One problem that comes to mind is that redundant Ragemongers don't really do anything in terms of mana generation. If Kragma Warcaller had more colored mana symbols in its casting cost, then multiple Ragemongers could lead to extremely explosive turns. As is, each individual Warcaller is going to cost at least three mana. It's a good rate for a 4/3 haste lordly creature, but is it really the best that we can do?

Specifically, is the mana generated by Ragemonger going to be able to combat the mana that Burning-Tree Emissary and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx generate?

Before I give Minotaurs any serious consideration for Standard I'd need to see at the very least another two-drop and ideally something in the 3-4 mana range that both stands alone well and makes for explosive turns when discounted by Ragemonger. I don't believe Felhide Spiritbinder to be this card. It's possible that there are already enough tools for a solid Block Constructed deck though.

Ephara, God of the Polis

I've seen a good amount of disappointment expressed at Ephara, but I'm a believer. My first thought when I saw Ephara was that she's "on" when you control her, a Detention Sphere and Nightveil Specter. The obvious direction to go with a card based on Devotion is to throw it in a Devotion deck, and the notion of shoehorning Ephara into Blue Devotion isn't without merit. Just add some Temple of Enlightenment, cut the Rapid Hybridizations for Detention Spheres and, most likely, trim some one-drops (not great with guildgates) for Ephara. Viola, you have a deck.

But do you have an upgraded deck, or a flashy and new bastardization of something that was better? I don't especially think so.

Gate/Temple go, Gate/Temple Cloudfin Raptor is not a spectacular opening. Having five or six gods also leaves you with more awkward draws more often. Then there's also the fact that playing Bident of Thassa will most often just be better than Ephara for Master of Waves decks.

Luckily, Ephara also happens to count Devotion to white. While there have been a few attempts at White Devotion, they haven't been terribly successful. There just doesn't seem to be much value to being devoted to white. Heliod is rather droll compared to other gods and using Nykthos mana just to activate Heliod just doesn't do enough. Splashing for Sphinx's Revelation is an option, but at that point you're the worst Revelation deck and you're playing from a weird angle for a creature deck.

I think that the best home for Ephara is likely a midrangey shell with Mutavaults over Nykthos. Somewhere between the aggressive white decks and the big Heliod piles.

Precinct Captain is an obvious shoe-in due to efficiency and synergy with Ephara. Brimaz, King of Oreskos, also from Born of the Gods, gets the nod for the same reason. Brimaz is getting plenty of buzz as a singular card, and playing it along with a card that nets you a card every time Brimaz enters combat couldn't possibly make things worse.

I'm imagining a deck that starts on turn one with Soldier of the Pantheon, follows up with Precinct Captain and Brimaz into Ephara and a stream of tokens and extra cards. Pepper with Detention Sphere and Spear of Heliod to taste.

I could easily see the following being the core of a tier one constructed deck:

All this in addition to Ephara and Brimaz, of course. This might just be new set delirium, but throwing proven cards in with obviously good cards and a one-sided howling mine attached to an indestructible 6/5 sounds kind of good to me.

~

There are absolutely powerful cards from Born of the Gods that I haven't highlighted here. In fact, the set looks to be very promising for both constructed and limited. Will Born of the Gods solidify Black Devotion's role of the boogeyman? Could Azorius Devotion prove a powerful contender in 2014? Either way, I'm excited to find out!

Thanks for reading.
-Ryan Overturf

30 thoughts on “Black Cards, Bulls and White Devotion in BOTG

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