Born of the Gods Previews and THS Sealed #2

xenegos, god of revels Corey Burkhart

Welcome back everyone! This week, I'm going to fill everyone in on the prior week's Sealed deck testing for GP Sacremento, and how the deck did, as well as go over some of the spoiler cards and cards I anticipate being big hits. At the time of writing this article, there are only 48 out of the total 165 spoilers on MTG Salvation, so cards will go up and down as we get even more information!

Theros Sealed #2

In the last article I showed everyone the following pool:

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The pool had a number of things going for it that I'm a pretty big fan of in sealed for THS. The first of these being artifact mana. Opaline Unicorn is great as it's both a mana accelerate to your fatties, monstrous, and bestow effects, but it doubles as a form of mana fixing. Burnished Heart fills much of the same role except that it has the ability to ramp you like a Cultivate effect straight from four to six mana, and in my experience most of the explosive plays happen on five and six mana. Thus, with these three, we can reliably look into playing a mana hungry two color or a crazy three color brew.

Taking a look at the rest of the pool, you'll see we lack the former of these possibilities. There are very few creatures with bestow in the pool. 2 Erebos's Emissary, 1 Cavern Lampad, 1 Spearpoint Oread, and 1 Nylea's Emissary are the extent to our bestow effects in our pool. Our creatures with morstrous are also fairly shallow, with only Nemesis of Mortals, and a Polish Crusher to count for going really long. When you look at the pool in that matter, it starts to look like we're going to be a deck looking to end the game quickly as opposed to playing for the extremely powerful late game mechanics that Theros has to offer.

After I took a look at the artifacts I pulled down the cards I'd like to play in the pool by color giving us the following:

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Blue is omitted from the playable color as the only cards we want to play are Ordeal of Thassa and Prognostic Sphinx, and splashing for an ordeal and a double colored spell (despite how amazing the Sphinx is), is just crazy. Even with the amount of mana fixing this pool contains, trying to play blue here is just out of the question. However, looking at the pool like this, we see that along with our Polis Crusher, we have a Destructive Revelry and a Bow of Nylea as cards that draw me into playing GR. The problem with straight green and red is that it lacks the number of playables to make a deck, so the first deck I looked at was Naya:

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If you've followed my thoughts on the format, you'll know I love this kind of a deck. Four Ordeals is exactly where I want to be when I feel like I don't have a deck that can battle it out with the pools with a number of bombs. The best way to steal games in this format is building on giant creature and go to town with it. In this deck you get four awesome one cost creatures, and four Ordeals, allowing you to spend a number of your games with a turn two creature battling with an enchantment.

Despite how much I love to play decks like this, I feel like it really just lacks in the actual mana. In order to play a deck that is this aggressive, I feel like I cannot play the artifact color fixers (however I do manage to find a slot for Nylea's Presence, which I think is actually worse in this deck than playing an Opaline Unicorn). I'm going to spend a number of games stuck on white or red mana to cast these spells. The mana base would have to be something treacherous like 7/7/2 and that doesn't allow us to reliably cast any of our spells even when you can consider the presence or unicorn as an additional source to cast any of these cards.

In short, aggro decks are sweet, but when they look like this, don't get yourself caught in a trap! Red altogether is basically a trap color in sealed, playing it as a splash is about the only justifiable way to play the color. There are some circumstances where red is your pool's best color, but in general, I'd say stay away from red as a main color. With that theory in mind, I ended up moving to the next best combo pairing with the awesome green cards, GBr.

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Now this is a deck! In this pool we're a little short on creatures, especially when you consider that three of our creatures exist solely to create mana, but we actually have a late game plan. A Nemesis of Mortals, Vulpine Goliath, 2 Erebos's Emissary, Nylea's Emissay, 2 Sip of Hemlock, and a Polis Crusher, sign me up! This deck looks a lot more consistent in terms of playing its spells, and even has card advantage in the form of March of the Returned and Read the Bones. Generally, I'm not a big fan of March of the Returned, especially in decks that aren't playing Returned Centaur or Commune with the Gods, but I think in this deck it's fine. We're low on creatures, and we're usually going to have to spend an emissary early on to trade off to make it to the late game, and we're going to want to get them back.

I figured this deck would manage to squeak out a 3-1 finish, as it definitely had some power, but the sideboard options were fairly limited. Outside of bringing in a couple of Parika's Cures in our three color mana base, we don't have much to fight some sort of aggressive heroic deck. Much to my surprise, each of my opponent's in this daily were playing fairly controlling decks.

I beat two UG ramp style decks that didn't play mana spells before playing against a black white deck that had all bombs. Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Hundred-handed One, Agent of Fates, Triad of Fates, 3 Divine Verdicts, and 2 Hopeful Eidolon just to name the standouts. Polis Crusher did some extreme work killing off the enchantments and Nylea's Emissary was able to narrowly beat through some powerful Elspeth positions where I felt my opponent may have been better of moving Elspeth down to kill my large monsters.

In the final round I played a form of a mirror match where my opponent stole game one off of Whip of Erebos, Mogi's Marauder, and Pharika's Mender were able to bash through with intimidate enough times to win the game. Game two I held my Destructive Revelry for the Whip of Erebos, and won the game quite easily, and in game three I was able to steal a nail-bitter thanks to the three artifact creatures being able to block through intimidate. We were able to thwart off the alpha strike, prevent the life gain thanks to a timely Destructive Revelry draw off of Read the Bones, and win the game on the crack back thanks to Erebos' Emissary discarding the two creatures in our hand!

In all, the deck played out well, and while it was far from perfect, having this exact pool this weekend (the past weekend when you all read this) would be delightful!

Born of the Gods Spoilers

Let's however talk about the more interesting fact, Born of the God's spoilers! Born of the God's has been getting spoiled for a couple of weeks now, and while Kiora, the Crashing Wave has been running around since the holidays, I'm not going to spend time talking about her today. Instead, I'll take a look at some more of the recent previews since many people have voiced their opinions on the Simic planeswalker. The first of these cards being Xenagos, God of Revels:

I highly doubt there will be a card better than Xenagos, God of Revels in the entire set. This card just screams insanity to me. Essentially what we're getting out of Xenagos, God of Revels is making whatever creature we play gets haste, and doubles its attack each turn. While this ability doesn't double with gruuls other keyword bloodrush exceptionally well, as you are unable to bloodrush your creature before you check the creature's power and double it, it does play exceptionally well in a deck stock full of giant creatures. Whether you choose to go red for the more aggressive early game, or go green for the giant creatures and mana ramp as your base color, know Xenagos, God of Revels is going to be insane in your deck as it's going to constantly put the opponent on the back foot.

Another point about the new God's is that these ones need five additional mana symbols as the predecessors needed four. A total of seven green and red mana symbols are needed to get Xenagos online, and with a Domri Rade and a Xenagos, the Reveler planeswalkers, all you really need is a creature with a red or green mana symbol to reign chaos on your opponent. I think we're going to see a ton of this card in standard, and for as long as this card is around, you best be sure that decks backing large amounts of instant speed removal or ways to exile enchantments will exist as well.

The other card that I'm really excited about is actually a card that I doubt will ever see 60 card play outside of Block Constructed, Ephara's Enlightenment.

Ephara's Enlghtment is an awesome way to trigger the heroic trigger on your powerful creatures, and assuming we get some more inexpensive heroic creatures like Favored Hoplite, Battlewise Hoplite, and Triton Fortune Hunter, this card will be an all-star. I'm uncertain if there will be any block constructed PTQs once the entire set is released. Currently, I believe none of them are scheduled, so it's unlikely many players will play with this unless they qualify for the current pro tour in Atlanta, or if MTGO brings back a special kind of PTQ involving block as its reemergence.

Personally, this is all I really want, outside of more ordeal type of effects for the heroic deck, I want my creatures to be in the sky, and I want more ways to consistently trigger the creatures when I draw a ton of them. Ephara's Enlightenment does exactly that, giving evasion so you can fly over the aggressive decks that will likely exist once Born of the Gods is online, and consistently being able to trigger your creatures each time a new one comes in. This gives the deck a late game plan that the current heroic decks really lack, but that's generally the case once we're adding nearly 200 new cards to the existing card pool for block.

I can't wait to see what the Izzet and Selesnya Gods are going to do. Currently, I still think the Gruul one is the best, Mogis, leaves a bit to be desired in that the opponent gets to choose which effect hits them, and Ephara will really depend on how awesome the other permanents in that color are. Currently, I could see Ephara, God of the Polis ending up in a nearly mono blue style of deck, but we're not even certain if that archetype will survive with the addition of the new set. We're walking into a world where two color decks with 8 Gods could reign supreme, and even possibly a world where god based control is a real archetype as well with three different colors! I'm really excited, and I can't wait to see what the rest of the set looks like. I'd love to here what you guys think about the second sealed pool and the rest of the spoilers for Born of the Gods in the comments!

- Corey Burkhart

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