Saturday, February 22, 2014

Born of the Gods: Top 10 Cards for EDH

Greetings, folks.

   I am deeply sorry that I have been such an inattentive author as of late. I will spare you the same old excuses and just tell you up front that I don’t expect things to improve much in the immediate future, but there is now possibly some sort of light at the end of this shit-tunnel. Gods willing, I will be  back to regular form within the next six months, but no guarantees.

   In the meantime, though, I do owe you all a set review for BNG. Problem is, I don’t have the time or inclination to do the full review the way I normally do it. Overall I think Born of the Gods kinda sucks as a set. But it does have a handful of cards that transcend the mediocre quality of the set, and so I feel like the best way to handle this set is via the classic Top 10 format.

   So without further preamble, here are my picks for the Top 10 EDH cards in Born of the Gods.

10. Kiora, the Crashing Wave

   I don’t know what’s more disappointing: Kiora’s card itself, or the mere fact that her card was disappointing. If that doesn’t make any sense, let me give some context. Kiora was introduced as a character a few years back in the Duels of the Planeswalkers games. There was a U/G deck that needed a Planeswalker avatar to represent the deck, but no U/G ‘Walker existed so they just made up Kiora for that game’s purposes. But somehow she became a fan favorite and people have been eagerly anticipating the day Kiora would be given an actual Magic card for years. So I’d be disappointed in the world’s first U/G P-walker regardless, but the fact that it was, specifically, Kiora Atua adds insult to the injury. Yet, despite all this, here she is on my Top 10 list, albeit as the low fish on the totem pole. That she made the cut says more about the quality of the set overall than it does about her own playability. My chief complaints are that her starting loyalty is too low by one, and her +1 will protect her from one threat... while half a dozen others will beat her down. I don’t like her, but I am not too blind to realize she’ll just get played anyway, no matter what.

 9. Brimaz, King of Oreskos

   Honesly this guy is clearly better suited to a 60-card format. He’s almost certainly not the best option for a Mono-White General, but neither is he likely to be a terrible choice. As aggressively as he is costed, in EDH he is still very likely to get in one attack – two at the very most – before he’s suddenly outclassed by everything else on the board and becomes yet another dumb chumpblocker. But, I have already figured out that he can be a solid creature in the right decks. The fact that my Derevi and Aurelia decks will be thrilled to welcome Brimaz into the fold put the lie to my original evaluation that he’s strictly not EDH material. He’s not universally playable, but he definitely has his niches.

 8. Archetype of Aggression

   I feel like everyone else is betting on the wrong horse in this race. For some reason, all the attention has been going to the ridiculously-overcosted members of this cycle, the green one in particular, but also the blue and black ones to some extent. With those, you are likely running them largely for their static effects, and the body is an almost trivial “bonus” tacked on to justify the exorbitant CMC’s, but here’s the rub: those mediocre bodies attached actually represent liability. How would you feel if you tapped out one turn, spending all 8 of your hard-earned mana to cast the green Archetype, hoping to protect your team, only to have the very next player cast a Wrath of God? Pretty crappy, right? Now, I know what you’re going to say – that argument can be made about a LOT of creatures and there are hundreds of them that would fail this test, but would still be worth running… true. But here’s part two of the test. Say there is no Wrath, and the Archetype survives a turn cycle. Now you have what is, essentially a fraking CRAW WURM that you paid 8 mana for. Good luck actually attacking with it. Still feel good about spending infinity mana on a Craw Wurm? If so, I really want to play with your group because free wins. But anyway, back to the Red guy. Trample is definitely a thing in EDH, and unlike most of his cycle-mates, this little guy has a very low opportunity cost, AND  a decently-sized body. I’d still rather just have this effect as a 3-mana Enchantment, but wasting three mana on something that dies to a Wrath with zero impact is just SO drastically different from wasting eight mana or even six. (NOTE - I will concede this point: Tooth and Nail for Avacyn + Archetype of Endurance is definitely a legit play. Wouldn’t dis you for that.)

 7. Courser of Kruphix

   Up front, I’m just going to tell you I realize I may be way off base with this one. There’s a tiny chance I’m undervaluing it, and, I think, a significantly higher chance that I’m overestimating it. I am certain it will wind up somewhere on the “playable” side of the spectrum. It clearly is not garbage. But I have no idea exactly where on that spectrum it will finally land. It’s going to be either better than I think or worse than I think – zero chance it’s exactly as good as I think.

6. Fated Return

   Ugh, as much as I hate the idea of paying freakin’ SEVEN mana for an up-jumped Zombify, I can’t ignore the facts: for two or three mana above what you’re used to paying, you get Indestructible either way, plus your choice of either Scry 2 or Instant speed. This card faces some strong competition – Beacon of Unrest, Obzedat’s Aid, Puppeteer Clique, and a whole host of additional contenders. Not to mention mass-reanimation like Living Death or Rise of the Dark Realms. Still, I can’t help but picture the dead baddie from Die Hard 1 with the words “Now I have an Indestructible Consecrated Sphinx HO HO HO” painted on his shirt with his own blood, and I realize that despite my own possibly misguided biases this card is totally going to get played.

 5. Ephara, God of the Polis

   Persistent card-drawing engines will always be a thing in EDH. I like that this particular engine tries to persuade you away from the standard U/W control thing and go a more creature-centric route. Ephara will be phenomenal in the right decks, of which there are likely plenty, but might have a hard time fitting into the standard U/W models – which, in a way, is to her credit, but realistically it will have some impact on her playability. Verdict is still out on this, but I’m willing to be she’ll also make a decent General for U/W that won’t make your playgroup want to drink cyanide.

4. Fated Retribution

   It is on some levels a boring pick, as Sweepers are not particularly fun, but a very necessary element of the format nonetheless. But it has been a long time indeed since we had an Instant-speed Wrath effect. Rout is a fantastic EDH card and always has been. This card, I feel, compares favorably. There are a lot of times I’d probably rather have Rout, but the pull of Scry 2 and the bonus Planeswalker-murdering addendum will pull me in favor of this card a considerable amount of the time. Honestly the ONLY downside I can think of to this card is that, from now on, passing with 7 mana open will be telegraphing the play SO hard, no one will ever be caught by surprise (unless they’re drunk or not paying any attention).

 3. Xenagos, God of Revels

   Had I wrote this two weeks ago, I would have ranked Ephara above Xenagos. But with time and experience on my side, I have to say I think Xenny the Party God is the more generically powerful and widely-playable of the two. Ephara is simply amazing in the right deck, but is both more specific to certain archetypes and less explosively powerful than Xenagos. On the flip side, Xenagos is more likely to induce groans and eye-rolls after people get used to seeing him all the time (and, likely, seeing players start dropping to random one-shot kills immediately thereafter). He is simultaneously awesome and powerful and obvious and boring. I’m definitely rebuilding my Stonebrow “Trample Matters” deck with Xenagos at the helm… we’ll see how that goes.

 2. Scry Lands

   Okay, I’m cheating a bit, as this is three cards combined, and also they’re boring old lands, but honestly I’ve been much more impressed with these Scry duals than I ever expected. I mean, they’re not the second coming of the ABUR duals or anything like that, obviously. But when they were spoiled, I was initially disappointed. Then I accepted them as decent but not exciting. Now I’m snap jamming them into every deck I can. As much as I dislike loading up on ETBF-tapped lands, the presence of one of these in an opening hand is almost always a welcome sight, and they really are helping smooth out some iffy draws more frequently than I thought possible in a 100-card singleton format. I didn’t want to admit it, but these are actually pretty good.

 1. Karametra, God of Harvests

   Usually the #1 pick is the place to hedge or equivocate. It’s often very difficult to say, definitively, that THIS is the card that will make the most impact on the format. In this case, however, this was by far the easiest card to both pick and place on the list. I have little doubt that in, say, two years time, Karametra will be the card from BNG still getting the most play. Now, to hedge a bit, I will concede that Fated Retribution, being a single color and thus playable in more decks overall, might actually be more common by some degree, but is essentially just another sweeper effect, and won’t actually change the format in any noticeable way. Karametra basically spawns a new deck type for WG, and is a powerful supplemental effect for virtually any W/G or W/G/x deck that plays some number of creatures and lands.

Worth Mentioning:
   • I think all of the Fated cards are playable; it’s just the White and Black ones that are clear Top 10 material. I’ve got the Green one in Marath already, and I am loving it there. The Red one is a terrific pick for Melek decks, and the Blue one doesn’t fit in any of my decks but I have already seen it popping up in lists online.

   • There are two commons that have potential as well. Satyr Wayfinder is a compelling choice for Karador decks, while Peregrination is not quite up to par in my opinion – I’m just not convinced it’s worth paying 1 more mana to add Scry 1 to my Cultivates – but I am not willing to rule it out entirely. At the very least it might fit into some Intet or Maelstrom Wanderer decks that are both ramp-hungry and care about top-of-library tricks.

   • The other two Gods, the ones that didn’t make Top 10 are both playable, but highly niche cards. Acceptable where they make sense, but not stellar even in those cases.

   • Acolytes Reward is going to be very limited as to the number of decks in which it can function, but it’s a pretty cool card for those few decks.

   • Skyreaping may fail to pan out, but it seems like a potentially potent anti-Flying tool.

   • Hero’s Podium is a Legendary Coat of Legendary Arms. For your Legends.

   • Spirit of the Labyrinth sort-of-but-not-really hoses Consecrated Sphinx. Um, you’re in White, though, so I’d say Swords/Path are better ways to hose the Sphinx. No, I like Spirit for a different reason: Nekusar. Sure, a Nekusar deck is likely to be packing plenty of ways to answer the Spirit, but the point is the deck pretty much HAS to answer it, or it just rolls over and dies.

   • There is a 1/1 with Trample in this set. It’s called Charging Badger. Is this awesome? Y/N (Spoiler: Y)

Worth Disparaging:
   • How infuriating is Chromanticore? While I understand and accept the reason why it couldn’t be Legendary, that doesn’t make it any less of a failure than the Nephilim.

   • Meanwhile, Champion of Stray Souls continues to get buzz despite being a terrible card. Don’t get me wrong, I totally dig what the card does (at least in theory), but it costs ALL of the mana to use this thing. Not only that, it requires very specific board-states as well. You need A) upwards of three hundred and forty-seven mana, B) creatures in play worth sacrificing, C) creatures in your graveyard worth bringing back and D) for your opponents to be THE WORST EVER at threat assessment. Any two of those requirements might be doable, three is a stretch but worth trying for just to see, but getting all four of those stars to align just so you can make a play that is, on the whole, likely to be strictly worse than casting Rise of the Dark Realms? LOLWUT.

   • Astral Cornucopia seems legit, until you realize that it’s basically worse than what you’re already using. At the three-mana mark Coalition Relic, Chromatic Lantern and Darksteel Ingot are all strictly better (and, yes, I’m actually using the phrase correctly here). At six mana, well, there aren’t really any comparable cards to shame it with, but it definitely sucks. From there it becomes a NINE MANA Gilded Lotus. WTF? Let’s be honest folks. This card IS Manalith. A RARE Manalith. Utter bullshit.

   • Whims of the Fates? HA HA HA HA… No.

   Well, folks, that’s it for today. Sorry it took so long. Hopefully I’ll be more timely with the next update, but again, I can’t make any promises. I will assure you that I am still around and I have not abandoned or given up on this blog, I just don’t have room for it, mentally, at the moment.

   Oh, and if you’re wondering why I covered 4 of the 5 new Commander 2013 decks, but never got around to the 5th one… well, part of that is just me never getting around to it. But also I just don’t really like the Grixis deck much. I don’t like Jeleva anywhere near enough to put in the necessary work to make that pile work, so I went the easy route and converted the deck to Nekusar. If you want to know how that went, look up literally any Nekusar list on the internet. They’re all pretty much the same. He’s kinda fun to play, but fairly miserable to play against. Also it’s a total glass-cannon deck. Very powerful yet fragile, and easily disrupted. Hell, it basically loses to itself a fair amount just by being clunky and prone to drawing things in the wrong order. In short I am not happy with the deck so far, and I don’t want to publish anything that I don’t actually endorse as being fun or worth your time. I think there is a theoretical Nekusar list out there that is worth talking about and worth playing, but whatever it is, it ain’t what I built. I’ll keep working on it, and if I ever have a breakthrough with it, I will finally do that last article to wrap it all up.

So, until next time (whenever that turns out to be),

1 comment:

  1. Brief note on the Archetypes: While I agree that the Green one is vastly overrated, the Blue one basically reads "Your creatures can only be blocked by creatures with Reach." This, to me, seems pretty decent. Both times I've played it I've won the game that turn, thus getting around the fragility argument. (This is basically a Blue Overrun, thus proving once again that Blue Gets Everything.) That said, it is inevitable that I drop this guy, alpha strike, and before blocks are declared he eats a Path, thus wiping out my team for 1 white mana. This will make me very sad and will also be entirely deserved.

    Also, how did I miss that Karametra is missing the word "Basic"? Holy crap. I feel better about playing her in Teneb now.