Hey all, welcome back to another edition of Multiplayer Madness!
Sorry for being more or less completely absent for the last four or five weeks but I had a lot of work on my plate that needed to be done. And as a freelancer, I won’t complain if larger projects come my way. Now I’m back though, so let’s dive right in!
Hm, let’s see…
At the end of my last article, I said:
“So, all in all I wasn’t impressed by Theros. A few absolute bombs and some stuff that’s above average. Here is hope that Born of the Gods and Jouney into Nyx do better in my next two articles!”
Well, I won’t beat about the bush here. Born of the Gods was even worse than Theros from a multiplayer perspective. This is of course my personal opinion but I stand by it. I still hope that Journey into Nyx can pull the chestnuts out of the fire although considering how Theros block has been shaping up so far, I really don’t expect that to happen.
Mechanic-wise, the second set in the Theros block introduced two new keywords (tribute and inspired) while continuing the not-all-that-great enchantment theme. Okay, that’s debatable, granted. I know of a few people who like their enchantment decks and were more than happy when they heard about the enchantment theme of Theros block. So my dislike must stem from my own failures when it comes to building enchantment decks. And not the “I have an enchantment and that’s my key card” deck but constructions built around enchantment synergies, including wonders such as Sigil of the Empty Throne, Mesa Enchantress and Ajani’s Chosen, with every other card being an enchantment if possible. Removal? Oblivion Ring. Card draw? Flight of Fancy. Ramp? Fertile Ground. You get it. Well, for some reason, I could never make these decks work as intended, at least not in multiplayer.
So you see, the enchantment theme is not for me. But what about tribute and inspired?
The Mechanics of BORN OF THE GODS
Tribute: In principle, abilities which leave a choice to your opponents are difficult to evaluate. Consider Browbeat, for example. I like this card as I think that both modes are worth the investment of three mana. However, the problem is that you usually have one mode you would prefer when you cast the spell. Do you see what I’m aiming at? Yeah, your opponents might probably know your preference, too. And you can expect them to choose the other one. Tribute has the same problem, only worse. Why? Because the boni you get if tribute isn’t paid are generally a lot better than a few +1/+1 counters, especially since most of the tribute creatures don’t have any form of evasion. So be assured that tribute will get paid. Every. Single. Time. Hey, cool! Now your Siren of the Fanged Coast is a boring 4/4 flyer for five mana! Impressive. Don’t complain about Serra Angel if you’re playing this siren. Oh, and what was that about your opponent’s Wurmcoil Engine that you absolutely needed to steal?
Inspired: I read somewhere that inspired is a very powerful mechanic as it simply improves what you’re already doing anyways: turning your creatures sideways by attacking. This was then elaborated on by stating that it’s even better in multiplayer than in duels because there is always this guy at the table who doesn’t have a creature. Well, I don’t know what kind of games the author of this statement plays with his friends but I know what happens in my playgroup if you don’t get your defenses up fast. And that’s why everybody tries to build themselves some kind of board presence in the early game, making it difficult to attack them if you don’t want to lose your creatures, which would not only set you back but also present an opening for the others to attack you. In general, this means that your monsters should be bigger than those on the other side of the battlefield if you want to do some real damage without losing something yourself. Now here is a list. It’s a list of all the creatures with inspired. Go ahead, take a look. I’ll wait.
Back again? Okay. So tell me, what did you see? Yep, with the exception of exactly three (!) creatures, those creatures are 3/3 at most, with many of them actually being a lot smaller. And have you compared their power/toughness ratio to their converted mana costs? After looking at all these cards, do you really expect to be untapping them all that often? Of course not, which makes inspired a rather sad thing. Unless you combine these guys on the list with Opposition, Glare of Subdual, Kyren Negotiations or similar tap or untap effects. But that’s probably the best you can do with it.
Well, that didn’t turn out all that good. But what about the individual cards? As with every new set, there are a few cards that I really liked at first glance. So I sat down and tried to imagine which of my existing decks to put them in or whether some of them would actually justify building completely new decks. To make a long story short, it wasn’t many. As disappointed as I had been with Theros, Born of the Gods was actually worse for me. I really had to stretch in order to come up with a top 10 list here. Okay, that’s not entirely correct, but had it been a top 15, then I would have had my problems. Therefore, no Honorable Mentions here. Instead, on to some cool stuff!
Here are my personal Born of the Gods top 10 multiplayer cards!
Ah, the promise of power, of awesome things entering the battlefield for free! Who would not like that? Yes, it works via the dreaded inspired mechanic but in contrast to most other creatures with inspired, the Arbiter is a large flying beater that might get through and work on its own in a vacuum. If not, you’re already playing the color with the most cards that make creatures unblockable (Veil of Secrecy, Protective Bubble, Traveler’s Cloak etc.) so it shouldn’t be a problem. Then again, the aforementioned method of just untapping creatures by means other than just the normal untap step works great as well. Mind Over Matter, Pemmin’s Aura, Sword of the Paruns – the list goes on and on. May I recommend Freed from the Real? And then there is of course Thassa, God of the Sea. Thassa makes your Arbiter unblockable and adds synergy by manipulating the top of your library, which is the second important aspect you need to ensure if you want Arbiter of the Ideal to live up to its fullest potential. Luckily, Blue excels here as well. How about Brainstorm, Ancestral Knowledge or Soothsaying among others? Or just add some artifacts to your deck. Sensei’s Divining Top anyone? Lots of options to draw lots of value from this beastie. Give it a try, people!
I’m usually not a fan of planeswalkers in multiplayer as they tend to die faster there than in duels due to the simple fact that there are more people who want them off the table. Kiora looks harmless enough with her starting loyalty of 2 and I wouldn’t think her all that good if she hadn’t already screwed me over completely a few times. Her +1 ability is surprisingly efficient just for the fact that the damage gets prevented even if Kiora or her controller aren’t even involved in the respective combat situations. Man, that is sooo annoying! In addition, she can also draw you cards and even ramps from time to time, something that’s always nice to have. And I suspect her ultimate to be one of the better ones in multiplayer although so far I’ve never seen her reach it.
8. Fated Return
This would have been a lot nearer the top ranks if it didn’t cost a ton of mana. It’s been played in my playgroup a few times and has always been annoying from the other side of the table. However, it always feels a little bit underwhelming when I cast it because I have to pay so much just to get a creature back. Controlling an indestructible Steel Hellkite or Magus of the Disk is a cool thing though!
Nothing much to say here apart from: “Take that, evil blue mage of massive card draw!”
What a nice package! A large defensive body for the early game, no land drops clogging the top of your library, all of it seasoned with a little life gain. Then again, it can’t be good if the whole table knows your draws, which is why the Courser doesn’t make it past #6 here. Although I have to admit that I tend to forget my opponents’ cards quite quickly, resulting for example in me casting an Avenger of Zendikar into a Massacre Wurm that had been revealed a few turns before and was still lurking in the respective player’s hand, waiting for the perfect time to ambush someone – as long as you can speak of an ambush if the others know it’s coming… Urgh.
As Rout taught us years ago, instant speed mass removal is powerful. And being able to rid the board of all planeswalkers should also never be underestimated. Playing this as an instant should be the default option for this card but seeing as White is clearly the worst color when it comes to card draw and/or selection, the scry is a welcome addition and might prove very useful. Not as strong as Austere Command and more expensive than many other alternatives, Fated Retribution is still highly playable in multiplayer games.
Mogis looks deceptively weak but I invite you to calculate his damage output if you cast him on turn four or five and he doesn’t get countered or removed. He may paint a target on your head, but he may also cut your opponents’ life totals in half or protect you from their attackers (one at a time) if they can’t or won’t pay life.
Whoa, what a beast! This guy is incredible! As an early attacker, he should easily outclass most of the other creatures on the board and pose a huge threat to your opponents. This is what the boring inspired creatures would like to be, people! And don’t forget all the ETB shenanigans his token-producing abilities might cause. Aura Shards, Champion of Lambholt, Intruder Alarm, Cathars’ Crusade etc. Brimaz brings the beats!
At first, I wasn’t convinced. Then I took her for a spin and was taught otherwise. Depending on the deck, this could either be a cheaper but indestructible Honden of Seeing Winds or a powerful engine that fuels your game plan almost every turn. Instant-speed token production (even better when it’s repeatable, i.e. Ant Queen, Moorland Haunt) or lots of creatures with flash ensure that you keep drawing cards even during your opponents’ turns. Ephara seems harmless enough but is a real workhorse if you know how to treat her right. Just keep in mind that you don’t draw per creature but per turn. It doesn’t matter if you had only one or a hundred creatures enter the battlefield, Ephara will draw you only one card.
Our favorite satyr planeswalker has reached his goal and ascended to godhood. And what can I say? I love him! If you’ve read my second article here at MtG Casual Play, you know that I value haste quite highly, and the divine Xenagos is one of the best haste enablers in the game. Granting haste is not enough for him, no! He also boosts power and toughness, thus making each medium-sized creature a real threat. And let’s not even talk about fatties such as Worldspine Wurm or Dragon Tyrant. He is also a very potent Commander, making it so that your opponents can never be sure what creature your deck might spit out next to bring the pain. Combine Xenagos with cards such as Malignus (instant kill!), Mage Slayer, Soul’s Fire, Strionic Resonator or Moltensteel Dragon for large amounts of damage, or with Momentous Fall or Greater Good for lots of extra cards! Additional combat phases let you activate him more than once per turn, so throw all the Aggravated Assaults and Hellkite Chargers you have into the deck! There are only two things you must not forget: First, he costs five mana, so he doesn’t come down all that early and is more suited for the later mid to endgame. Secondly, Xenagos, God of Revels targets creatures, so everything with shroud or protection from green or red is off-limits. So please, don’t cast Stonewood Invocation before you try to pump the respective creature with the satyr god, okay? Uhm, yeah, I’m speaking from experience here…
So, this is it, my personal top 10 Born of the Gods multiplayer review. I hope you liked it and that you’ll be back for my thoughts on Journey into Nyx next time. Until then, may the mana be plenty and the games interesting!