Happy prerelease, kids! As you surely know, this weekend—or even tonight at midnight—is the Born of the Gods prerelease, always one of my favorite times of the year. Sure, it’s a pain navigating our packed local game store (though I’m glad to see them doing gangbusters business), and I don’t love the ways in which Wizards has tried to make the prereleases more “interactive,” with all this (at least on Theros) “Heroic Path” stuff, which I don’t even really get the point of—but nevertheless, a new Magic set is like pizza: Even when it’s not perfect it’s still pretty great.

But I am a bit of a Spike, and I want to do well at the prerelease in addition to having fun. And in order to do that, you need to know the cards, and how to build your deck with (in this instance) three packs of Theros, two packs of Born of the Gods, and one “seeded” pack. For instance, at the Theros prerelease I initially greatly underrated Wingsteed Rider. I had two copies in my pool, and ended up playing one, just to try him (or is it her?) out, but I wasn’t initially sold on whether or not W.R. would be good. Boy, was I wrong. (And I really should have known that anyway, as a Wind Drake is kind of always fine to very good, but that’s beside the point.)

So after perusing the spoiler and thinking over the new cards this past week, I have an idea of the 10 Born of the Gods commons I really want to keep my eye out for. These are the cards—two in each color—that I think are going to be the heavy hitters. Let me know in the comments whether you agree or disagree!


1. Akroan Skyguard—There was really only one hole in the Wx Heroic deck in Theros, and that was a good two-drop. All we had was Setessan Battle Priest (aka Nicholas Forker), which I would often end up playing, but it never did much. This guy, on the other hand, fills the heroic hole perfectly, and is going to do work. Can you imagine a curve of Soldier of the Pantheon into this into Wingsteed Rider into any number of tricks or auras or bestow guys? And this next card is going to help out with that in a big way.


2. Nyxborn Shieldmate—As we learned on Theros, pretty much all bestow is way better than it looks—and this guy, even without any special abilities, just P/T, is probably going to work out the same. Now, I’m still probably never casting him on T1 for one white mana unless I’m holding a particularly insane curve in my hand … but being able to bestow this guy onto, say, Akroan Skyguard on-curve means you are attacking with a 3/4 flier on T3. Sure, you probably would rather be casting a Wingsteed Rider on three, but this guy will do in a pinch, and he’s also happy to hang out until T4 and go right *onto* that Rider. That’s a brutal curve no matter which way you cut it.


3. Chorus of the Tides—I kind of love this art, and I also love a three-power flier for four mana. The two toughness doesn’t bother me at all, either, because honestly when are you “trading down” with this creature and are unhappy about it—when you trade one-for-one with an un-heroic-ed Wingsteed Rider? I’m fine with that. And then we have Chorus’ own heroic ability, which isn’t so much the main event, but rather is just a nice bonus whenever you need to use a trick on this to win combat against, say, that same Wingsteed Rider.


4. Divination—Good ol’ Divination, back again! In Theros I often wanted to maindeck a Thassa’s Bounty more than perhaps was wise—that was how much I wanted the raw card advantage—so I’m glad we have a 50% cheaper option in Born of the Gods. Now, it doesn’t have any synergy with the themes of the set—i.e., it doesn’t trigger Wavecrash Triton when you cast a Fate Foretold on it—but I don’t think that matters much. I think you are going to be able to find a place to fit this in that feels just fine; and, furthermore, it’s not going to be near as dead against an aggro deck as Thassa’s Bounty was. Good card is good!


5. Asphyxiate—I must say, I’m not certain about this pick, as it could be awkward if you don’t have this in hand *exactly* when the creature you want to kill comes down—so you might need to be more willing just to fire this off when, rather than on what, you can. Still, few-questions-asked removal, especially this cheap, is hard to come by on Theros, and I think this—like Divination in blue—is a welcome addition to black’s previously pretty high-cost removal suite (aka Sip of Hemlock).


6. Necrobite—Surprised? This turkey from Avacyn Restored is back in Born of the Gods, and I honestly think it’s going to be really good on this plane. Sure, it doesn’t kill utility creatures, but if you have a creature open and your opponent is attacking with a creature that you can block—well, it’s dead, and your guy isn’t. Done. It also has some added utility/flexibility in that it saves your opponent from removal or in attacking combat, if something goes wrong/not according to plan. The cost *is* a bit high, that’s true—I’d like this a lot more if it cost 1B—but I think it’s going to do work.


7. Bolt of Keranos—This card isn’t really anything new, as it’s nearly the same as Lightning Strike, albeit more expensive, slower (sorcery speed), and you get a scry—but being able to max out on this kind of burn in red is a good thing, and plus people are not going to be able to splash this, as sometimes people did with Lightning Strike. Also it’s worth noting that this card works really well with Flamespeaker Adept, allowing you to remove a blocker and also get in with Adept for four damage (only you have to do it at sorcery speed, so it’s much less surprising). Still, cheap removal + upside is good, and more of it is always welcome.


8. Pharagax Giant—It’s not that I love this guy so much for himself, as the tribute mechanic really gives your opponent the option to choose whichever mode they don’t care about—and that’s not good for you. Rather, I’m just thinking about how this guy tops the curve of a beefy, more mid-range-y red deck. Like, if you are beating your opponent down with any random 2/1s, those hasty 4/2 minotaurs for 2R, and Borderland Minotaurs at 3R, and then you drop this guy on trun five … how does either half of this card not make your opponent just miserable? Five is a lot of damage … and it’s not like the creature is gone afterwards; he’s still there on the battlefield as a Hill Giant who can attack with the rest of your team, probably crashing in for close-to-lethal (even if you lose a guy or two in the offing) the following turn. And a 5/5 for five? That’s never not good. I don’t think this is the best of the tribute creatures, but this guy will pack a punch, adding some much-needed extra oomph to a color that in Theros was often pretty weak.


9. Charging Badger—Ha ha, psyche! This guy is the worst … and yet, he’s also awesome. Honey Badger don’t give a shit! He just takes what he wants. A dark-horse winner against Eye Gouge for funniest card in the set.


9. Snake of the Golden Grove—Back to our regularly scheduled programming: I’d say about 98% of the time this card is going to be a 4/4 that gains you four life when it ETBs; if your opponent gives a 7/7, well, you’re probably about to die. Still, a 4/4 four 4G that gains you four life is a big beater and a race-swinger. This is by no means a game-breaking card, but it fits nicely into green’s game plan—working especially nicely with Nylea’s Disciples; how are you overcoming this much lifegain?—and keeps ratcheting up the pressure while making sure you make it to your late game, where you can monstrous your Nessian Asps and the like.


10. Pheres-Band Tromper—Oh, did I say Nylea’s Disciple? I meant this guy. Man, what a beater. You basically just have to get in safely with him on his first attack—on T5, probably backed up by a combat trick or a bestow aura—and then he’s just a runaway train. Also: Unlike many of the inspired guys in this set, Tromper’s ability doesn’t cost anything to activate, so you never have to choose whether to activate inspired or keep developing your board; no, you just untap, put a counter on him, and play out your Snake of the Golden Grove or Nessian Asp or whatever and just go to town.

So yesterday a colleague of mine was trying to finish up a story of hers, and IM’d me, “Ugh, come on brain. Create funny kicker. Do it, brain. Do it now.” My suggestion, which I think serves this story well: And that’s all I have to say about that.

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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