Welcome to day two of Born of the Gods spoiler season! Last night we saw our first official spoilers, including the new mechanics inspired and tribute, as well as how the minor gods will work.

Inspired is an ability worded version of Hollowsage‘s ability. Tribute is a keyworded version of the punisher mechanic, most famously seen on Browbeat and Vexing Devil. I’m happy to see Wizards creating very specific mechanics, rather than employing incredibly broad mechanics like kicker (which almost every mechanic is a subset of)—simpler, more focused mechanics feel more unique (and I’d argue play better and have fewer memory issues) than broad mechanics and give Wizards more design space to mine for future sets. I’m sad to see monstrosity not return, though it wants to go on the same cards that tribute does.

For we Limited players, the first day of spoilers tends to be slim pickings as splashier mythics and rares tend to grab the headlines. However, today we’ve got four commons to check out! Without further adieu, let’s look at Nyxborn Shieldmate, Oreskos Sun Guide, Epiphany Storm, and Pharagax Giant!

Nyxborn ShieldmateUnsurprisingly, bestow is back. It’s a subtly powerful mechanic, as evidenced by the raw power of unassuming cards like Hopeful Eidolon. This magical human artwork soldier isn’t exciting at first glance—it’s a Devoted Hero stapled to an overcosted Holy Strength. Neither card is good or even particularly playable. Plus, the nonsquared stats are going to make for new memory issues (in Theros, it was pretty easy: Eidolons are +1/+1, Nymphs are +2/+2, Emissaries are +3/+3, Boon Satyr is… okay, there were nonsquared bestow creatures in Theros, too). Not a great start, right?

The Shieldmate is more than the sum of its parts. It’s an okay one drop if you’ve got an Ordeal of Heliod. It’s an on-curve heroic trigger for Battlewise Hoplite (it’s the cheapest bestow cost we’ve yet seen). I don’t expect it to be particularly good unless there are more ordeals or ordeal-like cards, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this card is what heroic decks want.

Oreskos Sun Guide

I am profoundly disappointed that this card is not Traveling Philosopher. How could a sort-of-ancient, sort-of-Greek philosopher not be constantly inspired?! My bachelor’s degree cries out for vengeance! Sweet, debate-y vengeance that ends with all parties relaxing over a nice dinner with the option of wine.

This mechanic is sweet. I love mechanics that reward you for doing what you already want to do, like play lands (landfall) or draw cards (miracles). We’re seeing some enablers for inspired, like Springleaf Drum and Kiora’s Follower, in addition to previous Constructed enablers like Hidden Strings. This mechanic will likely work best on low drop creatures like Oreskos Sun Guide, that can get in a couple of hits and inspirations before the opponent can interact.

I’m pretty impressed with this non-philosopher kitty. Blocking in Theros Limited is so often wrong, since a timely Feral Invocation or Dauntless Onslaught can be brutal. In particular, in a heroic vs. heroic battle, the goal is usually to race (and stick a Hopeful Eidolon or power up a Wingsteed Rider), not to block. This cat, however, comes pre-equipped with slow-lifelink, and encourages your opponent to stop attacking, block, and walk into combat tricks.

Epiphany Storm

Our first common inspired enabler! For the low, low cost of R, you can create your own rummager, enable heroic worse than Messenger’s Speed, and most importantly of all, let your inspired creatures tap without attacking. Not particularly spicy, but I’m glad to see Wizards continue to play with red drawing and look forward to the other tap enchantments.

Pharagax Giant

I like it. This giant wants to do two things: smash faces and smash faces (he’s not particularly good on counting. To see his list of priorities, please refer to this sentence pre-parentheses). Both sides of the punisher mechanic—I mean tribute, want to do the same thing. Both halves of the card (a five mana 3/3 Lava Axe and a five mana 5/5) are fine cards. It’s worth remembering, however, that because your opponent chooses the mode, punisher cards are less than the sum of their parts.

Cards like Bant Charm and Nimbus Naiad are more than the sum of their parts because you get to choose the most relevant option, whereas cards like Breaking Point and Pharagax Giant are weaker than they appear because your opponent gets to choose the least relevant option. Both of Vexing Devil‘s modes are too good for one red mana. However, letting your opponent choose to take four damage when she’s at twenty and you need a body or kill your devil when she’s at four life and has a Lightning Bolt makes the devil far less insane than it looks.

I like the design on the giant (both modes playable, neither mode insane, and five damage to the face is not insignificant). I expect there to be a few more answers to these new monsters in Born of the Gods, since the mana investment required to monstrify a creature and get its monstrous bonus has been replaced by a free ETB (punisher) effect.

Whispers of the Muse

That’s day one done. Check back in a couple weeks when Hunter and I review every single Born of the Gods common! Until then, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next week.

—Zachary Barash

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Magic Online username: Zennith

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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