This will be a relatively quick one, boys and girls, as I’m writing you from a plane over the Atlantic, headed to Switzerland for a work trip. Sadly, there are no local game stores in Andermatt, the town I’m headed to, so I will miss Born of the Gods release-weekend events.

No worries, though: I managed to jam two sealed flights last weekend at Twenty Sided Store, as well as a draft including the new set with my Team Draft League, so I’m feeling like I’m already getting a handle on the format for upcoming Grand Prix I’ll be attending, in Montreal and Philly.

I did well at my prerelease flights, too, which always feels good. At the first I chose green as my “heroic path,” and went 3-0 before splitting in the finals with my opponent (who had an audition to get to and so we weren’t able to play it out for fun). At my second flight, I chose blue, and went 3-1, my only match a loss to a scary BW deck with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Herald of Torment.

Here’s deck one:

Born of the Gods Sealed Deck 1

Creatures (12)
Voyaging Satyr
Thunder Brute
Karametra's Acolyte
Spearpoint Oread
Staunch-Hearted Warrior
Opaline Unicorn
Nyxborn Wolf
Arbor Colossus
Purphoros's Emissary
Nessian Wilds Ravager
Graverobber Spider

Spells (11)
Titan's Strength
Searing Blood
Aspect of Hydra
Savage Surge
Nylea's Presence
Fall of the Hammer
Lightning Strike
Fated Intervention
Bolt of Keranos
Anger of the Gods
Lands (17)

Sideboard (13)
Mortal's Resolve
Pillar of War
Ordeal of Nylea
Fanatic of Mogis
Rage of Purphoros
Shredding Winds
Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
Setessan Starbreaker
Satyr Hedonist
Scouring Sands
Reckless Reveler
Horizon Chimera

This is not what we in the business call a bad deck, so I’m glad I was able to justify my seed, as it were, and win out. A few notes on standout new cards:

Fated Intervention is a stone blowout, especially in a deck that can ramp it out with Voyaging Satyr, which I luckily had two of. Satyr of course also goes a long way toward mitigating the triple-green casting cost; if I hadn’t had them, I might have pushed the Forest count up to 10. And yeah, I had two Fated Interventions. I variously used them on my and my opponents’ turns, and really liked that flexibility. A surprise Fated Intervention is just a total beating, and no one ever expects the second one.

Initially I ran the Titan’s Strength over Mortal’s Resolve, as I liked the cheaper casting cost and the scry. But over the course of my matches, with creatures of mine dying left and right to Asphyxiate—which seemed to be running rampant—I began to board in Mortal’s Resolve, and really liked it. I think Asphyxiate might have made an indestructible effect such as this more valuable.

Aspect of Hydra, in my heavy green deck, was a great trick. It was almost always at least a Giant Growth—but, well, I was almost always winning. If you are really on your back foot, it’s not going to help you out of a jam by picking off a key attacker and letting your guy live.

Searing Blood and Bolt of Keranos are as good as you’ve heard. Fall of the Hammer I didn’t draw too often. Graverobber Spider was totally solid, although the cards never lined up such that I was able to activate his special ability (off of Nylea’s Presence or Opaline Unicorn, the former of which I was running just to cycle and fix, and the latter to ramp).

Nessian Wilds Ravager was mostly a big dumb durdle who insta-died to Asphyxiate or got chumped until the game was over, on whomever’s side; I don’t think he ever got to fight something upon ETB.

Pillar of War I boarded in once against a minotaur-heavy RB deck (trading it for Unicorn), with its complement of 2/3 attackers, and I felt like it was pretty decent as as strong early blocker that can later get bestowed up and go on the offensive.

Thunder Brute was fantastic. Honestly how is your opponent happy with giving you either half of this card? Sure, if they have (unconditional) removal, they will just make it big and kill it the following turn—but if they don’t, this is a knockout of a curve-topper. (Pro tip: If you play a tribute creature and your opponent insta-pays tribute … they almost certainly have removal or bounce, so be aware and make your plays accordingly.)

Here’s deck two, which is arguably even stronger than No. 1:

Born of the Gods Sealed Deck 2

Creatures (16)
Kraken of the Straits
Silent Sentinel
Vanguard of Brimaz
Phalanx Leader
Arbiter of the Ideal
Nimbus Naiad
Cavalry Pegasus
Aerie Worshippers
Wingsteed Rider
Chorus of the Tides
Deepwater Hypnotist
Fabled Hero
Breaching Hippocamp

Spells (7)
Mortal's Ardor
Retraction Helix
Stratus Walk
Aqueous Form
Revoke Existence
Lands (17)
10 Plains

Sideboard (5)
Vanquish the Foul
Silent Artisan
Breaching Hippocamp

I’ll tell you why I won these games, and the reasons don’t cost any more than four many: two Wingsteed Rider, two Nimbus Naiad, a Fabled Hero, and two Chorus of the Tides. Everything else was just gravy—and, to be honest, toward the end of the day I started to board out both the Kraken of the Straits and the Silent Sentinel; seven mana just wasn’t what this deck wanted to be doing, mainly because the game was over by then. That said, I didn’t have a ton of great sideboard options—you can see I was already running a Breaching Hippocamp, which I thought would be cute to try out with Aerie Worshippers and Arbiter of the Ideal—so I didn’t have much to replace them with.

One card I did often replace Kraken with, though, was Vanquish the Foul, which I’m sure you’ll remember was a real turkey in Theros. Here’s my theory as to why it’s better: In triple Theros, the main target for a Vanquish would be a creature with monstrous. But if you didn’t have Vanquish in hand and ready to go on T6 (meaning you were on the play, and it was right after your opponent had played a Nessian Asp or some such), you had to wait to use it until after your opponent already had a chance to monstrous her creature, which often came with the side effect of something bad happening to you.

The difference in Born of the Gods is tribute, which (generally) lets you choose between A) something bad happening to you or B) your opponent insta-getting (and not having to pay the monstrous cost for) a huge creature. Typically the best play is to *give* your opponent that insta-big creature, and then immediately kill it with Vanquish; that way, you cleanly trade one-for-one with no added downside from monstrous getting activated. Now, I’m not saying that Vanquish is suddenly going to become a high pick in draft; but I think it’s a much more viable and powerful sidebard option, especially in sealed deck, than it was previously.

A few more notes:

Vanguard of Brimaz, which makes vigilance kitties when you target him (her?), was great. A 2/2 with vigilance is always welcome, and the heroic bonus is just gravy. (In fact, given my other mix of heroic cards, I rarely ever targeted Vanguard with anything, as I had much better targets for my tricks and bestow creatures.)

Aerie Worshippers insta-died whenever I played him, and I never did get to make a 2/2 bird—but the fact that he got killed on sight should tell you something about good he is. Just a crazy-good four-drop, I think, with just the right stats to hold the ground, get in without dying, and net you ongoing benefit.

Stratus Walk I surprisingly liked a lot. Sure, most of my guys had flying already, but the heroic trigger potential plus cycling plus evasion on a stick (as well the potential to remove a blocker, should the situation arise) adds up to a great card. LSV named this card one of his top commons in his Born of the Gods Limited set review, and after this weekend I find myself inclined to agree with him.

Deepwater Hypnotist was totally fine. I don’t ask much out of my 2/1 two-drops, and his bonus is totally welcome if and when you activate it.

As I said, I started to board out first the Kraken and then Silent Sentinel, as well. Oftentimes I replaced one of these with Crypsis, which is a narrow card to be sure, but did some work, letting my guys win even combat, triggering heroic, occasionally surprising an attacker, and even allowing the last few points of (now-unblockable) damage to get in there.

In my own top 10 Born of the Gods “common bombs” post from last week, I chose Chorus of Tides as one of blue’s two best commons. (The other was Divination.) I’m happy to report that I was 100% right; turns out a 3/2 flier for four in Theros is exactly what you want in an aggressive UW deck. Curving out with, say, a Vanguard of Brimaz into Wingsteed Rider into Chorus of Tides of is just so aggressive, whereas previously (if memory serves), UW heroic didn’t really have much to do on T4 except start targeting Wingsteed Riders—which is of course good, but the longer you can continue committing threats to the board, rather than beefing up threats you already have, the lower the risk of your heroic guy getting bounced or killed in response to a trick or bestow. If you just keep running out threats your opponent has to deal with, sooner or later they will have to fire off removal at one of those (pants-less) threats, leaving you more free to target with impunity your remaining guys with tricks and auras.

Oh, and finally (about this deck, at least), last week Sean Morse commented that he thought Retraction Helix should have been one of my top blue commons, and after playing with it I’m inclined to agree with him. It’s just a really strong and versatile card. That said, be fucking careful and don’t target a freshly cast, summoning sick guy with this. I boneheadedly did that once recently and (even though I got a heroic trigger) felt like a real moron.

Let’s keep trucking on. Here is my first Born of the Gods draft deck, from week one of our Team Draft League:

Born of the Gods Team Draft League Deck 1

Creatures (15)
Ephara, God of the Polis
Deepwater Hypnotist
Chorus of the Tides
Leonin Snarecaster
Setessan Battle Priest
Siren of the Fanged Coast
Lagonna-Band Elder
Observant Alseid
Phalanx Leader
Favored Hoplite
Nyxborn Triton
Nyxborn Shieldmate
Evangel of Heliod
Sealock Monster

Spells (8)
Chosen by Heliod
Stratus Walk
Retraction Helix
Sea God's Revenge
Gods Willing
Triton Tactics
Battlewise Valor
Ordeal of Thassa
Lands (17)

Sideboard (11)
Ephara's Warden
Triton Tactics
Lost in a Labyrinth
Mortal's Ardor
Last Breath
Ray of Dissolution
Chosen by Heliod
Benthic Giant
Fate Foretold
Great Hart

I first-picked Siren of the Fanged Coast and got shipped a pick-two Ephara, God of the Polis, as well as Ephara’s Enlightenment. I snapped up the god and went all-in on UW. In retrospect, though, I think I should have taken Ephara’s Enlightenment, as I just don’t think God of the Polis is really what you want to be doing in an aggressive UW deck (which is kind of the only kind of UW deck there is—or, at least, was). Sure, I rarely drew Ephara over three games, but when I did I never had room to cast her, as I wanted to continue curving out with Chorus of Tides and then using auras and tricks on my guys; and I even started to consider boarding her out entirely in some of my later games. And boy, looking back on how the games played out, Ephara’s Enlightenment would have been a stone beating, just what my deck wanted: namely a reusable source of heroic, +1/+1 counters, and evasion. Of course, shipping a God of the Polis isn’t a great signal to send, as the mythic symbol sets people’s eyes a-spinnin’, but you gotta do what you gotta do, and if I had continued to cut UW hard, it probably would not have mattered.

I ended up going 1-2 in this draft, losing to Matt Jones and Kadar Brock in sets of three, but in general I think I got a bit on the unlucky side. (No offense at all to Matt and KB, who played and sideboarded excellently against me.) I think the deck was strong, save for it not having any Wingsteed Riders, which honestly I don’t think were opened at all in the draft.

The two Nyxborn cards—Nyxborn Triton and Nyxborn Shieldmate—I just loved. The lowly 1/2 for W in particular did work for me, as I more than once cast him on T1 on the play because I had Ordeal of Thassa in hand, after which I just went to town. Normally you wouldn’t ever want to cast this guy for anything other than his bestow cost, but it’s nice that you have the flexibility to do otherwise if the cards line up perfectly.

Siren of the Fanged Coast was always an Air Elemental, which of course is totally awesome. Honestly I don’t see you ever getting a Mind Control out of this unless your opponent has nothing but shitty creatures, in which case you’re probably winning anyway, right?

And that’s all I’ve got for today, kids! I’m finishing this up at night in Andermatt, Switzerland, after about a full day of traveling and hotel stuff, and so I’m wicked tired. Nevertheless, I’m really looking forward to drafting more Born of the Gods; thus far I’m finding the set a welcome breath of fresh air to our current Limited format. Until next time, good luck and have fun!

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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