One week ago, the city of Seattle had not won a major professional sports title in 35 years and red was the worst color in Theros limited. Well, the Seahawks just dominated the Super Bowl and Born of the Gods juiced red to the max. Oh world, you’ve changed.

I hosted a small Seattle reunion for the Super Bowl. It was fantastic. Here is the final celebratory scene:

superbowl

Note the glass of water that I will knock over moments later.

The Seahawks entered the red zone often on Sunday, and so did I in my introduction to Born of the Gods over the weekend. I played one and a half pre-releases and then on Monday night helped kick off our Team Draft League with a Born of the Gods/Theros/Theros draft.

Regular readers know that I am not a big fan of red in Theros limited. But did you know I own three Magic guild t-shirts, and that one of those three is Izzet? Oh man was blue-red a horrible combination in triple-Theros draft and sextuple-Theros sealed. So was red-black. That’s bound to change now, as Born of the Gods spews red value all over the place. There are a lot of good red cards in the new set. Let’s look at the most important one:

Fall-of-the-Hammer

Fall of the Hammer is the new Voyage’s End. How many cards in the format can kill a large creature at instant speed for two mana? Does that sound like a useful option to have in your deck? Yes, it requires a creature with relevant power, and it does open the door to getting two-for-oned in response, but it is so cheap that you can fit it anywhere in your curve to play around opponents’ responses without having to waste your entire turn.

Imagine this scenario: You have a monstrous Ill-Tempered Cyclops with Hammer in hand and mana to cast it. Your opponent has a Nessian Asp and a couple small creatures. Attack. You can either kill their Asp before blocks, for two mana, and likely get in unblocked for six. Or you can let them have the opportunity to make an ill-fated gang block, only to lose their board and still take some trample damage.

Here’s another: It’s your third turn on the draw. You have a Firedrinker Satyr enchanted with an Ordeal of Purphoros and one +1/+1 counter already added. Fall of the Hammer in hand. Three mountains in play. Your opponent just played a Courser of Kruphix as her first creature. Attack, get a second counter, then before blocks drop the hammer on the Courser and get in for four damage as well.

Now imagine this one: You have four mountains, two forests, and a Sedge Scorpion. Fall of the Hammer in hand. You pass the turn and your opponent taps out to cast Shipbreaker Kraken. Boom. Dead for two mana.

Or this: Again you have four mountains, two forests, and a Sedge Scorpion. Hammer in hand. You pass the turn and your opponent taps five mana for a Keepsake Gorgon. You fire off the Hammer to kill it, and your opponent taps their last swamp to Eye Gouge your scorpion in response. Well, you can’t with them all.

One-sided fight for two mana at instant speed is incredible. Especially in red, which has a lot of high-power creatures and ways to increase power. Dragon Mantle and Titan’s Strength combo very well with Fall of the Hammer. And it triggers heroic. In a pinch it can trigger heroic twice, as you can choose to fight another of your own creatures. This one’s in the bag, folks.

So, pre-release!

born of the mountain

Rock on, Chicago. Folgers crystals, good to the last drop!

I’m a firm believer in seeking new experiences, so I rolled down to ye olde Twenty Sided Store for the midnight pre-release event. Have you ever danced with a sealed pool in the pale moonlight? Playing Magic until five in the morning sounds awful, but what do I know?

I chose blue for my special pack, and my seeded rare was stupid Mindreaver. Just like Shawn! What a piece of crap. The Mindreaver, not Shawn. He’s cool. So were my other rares!

foilbreath

Should I mulligan this hand?

Remember how, last week, I sad I had played with every card in Theros except for Stormbreath Dragon? Well, as of 2:00 am on February 1, 2014, I still had not cast the red menace. I lost a frustrating match in round one of the pre-release, which involved my opponent doing a lot of tapping and untapping of his Arbiter of the Ideal using Kiora’s Follower and Springleaf Drum. At that point, I decided the marginal return for playing out the next three rounds was so small compared to the value of the cards in my pool (which also had a Fleecemane Lion and a foil Fanatic of Mogis) and the value of sleep, so I dropped and caught a cab home. I needed to rest up for my other pre-release flight at 3:00 pm.

For the afternoon flight, I had black as my color pack. Here’s what I ended up playing:

Dark and Stormy

Creatures (14)
Felhide Brawler
Bronze Sable
Arena Athlete
Reckless Reveler
Spiteful Returned
Satyr Rambler
Blood-Toll Harpy
Kragma Butcher
Borderland Minotaur
Ill-Tempered Cyclops
Forsaken Drifters
Shrike Harpy
Stormbreath Dragon

Spells (9)
Asphyxiate
Magma Jet
Lightning Strike
Fall of the Hammer
Fearsome Temper
Scourgemark
Boon of Erebos
Lands (17)
Swamp
Mountain

Sideboard (20)
Returned Centaur
Eater of Hope
Marshmist Titan
Black Oak of Odunos
Akroan Crusader
Impetuous Sunchaser
Stormcaller of Keranos
Spark Jolt
Drown in Sorrow
Sip of Hemlock
Necrobite
Eye Gouge
Fated Return
Claim of Erebos
Reaper of the Wilds
Kiora, the Crashing Wave
Nessian Asp
Perplexing Chimera
Triad of Fates

Dos dragon aliento de tormenta, por favor!

que lastima

How sorrowful . . . for my opponents.

This was quite the aggressive beatdown deck. I didn’t even want my expensive cards, like the mediocre black promo Eater of Hope or even Sip of Hemlock. When you are smashing face every turn, Asphyxiate is about the best removal spell possible in the format.

I went 3-1 in matches, losing only to dat delver player, Li Xu, in a red-black mirror. Three of my four matches were against black-red decks, and all three of my opponents had Mogis, God of Slaughter. All I had was breath.

Mythic bombs aside, I think black-red got a lot better with the addition of Born of the Gods. My specific sealed deck is not very plausible in draft, as it has more Born of the Gods cards than you can realistically expect to pick up in one draft pack. Still, expect to see a lot of decks like this in the new draft format, just with more Theros beaters. The amazing new cheap removal spells and a few more two drop options really help the deck.

Felhide Brawler is likely to be a very important card for drafting black-red minotaur beatdown. You don’t want to take it highly, but if one or two come around late in the first pack, that is a great signal that the deck is open. Nobody else wants a 2/2 that can’t block, so wheel those doggies all day long and fill out your beatdown curve. Two drops are so important! Reckless Reveler is also nice as it offers some extra value beyond just attacking for two a turn.

What would I first pick to make me want to go into the deck? How about Spiteful Returned? Bestow that thing on an Arena Athlete and go to town. That two life loss is getting in there over and over. Bestow is so resilient.

So what about Izzet decks in the new format? How about this one I drafted in the 3×3 team draft Doctah Jones will be writing about next Monday:

Turn and Burn

Creatures (13)
Omenspeaker
Arena Athlete
Deepwater Hypnotist
Reckless Reveler
Everflame Eidolon
Meletis Charlatan
Crackling Triton
Wavecrash Triton
Spellheart Chimera
Two-Headed Cerberus
Ill-Tempered Cyclops

Spells (10)
Lightning Strike
Bolt of Keranos
Searing Blood
Voyage’s End
Griptide
Retraction Helix
Fate Foretold
Sudden Storm
Nullify
Lands (17)
Mountain
Island

Sideboard (7)
Lightning Volley
Annul
Rage of Purphoros
Benthic Giant
Divine Verdict
Fleecemane Lion

This deck could really use another heroic trigger spell or two. Nyxborn Rollicker would be perfect, or Nimbus Naiad. But it’s a good deck. Blue-red finally has the critical mass of good cheap spells to play the sort of tempo-combo game that Izzet mages love.

The big big additions to the deck are Sudden Storm, Nullify, Retraction Helix, Searing Blood, and Bolt of Keranos. These cards all power up your Spellheart Chimera and can be rebought with Mnemonic Wall. Nullify finally gives us a strong two-mana counterspell. Sudden Storm is a total blowout if you time it properly. All these burn spells help diversify our tricks and Searing Blood in particular really helps force through damage. The double-red and double-blue for Nullify can be awkward, but so it goes.

Retraction Helix is at its best in blue-red. Most decks would rather just have Voyage’s End and not have to bother with tapping a creature for the bounce effect, which negates some of the tempo of the spell. But Wavecrash Triton is the absolute rock of a blue-red deck, and Retraction Helix is fantabulous with the 1/4 icemerfolk. Bounce one blocker, lock down another? For one mana? And you still have mana to cast Portent of Betrayal on whatever they have left.

Like I said, Matt will be writing about the inaugural match of the Brooklyn Team Draft League, which paired off the Scryducks (Matt, Kadar Brock, and Nick Forker) against the Clockwork Beasts (Hunter Slaton, Dave McCoy, and me). It was a ton of fun, even though my team came up short. I will leave the details to him and perhaps Hunter. But a couple interesting situations with Searing Blood came up in the games that I’d like to share.

scryduck stretch

T-shirts and pre-game calisthenics? We didn’t stand a chance!

Game two against Nick Forker. I’m at 13 life to his 11. His board: Mogis, God of Slaughter (active with seven devotion), Insatiable Harpy, Warchanter of Mogis, Baleful Eidolon. My board: Ill-Tempered Cyclops (3/3) enchanted with Fate Foretold, Spellheart Chimera (2/3), Wavecrash Triton.

I attack him with the Cyclops and Chimera. He blocks the Cyclops with Mogis and the Chimera with Insatiable Harpy (with a burn spell in hand to finish off my Chimera). In response to blocks, I kill his harpy with Searing Blood, dropping him to eight life. That turns off Mogis as a creature, and now both my creatures have trample with no remaining blockers. Thus I deal another six damage (Chimera is now a 3/3 with Searing Blood in the yard) and drop Nick to two life. And that was the game.

Game two against Matt Jones. I keep an opening hand with Searing Blood, Nullify, Reckless Reveler, Mountain, and two Islands. I lead with Islands and Nullify his turn three Nessian Courser. Then on turn four he plays Nessian Demolok using his Voyaging Satyr. I only have the two Mountains in play but I’ve drawn a Griptide so I pay the tribute and give him a 6/6. When he attacks, I Griptide it away, then untap and use Searing Blood to kill his Voyaging Satyr. Matt replays Demolok, but this time I decline tribute and let him blow up a Mountain. I then draw Lightning Strike to kill his 3/3 Demolok. From here I beat down with three two-power creatures and Matt is out of gas.

Both of those matches were victories for my team. But then Kadar “must control a minotaur to” Brock destroyed me in two with . . . black-red aggro featuring . . . wait for it . . . Fall of the Hammer! Down came the axe on the Clockwork Beasts.

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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