This week I dug into some of the Born of the Gods/Theros/Theros release drafts online. In years past I would play a lot more Magic Online, but with the advent of our Team Draft League and the general growth of our drafting community, paper Magic has mostly supplanted my time playing with digital objects. That said, Magic Online offers an ideal testing ground for limited theories. Over the next couple weeks I’ll be grinding the new sealed format as I prepare for Grand Prix Montreal. But for now, I have two awesome 8-4 drafts wherein I tested my theory from last week.

Draft the First

This one started off with an interesting choice: Karametra, God of Harvests or Bile Blight. You can probably guess from the banner image which one I took (the god). That flies right in the face of my theory (stay in one color until pack two) and my general play style, but why have rules if you can’t break them? I tanked for a long time over this pick before taking Karametra. Here’s how my thoughts flowed:

  • Bile Blight is a fantastic removal spell. I still haven’t had a chance to play with it and it’s a great way to start a draft.
  • Black is the weakest color in Born of the Gods. But it’s great in Theros and Bile Blight is so good that it makes up for some of the clunkers I would end up taking if I go hard black in pack one.
  • If I don’t see more black cards in pack one, I can abandon Bile Blight easily enough. And who knows, I might get to bring black back as my secondary color depending on how the Theros packs go. Double black is tough to “splash” but if I get a Keepsake Gorgon and a few other top black cards, I can play eight swamps with whatever other color and be happy.
  • But . . . mythic god!
  • Green-white? Isn’t that one of my least favorite colors? Well, not exactly. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always had a soft spot for all-creature-no-removal Selesnya decks. I want to have good spells in my limited decks, but green-white offers the best suite of combat tricks. I like that.
  • Karametra is the worst god, though, right? She doesn’t do anything except fetch out your sixth or eighth land. Maybe she attacks for six, but you know what also attacks for six? Every big green creature ever.
  • But as I said in my first article at Hipsters: “There are very few things in Magic that I like to do more than draw extra lands out of my deck.”
  • Why do I want to fetch out a seventh or eighth land? Gee, I don’t know. Colossus of Akros is the dream, but I can find ways to use extra mana in this format.
  • Karametra seems better than she looks, and there’s no time like the present for trying her out.
  • What about staying in one color? Well, green is the deepest color in Theros, and the best for splashing, so I can figure things out as I go.
  • Besides, what fun are rules if you always follow them?

I ended up straight white-green through the first pack. An early Springleaf Drum and two good inspired creatures, Oreskos Sun Guide (yay value lifegain!) and Pheres-Band Tromper (yay winning!), helped make Born of the Gods into more than just a pack of filler cards. When the Archetype of Endurance wheeled, I was super happy to scoop it up. There’s something to do with eight mana! I also picked up a late Plea for Guidance, which seems horrible but I did have some expensive enchantments to tutor up if need be.

gw gods

Green-white anti-heroes.

In pack two I opened and took a Wingsteed Rider, then was passed a third pick Nylea, God of the Hunt and fourth pick Nessian Asp. I guess green is open! The deck came together quite well.

Metra the Feebles

Creatures (17)
Sedge Scorpion
Hopeful Eidolon
Oreskos Sun Guide
Leafcrown Dryad
Traveling Philosopher
Voyaging Satyr
Wingsteed Rider
Chronicler of Heroes
Pheres-Band Tromper
Nylea’s Disciple
Nylea, God of the Hunt
Karametra, God of Harvests
Nessian Asp
Vulpine Goliath
Evangel of Heliod
Archetype of Endurance

Spells (6)
Springleaf Drum
Savage Surge
Revoke Existence
Time to Feed
Divine Verdict
Lands (17)
Forest
Plains

Sideboard (19)
Siren Song Lyre
Setessan Griffin
Graverobber Spider
Loyal Pegasus
Yoked Ox
Setessan Battle Priest
Leonin Snarecaster
Bronze Sable
Great Hart
Silent Artisan
Scholar of Athreos
Plea for Guidance
Shredding Winds
Commune with the Gods
Revoke Existence
Culling Mark
Spellheart Chimera
Evanescent Intellect

The last card in the deck was Evangel of Heliod. It’s not quite amazing in this deck, but it offers a way to stabilize against a huge swarm of creatures, which is sort of like a mediocre wrath. It also works fine with Karametra, as it costs more than five mana and increases your devotion to her by two. The rest of the creatures in the board offer various redundancies of blocking. Setessan Griffin is fine, but Nylea already offers pumping and I have better big threats. Graverobber Spider can only be activated off the Springleaf Drum, and I can handle fliers OK without it.

Siren Song Lyre seems good, but I did not think it was what my deck needed. This deck as a good bit of removal and can block most big threats. If anything the deck is vulnerable to early aggression, and Lyre is way too slow for that. An easy sideboard sub if there’s a difficult creature I have to lock down.

My round one opponent had a sweet blue-black control deck:

GW m1g1 loss

Is this one of LSV’s secret accounts?

I lost a long game one after Kraken of the Straits followed by the spreading seas made it impossible for me to block. I had traded my Archetype of Endurance for a Keepsake Gorgon earlier, and then never had a creature big enough to block the kraken that came down later.

Game two my opponent scooped when he got stuck on three islands and no cards to play, facing my Pheres-Band Tromper. That card punishes mana stumbles, like it has a built-in ordeal. Game three my opponent led with Pain Seer. Two inspired triggers revealed Sip of Hemlock and Keepsake Gorgon. Add in two Blood-Toll Harpys and suicide black made my task easy. Nylea gives trample, and that made the final seven damage easy enough.

Round two I faced another blue-black deck. This one had Hythonia the Cruel and Eater of Hope. I lost the game where both of those hit play. I won a game where I curved turn two Voyaging Satyr into turn three Pheres-Band Tromper. In the third game, my opponent cast Psychic Intrusion when my hand was Karametra, God of Harvests, Revoke Existence, and Wingsteed Rider. There was a Time to Feed in my graveyard. Karametra is probably the most worthless card to steal away, and at the time my board was three forests, Voyaging Satyr, and Springleaf Drum, making Wingsteed Rider uncastable. My opponent took the Wingsteed, which is probably correct, but the three extra lands I fetched off Karametra gave me enough mana to edge out a close victory while I dealt with the stolen Wingsteed Rider without much trouble.

In the finals I met some friendly minotaurs. My draw game one perfectly foiled my opponent’s plan:

gw gods 2

Ripping the sixth land to stabilize and get hellbent before the ordeal goes off.

Lifegain! I won game two amusingly. Oreskos Sun Guide and friends had gotten me a nice life cushion early. Eventually the game stabilized with only lands and Nylea on board, my life at 27 and my opponent’s at 10. Of course my next draw is Karametra. Yay for two gods and no other creatures. Then I drew Time to Feed. Nice trolls, deck. My opponent then played Kragma Warcaller and started taking chunks out of my life. I topdecked Hopeful Eidolon, cast it (getting an extra land, woo woo), pumped once with Nylea, then ate the Warcaller, gaining six life as well. Then I drew another creature and boom I won.

Draft the Second

My second draft went much more according to plan. I opened Forgestoker Dragon and got passed two Bolt of Keranos. That’s a good reason to focus on red in pack one. Fourth pick I had the choice of Fall of the Hammer or Akroan Conscriptor. I really wanted to take the removal spell but conscriptor is so crazy good. Fall would have been better with how my deck turned out, but what can you do? Besides always taking the cheaper spell, of course. Anyway, Ragemonger wheeled and then I opened Agent of the Fates. Hello red-black minotaur deck!

RB minoroic

I’d say the archetype was open.

This deck was incredible. I really wanted some sort of instant heroic enabler, so but all I could get was a Spark Jolt. It’ll do.

He Card Red Good

Creatures (16)
Tormented Hero
Nyxborn Rollicker
Deathbellow Raider
Fleshmad Steed
Baleful Eidolon
Agent of the Fates
Ragemonger
Kragma Butcher
Felhide Minotaur
Minotaur Skullcleaver
Rageblood Shaman
Borderland Minotaur
Erebos’s Emissary
Akroan Conscriptor
Forgestoker Dragon

Spells (7)
Bolt of Keranos
Lightning Strike
Spark Jolt
Ordeal of Purphoros
Scourgemark
Dragon Mantle
Lands (17)
Mountain
Swamp

Sideboard (19)
Insatiable Harpy
Mogis’s Marauder
Two-Headed Cerberus
Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
Wild Celebrants
Scouring Sands
Viper’s Kiss
March of the Returned
Rescue from the Underworld
Peregrination
Satyr Wayfinder
Chained to the Rocks
Hopeful Eidolon
Divine Verdict
Lagonna-Band Elder
Traveling Philosopher
Sphinx’s Disciple
Benthic Giant

Ragemonger is ridiculous. In one game I played it turn three and then two Kragma Butchers on turn four. Reducing mana costs is a very very powerful ability in Magic. (See also Hero of Iroas, Goblin Electromancer.)

This was my opening hand in game one of my first match:

br one

No I would not like to mulligan.

My opponent was on blue-green. On turn two they had mana open to cast Voyage’s End, but you don’t put eight swamps in this deck to be able to cast a turn one Tormented Hero and not go for the ordeal. They didn’t have the trick and I was relieved. Then they played a Pillar of War. I had another swamp but not a second mountain, so I couldn’t bolt the 3/3 blocker. For some reason (perhaps the feeling of invincibility that comes from a turn two ordeal) I thought “Pillar of War can’t block either!” and swung in. Or maybe I forgot that the hero is a 2/1 and a second ordeal counter leaves it with only three toughness. PUNT. At least I had Agent to follow up.

My opponent passes with five mana up (three green, two blue). I go to attack with the 3/2 Agent of the Fates. Before I declare attackers, my opponent starts tapping mana, then realizes it is too early and stops. My “flash creature” alarm bells are ringing, but I have Spark Jolt to force a sacrifice if necessary. I figure Breaching Hippocamp or Horizon Chimera don’t scare me, so I swing in anyway. Of course there is a Fated Intervention and two centaurs show up. Oops. I fire off the Spark Jolt before blocks to at least make sure both centaurs die. Second two-for-one of the game I’ve walked into. And yet, I cast a Borderland Minotaur and proceeded to beat my opponent anyway. This deck is just too good.

Here’s how round two started:

br r2 phalanx jolt

I promise it’s just to trigger heroic!

Serendipity now! My opponent scooped after I bolted his next play after the Phalanx Leader, which was a turn five Sentry of the Underworld. Then I won game two like this:

br r2 trample

Is my opponent playing tightly or forgetting about the trample?

This screenshot is a great example of why you should never concede (unless you need the time or something marginal). My opponent is just dead to my trampling minotaurs, but she swung in and took me down to five (forcing me to discard Erebos’s Emissary in the process), and if that last card in her hand is Divine Verdict, I might lose. I drew a blocker to chump the Favored Hoplite next turn if necessary, but I was nervous as I made the final attack. Or maybe she didn’t realize Rageblood Shaman gives trample. Who knows? The point is, make your opponent sweat it out! Maybe I choose not to attack? That seems horribly wrong from my position (as I have to at least get rid of the Cavalry Pegasus) but when you force people to make decisions sometimes they make bad ones.

Anyway, I felt super lucky to have assembled such a ridiculous deck and to have won the first round despite my misplays. So when my finals opponent asked to split, I gladly took it, and even gave up the QP as an act of good karma. I don’t know if this deck proves staying in one color until pack two is a good idea, but red sure was open and I got an amazing deck.

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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