Born of the Gods has been spoiled completely a bit earlier than I expected, and I made up my mind about which cards I wanted a bit faster than I would have guessed, so here comes the update for my limited card pool!
But first, the obligatory barrage of links:
Here I introduce and explain the concept and use of my limited card pool, and also how my list is set up. In that entry is a link to an older version of my list. (If my admittedly sometimes strange shortcuts in that list confuse you, here’s a list with explanations of them.)
In a separate entry I listed a number of general guidelines I follow when deciding which cards I want in my cubes.
I explain and comment on my choices in detail in the following entries:
Lands & Artifact Creatures
White Lands & Creatures
White Non-Creature Spells
Black Lands & Creatures
Black Non-Creature Spells
Green Lands & Creatures
Green Non-Creature Spells
Blue Lands & Creatures
Blue Non-Creature Spells
Red Lands & Creatures
Red Non-Creature Spells
Multicolor with White
Multicolor without White
And here it is – my updated list as an xls file:
In future articles about my limited card pool, I will link just to this entry here, which lists all important links in one place.
So, about Born of the Gods (mouseover on cards from that set will probably start working in the very near future):
Overall, I’m rather disappointed by that set’s design. These are the things it mainly offers:
1. more heroic
That’s a nice mechanic, but not one I want to sculpt an environment around, like WotC did, because it lends itself too much towards all-or-nothing plays. I only want it as a mini theme for that reason, and am thus not interested in too many different designs (which, by the way, aren’t the pinnacle of originality anyway). Still, the set delivered what I needed here, two good replacements for cards from Theros I wasn’t too happy with in the first place, so I consider this actually one of the stronger points.
2. more bestow
Bestow was meant to premiere in this set, before Theros stole it. Thus, there’s not much interesting left here: All the cool designs have already been used. Some of the new bestow cards would be usable, if somehow boring, if I wanted bestow to play a major part in a cube, but I don’t – it is just another interesting way to spice up auras, and it has a lot of competition here.
3. more enchantrips
(That’s my term for auras which draw you a card when they enter the battlefield.)
The new designs just aren’t better than the older, with the exception of Karametra’s Favor, which is cool, but unfortunately provides green manafixing – if it just added G, I would have embraced it.
4. more scry
I had high expectations here, and was deeply disappointed. Glimpse the Sun God is a strong design, but I am not looking for a white scry card: What I need is a good green option, or maybe a black one, but what Born of the Gods provides here is terrible. Well, I have to hope for Journey into Nyx, it seems…
5. more cross-color creatures
Some of these designs are reasonable – Akroan Phalanx, for example – but none is better than what I already use.
With bestow already an old hat, this is the set’s poster mechanic, but I do not like it at all. I have a pretty good idea how unwieldy any applications of it other than just attacking with creatures will play out (I well remember WotC’s earlier experiments with the untap symbol, and with the merfolk tribe in Lorwyn), and I do not intend to warp one of my cubes to the point where this could become a major element. So, what’s left is essentially another mechanic which rewards you for attacking, and there are more elegant and less confusing options.
The designs I thought the most about were those in the vein of Aerie Worshippers, but I’m afraid they will not turn out as cool as they look, simply because, once an opponent is vulnerable enough to get hit by them, it is likely a better use of mana to cast another creature instead of paying for the trigger, which offers card advantage, but less pressure – or you will want to use a removal spell to ensure the creature can get through for damage again. Yes, I know there’s the lategame option of comboing these creatures with stuff like Springleaf Drum, but I neither believe in the validity of building your decks with this in mind (at least not in my interactive cubes), nor that this is a desirable goal to enable at all (it’s certainly not less repetitive than buyback). I also do not want to include dedicated tap enablers in my pool. I just took the Drum out, because I didn’t like it, and it is by far the best candidate. Admittedly, there’s a small chance that playing with these cards in „normal“ draft might sway me, but you shouldn’t hold your breath.
Just like monstrosity, tribute is a mechanic with great potential, which WotC wasted with mostly terrible designs. I suppose the idea of REALLY BIG NO BIGGER THAN THAT I MEAN REALLY REALLY BIG creatures appeals to many casual players, but it just doesn’t lead to good gameplay. The only design with monstrosity I really liked was Ill-Tempered Cyclops: Reasonable, but not too strong before going monstrous; and getting reasonably big for a reasonable cost later. However, monstrosity is a bit too specific for my taste that I would use only one card with it, and there isn’t a single other design with it I can stand.
As for tribute, WotC just has dropped the ball on it. A strictly worse Air Elemental (Siren of the Fanged Coast)? Really? Or a 4/4 for 5 mana which gives you 4 life (Snake of the Golden Grove)… unless you really need that life, in which case you very probably will not get it? Still, there are three useful designs, but one doesn’t fit with the other two: Pharagax Giant is a nice design (in my mind, it’s mainly a simplified version of Menacing Ogre), but the ones I use are on a different power level, and one is already red. Still, two cards ain’t too bad, but tribute should have had more to offer, just like monstrosity.
8. devotion on non-creature spells
I’m already not a big fan of devotion, which is rather swingy and unwieldy, and using it to scale basic effects appeals even less to me. That whole „harder-to-cast creatures are now better just because they’re harder to cast“ theme reeks of „design space used because they could, not because it’s good“ to me.
9. multicolor gods
Oh yes, gods. Making devotion even more swingy, and indestructible to boot. I shouldn’t waste any more words on this.
10. tap-activated auras
I guess there ARE some players who will suddenly realize one day that these are meant to combo with the inspired mechanic, and feel clever that they figured this out on their own. Other than that, there is no excuse for such terribly playing cards: All the downsides of creature enchantments, and to make use of them, you can not even attack with the creature anymore? There are very few designs where this works out (Quicksilver Dagger is an example), and WotC didn’t find new ones.
11. other tap enablers
Blue has a couple of those, with Crypsis being the new design here. (Yes, it untaps the creature instead of tapping it, but it allows you to attack with it with impunity.) That card is actually generically useful, though, providing a surprise invulnerable blocker or allowing to attack unblocked without leaving your defenses open.
While their power level vastly varies with their casting cost, their effect is always too much.
13. enchantment theme cards
Astonishingly enough, Theros lacked those. Now Born of the Gods provides a few, but their designs mostly fail to convince me, either being too narrow, just referencing auras or enchantment creatures, or being less elegant than older cards. There’s one exception, though.
14. silly tribal
I guess that’s WotC’s shortcut to flavor. I can’t make use of cards referencing octopuses or cyclops, though.
So, what did make it?
1. Gorgon’s Head replaces Gorgon Flail. (So happy the card doesn’t have a stupid „non-gorgon“ rider!) I prefer the purer effect.
2. Akroan Skyguard replaces Favored Hoplite. Simpler and not quite as powerful as Wingsteed Rider – just what I had hoped for!
3. Ornitharch replaces Geist-Honored Monk. The Monk never served a particularly important role – I just wanted another white 5-drop. This is an example of a tribute design done right, and I embraced it.
4. Dawn to Dusk replaces Aven Cloudchaser. This one’s a bit tricky: The sorcery obviously is both pro and anti enchantments, but the anti part plays a bigger role in making it playable. I like the idea of this card a lot! Concerning the Cloudchaser: When it’s good, it’s a little too good. This kind of combined tempo and card advantage should not cost less than 5 mana. I mainly kept it around to mirror Batterhorn somehow, but the time has come to move on.
5. Ashiok’s Adept replaces Tormented Hero. A creature with a meaningful heroic trigger replaces one where it seemed just tacked on, and it somehow mirrors Triton Fortune Hunter.
6. Crypsis is a new common. It is a somehow unique and interesting trick, and I believe it will play well.
7. Thunder Brute is a new rare. Another well-done tribute design, and Red can do with this kind of card at 6 mana.
8. Fearsome Temper is a new uncommon. Now that Maniacal Rage is gone, there is room for such a card at three mana. I guess it will play as a powered-down Shiv’s Embrace, which is a good thing.
9. Pinnacle of Rage is a new uncommon. Jagged Lightning was a bit too strong, but this is perfect and closes a gap in the otherwise quite tightly woven web of red burn spells.
10. Kiora’s Follower replaces Coiling Oracle. The snake was somehow original, and I liked it for nostalgic reasons, but in the end it was a harder-to cast, slightly souped-up Elvish Visionary with a random upside. The merfolk, however, is probably the coolest design in the whole set!
Directly or indirectly, Born of the Gods triggered a few more changes. I will just list any differences to my old list:
With Tormented Hero gone, Diregraf Ghoul can return and replace Vampire Lacerator. Ferocious Charge and Artisan’s Sorrow switched rarities to adjust to their attractiveness in draft. Lust for War and Brimstone Volley became common to make room for the new uncommons (Red still has the lowest ratio of commons among all colors in my pool). Jhoira’s Toolbox and Icy Manipulator, on the other hand, became uncommon since it fits better with their designs, and my pool needed more uncommons overall. (Balance per color has priority. The multicolor cards skew overall balance, though, and colorless cards provide a counterweight here.) Lastly, Air Elemental is common again, to fit in with Water Elemental and Earth Elemental, and because it just feels right.
Oh, and I’ll keep Bee Sting instead of Unyaro Bee Sting, since I have it, am too lazy to look for a replacement, and realized I can’t get rid of dated wordings completely anyway. Also, the Phil Foglio artwork is so much nicer!