The Nyxborn Five

Posted in Limited Information on January 22, 2014

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

Last week, we looked at a complex and exciting new cycle of creatures for our Born of the Gods previews. This week, our preview cards are a bit different. We have yet another full cycle of cards from Born of the Gods, but this time they are a bit more familiar. This week's cards are also at the common rarity, so they will have a bigger impact on our Draft and Sealed Deck events going forward.

I'm not one to hold back, so let's take a look at them first, and then we'll discuss what they mean to the format.

Nyxborn Shieldmate, Nyxborn Triton, Nyxborn Eidolon, Nyxborn Rollicker, Nyxborn Wolf

As you can see, we have a repeat of a mechanic we saw (and loved) in Theros: bestow. I find it interesting that we see these "vanilla" bestow creatures not in the first set of the block, but instead in the second. It would have been an easy way to introduce bestow, then show people its true power when you start adding more powerful abilities to the mix.

I suppose the idea is to grab people's attention with the big splashy bestow cards, and then let them explore the subtleties with these more tame versions of the mechanic.

    Lessons Learned

One of the big lessons we learned about bestow was to pay special attention to the bestow cost of the creature. The cheaper the price, the better the card, even if the powers it granted seemed marginal.

Hopeful Eidolon | Art by Min Yum

The poster child for this was Hopeful Eidolon. Overlooked early, it didn't take long to recognize its power. In a set where heroic is a viable deck archetype, getting a bestow creature onto something else for cheap was a huge benefit.

Another thing we learned in Theros was that building heroic-based decks was difficult. With only so many non-creature slots available in each deck, it was difficult to find enough room for heroic creatures, removal, and heroic enablers in just forty cards. This is where bestow came in and saved the day. Acting as glue for this entire strategy, bestow let us have both a creature and a heroic enabler in the same slot.

Now we see this taken to the next level with this cycle of Nyxborn bestow creatures. The boundaries have been pushed, and bestow has gotten cheaper and more efficient.

As we push these boundaries, however, we have to be wary of pushing too far. The cheaper bestow creatures were awesome in Theros , but what if they were too cheap? What if the bonus they granted, or the body they left behind, was just too insignificant to warrant playing in our deck? On the other hand, what if triggering heroic and leaving any type of body behind is enough to consider playing the card?

This cycle of common Nyxborn creatures will push these boundaries.

Let's look at each one individually.

Right off the bat we see a challenge to what we know about bestow. The creature side of this card is bad. A 1/2 for isn't the end of the world, but it would never make the main deck of any respectable Limited deck. (See Triton Shorethief as an example of this.)

But, of course, this doesn't end there, as it has bestow, which changes everything. Keeping it simple, we have a low bestow cost that simply applies the power and toughness of this creature to the one it's bestowing. Giving a creature +1/+2 is pretty nice. Triggering heroic on the way is very nice. And only paying three mana for this is great.

This is a card not unlike Baleful Eidolon in that you really only look at it from its bestow perspective. You will essentially never cast it as a 1/2 for . It's a creature Aura first and foremost. And for three mana, it's a pretty darned good one.

Again, we have a fairly straightforward card, but with one big difference: this one passes the Vanilla Test on its own. My guess is that when we see a bestow creature pass the Vanilla Test, we should expect a healthy hike up on the bestow cost.

My guess is correct. Bestow cost of is very reasonable, however. We are used to bestow creatures that give power, toughness, and even other special abilities, but these simple power-and-toughness-boosting bestow creatures are deceptively powerful. Giving an evasive blue threat +2/+3 is a big tempo swing and can affect combat in a huge way.

Playing both sides of the field, Nyxborn Triton seems like a perfectly balanced bestow creature.

Nyxborn Eidolon is a lot like Nyxborn Triton. It passes the vanilla test as a 2/1 for , and we see its bestow cost raised as a result. Casting this Eidolon on turn two or bestowing it on turn five both seem like reasonable options. Again, this card rewards evasion, as it boosts the power a full 2 notches. The toughness boost may not look like much, but even a bump of just 1 toughness can make a big difference.

Getting a 2/1 body after your bestowed creature dies is quite nice as well.

Now we are pushing boundaries. A bestow cost of just is unheard of. Being this far on the end of the spectrum, we would expect to give up a lot on both the bestow bonus and the regular creature stats. And we do. A 1/1 for is not a card worth consideration in a powerful Limited environment like Theros block. This leaves us with the bestow aspect.

Can it be possible that it's worth it to run a card that affects the game in such a small way on both halves of its abilities? It's possible, but probably unlikely. The bestow part of this card is fine, and heavy heroic decks will want to run these. But the bare 1/1 that it leaves behind is pretty depressing.

We learned from Hopeful Eidolon that the bestow was the important part of that equation, but we also learned that the 1/1 lifelink creature it left behind was a suitable bestow target itself. This vanilla 1/1 is much less of a good target.

This is the card I'll have my eye on the most out of the cycle. It's about the lowest-impact bestow creature you can make, and it will set the bar on whether bestow is good enough regardless of what it does, or if the line is slightly higher than that.

Now we come to the green version of this cycle, Nyxborn Wolf. My guess would have been something like "4G, 4/4. Bestow 6G. Enchanted creature gets +4/+4." I kind of assumed they would just go with the big beef plan here, but the final product is actually quite different.

First of all, a 3/1 for has been done before, but you don't see them too often. This one has no abilities other than being a 3/1 enchantment creature, but it can hold its ground pretty nicely. The downside is that 3/1s can be traded off for random tokens, or maybe even Nyxborn Rollickers hanging out on the battlefield. The upside is that they can often trade up for bigger, more important creatures when blocking. Additionally, if left unchecked, a 3-powered creature for three mana closes out games quickly.

And then we get to the bestow. The 3 power bonus is fantastic. It's a massive tempo swing and dramatically changes your clock (the amount of turns it's going to take you to kill your opponent). The 1 toughness boost isn't anything to scoff at either, but the true measure of this card is the bestow cost of . If this had cost a mana less to bestow, it would probably be too good. At five mana, it's still great, and is going to close out many games quickly.

Remember, if you just put this on a lowly 2/2 you have a 5/3 attacking right now! That's pretty insane, especially when you start slapping him on various evasive creatures. The 3/1 body that is left behind is also really good, and I think this is perhaps the most powerful of this cycle.


While this cycle may lack the flair and trickiness of some of the older bestow cards, do not for a second make the mistake of overlooking it. We learned in Theros that bestow is a strong ability and not something to be taken lightly. This cycle asks very little of you, and gives you a ton back.

I'm pretty sure I'll be taking most of these quite highly and feeling good about running a bunch of them in every deck.

Until next week.

Marshall SutcliffeMarshall Sutcliffe
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Marshall Sutcliffe hosts the Limited Resources podcast, does Pro Tour and Grand Prix video coverage, writes articles, and produces strategy videos. Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited following a long hiatus from the game, but he enjoys all forms of the game. He lives in Seattle, WA.

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