Any conversation about Born of the Gods Limited begins with this card. Wingsteed Rider was the best common in all-Theros draft, and white managed to go one better in the new set. Don't be fooled by the smaller stats. A power and a toughness is a bargain price for coming out a full turn earlier. Add to that some powerful 3-drop enhancers like Nyxborn Shieldmate you can have your opponent on the back foot before they get a nonland permanent into play.
Also, Born of the Gods is a small set, so more Skyguards turn up in packs than Wingsteed Riders. It's not just white; Born of the Gods in general skews to the aggressive side of things. It also makes up half of the packs in a sealed pool, so the format as a whole is much more aggressive. This means that to be successful, sealed decks have to either come off the blocks quickly or be prepared for those who do.
Not every color made out like a bandit in Born of the Gods. Black's commons are for the most part a dismal collection of filler cards. That is, except for this little gem, a powerful, efficient removal spell. Now, because black is so starved in Born of the Gods, it takes a lot of luck to get enough playables for it to work in sealed. However, that same shortness can serve as a benefit when it comes to draft. Not only do fewer players want to draft black, so the self-correction of draft comes into play, but it becomes much easier to cut black in pack one. First-picking an Asphyxiate is therefore a powerful gambit. It's not impossible to wind up as the only one drafting black at your table, which is a recipe for a 3-0 performance.
One of the most compelling discussions of the weekend came out of one of Alexander Hayne's drafts: Is it correct to take Ornitharch over Phenax, God of Deception? Even the pros were split on this one. On the one hand, Ornitharch is the sure thing. It gets you five power of flying damage served one of two ways. It's also in white, considered to be the most powerful color in the format. Phenax is more of a gamble. Not only is it a two-tone card, making it easier to get pushed off of, but it also only works in one style of deck. However, if you manage to craft that sleek blue-black control deck, Phenax is a powerful finisher, and very difficult to answer.
Hayne, however, didn't have to make that choice. He had the luxury of being passed Phenax second-pick, a signal that the player on his right would not be interfering with his plans. Knowing that you have to draft an overall plan, not just a collection of cards, is essential in this format, and players who have put in the hours can get an edge by being best able to exploit the power of cards with that kind of context-dependent power.
2. Gods Willing
Simply put, Gods Willing is everything you want in a trick. It triggers heroic on the cheap. It short-circuits removal without forcing you to hold up a ton of mana, meaning you can keep building your board. It can even act as a pseudo-Falter, allowing a single attacker to push past mono-colored opposition for the final few points of damage.
Finalist David Shiels used it to cut a path through the Top 8. Against Brock Parker, his Gods Willing saved a Battlewise Hoplite that then grew out of control with Ordeal of Heliod. In the semifinals he was racing against Daniel Fournier's Siren of the Silent Song, hardly an ideal situation, and he refused to discard the powerful instant, saving it to help set up a lethal endgame.
Here's a creature that really puts an exclamation point on the end of an aggressive curve. It may be four power compared to Ornitharch's five, but the Archon rules the skies. The fact that you can bestow it on a ground creature and surprise the opponent with a massive evasive attacker is just backbreaking. Gerard Fabiano took the Top 8 by storm with a double dose of this powerful rare. Fabiano's opponents were sometimes able to answer one Archon, but the second proved too much to handle. In the tournament's final game Fabiano seized the trophy with a brutal sequence of turn-five Archon, turn-six Archon. There was not a turn seven.