There has been a good deal of press so far this weekend on the impact the Gods have had on the Standard environment, and with good reason. They are the marquee cards of Theros, the foundation of the myths and legends upon which the set is based. They are all over the place this weekend, as well. Thassa, God of the Sea, God of the Sea, has been leading the charge, pushing both Team StarCityGames and a strong European contingent to the tops of the leaderboard. Purphoros, God of the Forge, lent his strength to Team ChannelFireball, though he didn't fare as well as his watery counterpart. Even Erebos, God of the Dead, was getting in on the action, propelling Kentarou Yamamoto to a likely berth in the Top 8.
With all of this press, it's easy to see why news of their weapons has been lost in the shuffle. While the Gods have certainly been important to the story of the weekend, the impact that their weapons have left has been even greater. All five of the weapons were seen in decks this weekend, but three stood above the rest: Bident of Thassa, God of the Sea, Hammer of Purphoros, and the Whip of Erebos. Bow of Nylea has seen some play in Mono-Green Devotion, where it can be used in conjunction with an attackingPolukranos, World Eater, to wipe an opponent's board. Spear of Heliod has been seen in the White Weenie decks in the room, providing them another Glorious Anthem to enhance their armies. But neither of them had the impact on the format that the big three have had.
The first to mention is the flashiest of all three: the Bident of Thassa, God of the Sea. As a large component in most of the Mono-Blue Devotion decks, the Bident fills multiple important roles in the deck. Sam Black, from Team StarCityGames, explained the Bident's importance to me.
"We had originally envisioned it as the backbone and engine of our deck," he explained. "It turns out that it didn't really work out that way. Interestingly, the decks that it has proven to be the best against are the decks that it would normally seem the worst against: the control decks with lots of removal. While they are able to simply kill all of your creatures and effectively shut the Bident off, if one ever sneaks through, it just buries them in cards."
The other big thing about the Bident is that it is an important contributor to the deck's devotion.
"Considering that it is a permanent source of two mana symbols for our Thassa, God of the Seas is one of the biggest things it provides us," Black continued. "Unlike the creatures, the Bident is much harder to kill."
The one thing that it has going against it is its cost.
"The blue decks are overloaded with things to do at the four-drop slot," he added. "Between this,Master of Waves, and Jace, Architect of Thought, there are just so many things to do for four mana. We knew that we wanted five or so of Bident and Jace, in some combination, between the main deck and the sideboard. We figured that there would be a number of midrange decks, and Jace is generally bad against those decks because their creatures are so big. That gave Bident the edge."
Speaking of midrange decks, some of the Naya and Gruul Midrange decks have put their faith in another God's weapon: the Hammer of Purphoros. Acting akin to Fires of Yavimaya, the Hammer has been primarily coming out of the sideboard in those decks in order to deal with the control decks in the field. Adding haste to your monsters against them is incredibly powerful, as is having a constant source of 3/3 attackers.
The Hammer of Purphoros has been another big card for the weekend as a way for the Red Devotion decks to pressure control decks. However, despite the upside, the Hammer can prove to be rough against faster strategies.
Hammer of Purphoros cap="The Hammer of Purphoros has been another big card for the weekend as a way for the Red Devotion decks to pressure control decks. However, despite the upside, the Hammer can prove to be rough against faster strategies.
"I think the card has been fantastic," Conley Woods told me as I spoke to the team, "But everyone else says that it's been terrible. I've played mostly against control decks, where it's amazing. The haste is backbreaking against them, and having a stream of Golems is basically impossible to beat. It's like an extra planeswalker for us, and one more card that people have to try to shut off with Pithing Needleand Detention Sphere. It really diversifies things for us."
"The problem with it is that it's not that great against the creature decks," Josh Utter-Leyton continued. "Against them, the haste is less important, because they'll usually have creatures untapped, and the 3/3s are generally less impressive. It's definitely a benefit that it's a three mana card with double contribution to devotion, but that's about it. It hasn't been a terrible card, by any means, but I think it has definitely underperformed. The deck just has so many things that it wants to do for four mana that having something that functioned at three mana was very important. It just wasn't as good as we thought it would be, mostly because of how the field ended up."
The final of the big three has been one of the more hidden stars of the weekend (appropriate considering its color): the Whip of Erebos. Patrick Chapin and Paul Rietzl both played an Orzhov Midrange deck featuring a copy of the Whip, and it has been one of the strongest performers all weekend long. It also featured prominently in the Mono-Black Devotion deck played by Kentarou Yamamoto, where it could return such strong targets as Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Pack Rat. If you make a copy of the Rat while it's in play, you can effectively start building an army again, letting you rebuild quickly in the face of removal. This effective loophole in the Whip's drawback is similar to the one that Chapin and Rietzl are taking advantage of.
The final God weapon to make big waves during the weekend was Whip of Erebos, used in both Kentarou Yamamoto's Mono Black Devotion deck and the Orzhov deck piloted by Patrick Chapin and Paul Rietzl.
"The interaction between Whip and Obzedat is incredible," Chapin explained. "I won a game earlier that I had no business winning thanks to the combination of the two. I was able to return the Obzedat, attack, and then remove it with the Obzedat's trigger, allowing it to stick around rather than being exiled by the Whip. This let me attack and trigger it over and over again, even if he managed to kill it again. I must have gained over sixty life thanks to the combo, and I needed every point of it. I finished the game at around twenty life, but for a while, it was the only thing keeping me alive. The combo is also very powerful in the late stages of the game against control decks. The only times I have ever sided the Whip out were in the match-ups where I sided Obzedat out. I wasn't originally sold on the card, but Paul insisted that we keep it in. I listened to him, and I couldn't be happier."
With the divine arsenal at your disposal in Standard, there are certainly a large number of tools to choose from. These weapons are all quite good in a variety of situations and match-ups, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to begin to see more from the other two weapons in the future, as well. In the right hands, these weapons are designed to be devastating. But, as Utter-Leyton and much of the ChannelFireball crew learned the hard way, you have to choose your weapons carefully. In the wrong spot or the wrong deck, the weapons go from waging war to packing less punch than a pillow fight.