In Constructed Magic, people often refer to the "metagame" as the collection of popular decks that one would expect to play against in a given tournament. This exists in Limited, too, even if it isn't quite as set in stone as you'd find in sixty-card decks.
Some of the best Draft archetypes feel almost mandated by our friends in R&D. White-Blue Heroic and Red-White Aggro are fairly straightforward in how they are built, even if playing them took a little getting used to. Black-Green Control took longer to figure out. But the overall metagame came into focus eventually, then we started branching out a bit. Then Born of the Gods came out and shook up everything. Now it's been out for long enough for the metagame to settle, and for us to start branching out again.
The biggest change was the rise of red, as key commons like Fall of the Hammer and Bolt of Keranos push people down a red path early in Born of the Gods. Things can get awkward in the two Theros boosters, however, as red isn't a particularly strong color and will often have multiple drafters at the table fighting over it.
This is a fight I prefer to stay out of if I can. (Hint: sometimes you can't.)
It's Black and White
Recently, my go-to deck has been a sweet white-black deck that can grind your opponent's resources and will to a halt.
Let's explore what makes this deck tick.
The first order of business is looking at what the game plan is for this deck and how it goes about achieving that game plan. The main idea with these white-black decks is to bring the game to a grinding halt, and win through attrition cards as well as mana sinks—places to put all of our extra mana. The deck is very good at curbing most ground assaults, and has enough game against fliers and evasive threats that it can beat almost anything you'll face. If you enjoyed playing the Orzhov strategies from Return to Ravnica block, you'll enjoy this one.
Why Play White-Black?
One of the key attractions to a deck like this is that you get to pick cards that other people don't want. We will be going over them individually in the next section, but cards like Odunos River Trawler, Griffin Dreamfinder, Servant of Tymaret, Scholar of Athreos, and Sentry of the Underworld are often passed over in favor of other cards. You can pick these up later in the pack while still taking the premium removal and creatures in these colors.
Let's take a look at some of the key cards for this deck.
Odunos River Trawler
One of the best cards you can get for the deck is Odunos River Trawler.
Buying back a bestow creature, and then doing it again, is the name of the game. To give you a snapshot of what this deck is capable of, let me present a scenario:
You play a creature, say a lowly Setessan Battle Priest on turn two. Your opponent is playing green-white heroic, and is setting up the board with a Setessan Oathsworn and a Staunch-Hearted Warrior. On your fifth turn, you bestow a Baleful Eidolon onto your Battle Priest.
I'll let you work out how this goes for the opponent, but let me put a cherry on top of this sundae and tell you that you have an Odunos River Trawler in your hand. There aren't a lot of ways this ends poorly for you, as you can block with your deathtouch creature, block again with the Eidolon if the original creature dies, rebuy it with River Trawler, rebestow it, block, block again, and then rebuy it again with the same River Trawler, rebestow it, block, and finally block one last time.
Phew. That's a lot of work for our old friend Baleful Eidolon! All of those blocks are with a deathtouch creature that can withstand many of the combat tricks in the format, and even if it were to die, who cares? We get to recast the thing so many times, it hardly matters. No number of Nessian Asps or Nemesis of Mortals is getting through that barrier.
I'll admit, I picked a favorable matchup for this example, but hey, I wanted to show what this interaction was capable of.
Another card that you can pick up fairly late in Born of the Gods that works well in this strategy is Griffin Dreamfinder.
Similar to the River Trawler, this card can provide some nice late-game card advantage, and also serves as a blocker for pesky flying creatures. It's not as potent as the River Trawler, because it's more expensive and only works once, but it can get back any enchantment (not just enchantment creatures), so it offers a bit of versatility as well.
Baleful Eidolon is a big deal in this deck, especially if you have an Odunos River Trawler or two floating around. Even if you don't, though, Baleful Eidolon still puts in as much work as it ever has, and it's a card you want for the deck every time. It's not your only creature that puts up a good ground defense, but it's probably the best one.
Scholar of Athreos
Scholar was always a bit of an overachiever in Theros Block Draft, but in this deck, it's a staple. It plays three important roles in the white-black deck:
- It only costs three mana, and it has 4 toughness. This makes it a nice blocker in the early stages of the game.
- The lifegain ability it has allows you to recover from early onslaughts and not die to burn spells or alpha strikes later in the game.
- Its drain ability is a great place to dump all of your extra mana after you have stabilized the board and the game is going long.
The most interesting thing about Scholar of Athreos at this point is how highly to take it. It may very well be the best card in the deck, and passing one is a risky proposition. That said, it's not a high pick for any other archetype, and you can often wheel it. I have been too scared and have been taking them highly, but it's not uncommon to see them go quite late in the draft.
Servant of Tymaret
I wouldn't call Servant of Tymaret an all-star in this deck, but it certainly fits right into the theme. Another tough card to get through on the ground, the Servant can also attack into just about anything and offer up a late-game win condition as well. Again, this isn't a priority for the deck, but it's a nice addition and you can pick it up quite late.
Sentry of the Underworld
Sentry of the Underworld is a powerful card that you can get very late. Since most decks won't want to splash for a Sentry, you are usually the only person taking them. This means you get every single one that is opened in the draft a lot of the time. That is a powerful position to be in.
Sentry also brings us to an important topic: What does this deck lose to?
The biggest answer is fliers or evasive threats. Since our ground game is so well taken care of, we rarely lose to big ground threats. It's the Akroan Skyguards and Vaporkins that pose the biggest problem for this deck.
As a result, we have to make sure that our bases are covered when it comes to removal. Thankfully, we are in white and black, and finding good removal in these colors isn't difficult.
Both Sip of Hemlock and Divine Verdict are quite good in this deck. Sip of Hemlock is a nice catchall removal spell for that one annoying threat that sticks on the battlefield. The knock on Sip is that it's expensive. But since this deck is designed to go well into the long game, we will usually be able to survive long enough to cast it. Divine Verdict plays nicely into our strategy since an evasive creature beating us down is our biggest weakness. This requires attacks, of course, which gives us the opportunity to use our Verdict.
Other removal is still good, too. Lash of the Whip kills many of the things we care about and seems to be a bit underrated currently. Pharika's Cure is still good at keeping the ultra-aggressive decks at bay.
The key thing to keep in mind during the draft is that you need to find ways to kill evasive threats. Don't let the whole draft go by without a way to take down a Wingsteed Rider or an Agent of Horizons.
I've focused on the newer and less-often-played cards here, but don't forget that we still get access to all the best stuff from black and white. Gray Merchant of Asphodel isn't as important as it used to be, but it's still very strong and worth a high pick. Keepsake Gorgon is one of the best cards in Theros, and remains so in this archetype. Hopeful Eidolon is a great card in this deck, as you can buy it back with Odunos River Trawler or Griffin Dreamfinder, and use it to recover from early aggressive starts from your opponents. Read the Bones is good for hitting land drops and finding the right answers, and we can usually gain the life back at some point as well.
So feel free to draft the good stuff you're used to while picking up important cards much later than you would be used to.
It's important as the format matures to keep exploring new deck options, lest we fall behind the curve and find ourselves battling it out with everyone else who hasn't gotten the memo about the new hot deck. This process will continue through the rest of the format, so we had better get used to it.
What formats have you found good in Born of the Gods draft recently?
Until next week!