BNG: Floodtide Serpent and the enchantment reuse deck

Since the release of BNG, I’ve primarily drafted very aggressive decks, usually after being passed multiple copies of Loyal Pegasus, Fanatic of Xenagos, and/or red removal spells. I haven’t yet tried the archetypes I’d theorized that Born of the Gods might make possible. I’m particularly eager to try the enchantment reuse deck since I often see Floodtide Serpent late. I did once draft 2 Floodtide Serpents and 4 cantrip Auras (2 Dragon Mantles, 1 Stratus Walk, and 1 Fate Foretold) but left them in the sideboard because I had a U/R spells deck with Flamespeaker Adept, 2 Spellheart Chimeras, and a Prescient Chimera and so needed my noncreature slots for spells and not Auras.

Let’s consider which colors are best able to exploit Floodtide Serpent. Here are several ways to profit from bouncing and replaying enchantments, listed in order of descending importance for BNG/THS/THS drafts, along with the color(s) that benefit most (-C means that it interacts with rares or mythics in that color and so is less relevant):

  1. (U, G) Reusing enchantment with enters-the-battlefield effects: The format has several cantrip Auras — 1 in white, 3 in blue (including Eternity Snare), 2 in black, 1 in red, and 2 in green — plus Raised by Wolves and Ephara’s Enlightenment.
  2. (W, U, G) Retriggering heroic abilities: W/U and G/W have the most number of creatures with heroic, but both tend to be quite aggressive and probably wouldn’t run a 5-mana 4/4 maindeck.
  3. (all colors) Converting bestow creatures into bestow Auras: This is useful if you have a creature with bestow (either because you cast it as a creature early or because the creature it was enchanting died) and you’d prefer to have it be an Aura.
  4. (W, U, G) Moving Auras from one creature to another: You may want to move certain powerful Auras like Eidolon of Countless Battles, Ghostblade Eidolon, or Flitterstep Eidolon to a different creature as a game progresses. Or you can use it with Feral Invocation or Boon Satyr to make combat difficult. Or you can use it with the Ordeals to get additional +1/+1 counters (although you have to return a different enchantment, otherwise you won’t get the counter).
  5. (R) Bouncing borrowed enchantment creatures: This works with Akroan Conscriptor and Portent of Betrayal. The borrowed creature won’t get to do combat damage, but your opponent loses tempo and any Auras on the creature fall off.
  6. (U, -W/R) Moving a removal Aura to a different creature: This works with Eternity Snare, Chained to the Rock, and perhaps Viper’s Kiss. (You can’t use Chained to the Rock to trigger enters-the-battlefield effects on your creatures that aren’t also enchantments since it can only target an opponent’s creature.)
  7. (all colors) Rescuing an enchantment creature you control from some removal Auras: This is primarily useful against Eternity Snare and sometimes Viper’s Kiss. (Floodtide Serpent doesn’t work against Chained to the Rock since that exiles the creature.)
  8. (-R, -W/U, -G/W) Replaying enchantments to trigger enters-the-battlefield effects of other permanents: Purphoros God of the Forge, Ephara God of the Polis, and Karametra God of Harvests. These are all mythics, so this situation will rarely arise.
  9. (-G) Getting a second use out of an enchantment that has/confers a tap ability: This can potentially be used with Epiphany Storm (requires 3 mana + tapping 2 creatues), Ephara’s Radiance (5 mana + 2 creatures), Evanescent Intellect (5 mana + 2 creatures), Claim of Erebos (6 mana + 2 creatures), Bow of Nylea (7 mana), Oracle’s Insight (8 mana + 2 creatures), Hammer of Purphoros (9 mana). However, there are easier ways to reuse tap abilities granted by the Auras, and you’re unlikely to get to 9 mana if you have a Hammer of Purphoros in play, so this is mostly useful with Bow of Nylea, a rare that is rarely passed.
  10. (-B) Removing enchantments you no longer want in play: This is only useful if you need to get Herald of Torment out of play, a situation that should rarely arise.

(Note that the enchantment is returned as the attack is declared, so you don’t get the trigger from cards like Spiteful Returned and Thunderous Might before they return to your hand. It is also not a combo with Perplexing Chimera because it only allows you to return a creature you control you to hand, not a creature you own.)

Looking over this list, we see that white, blue, and green have the most cards that work with Floodtide Serpent. However, W/U and G/U both tend to be aggressive decks in this format, and Floodtide Serpent is better suited to a control deck that can win by eking out card advantage. The control decks in this format are usually B/X or U/R, and we’ve already observed that U/R is not a good color pair for Floodtide Serpent. That leaves U/B and perhaps B/G/u. And there might also be a G/U control deck that uses Sedge Scorpions and Omenspeakers to hold the ground and mana acceleration to cast Floodtide Serpent earlier, while gaining incremental card advantage with Floodtide Serpent and Meletis Astronomer.

The good U/B decks I’ve drafted tend to run a lot of removal, and don’t usually have a lot of space for Auras. A U/B inspired deck could be a good home for Floodtide Serpent, but inspired creatures + cantrip Auras that grant evasion + Floodtide Serpents is a lot to ask of a single pack of Born of the Gods. However, it might be more feasible if you’re drafting with 2-3 packs of Born of the Gods.

B/G decks tend to focus on devotion or the graveyard. There are few enchantments that interact with the graveyard other than Evanescent Intellect, but B/G/u devotion is a possible home for Floodtide Serpent. The deck is happy to run Auras to increase devotion and can afford to run a couple of splash cards even though they don’t contribute to devotion.

Let’s look at which cards in blue, green, and black would work well in a control deck with Floodtide Serpent:

  • Commons: Chorus of the Tides, Fate Foretold, Stratus Walk, Wavecrash Triton // Baleful Eidolon, Grisly Transformation, Scourgemark // Sedge Scorpion, Feral Invocation, Karametra’s Favor, Nylea’s Presence, Setessan Oathsworn, Staunch-Hearted Warrior
  • Uncommons: Eternity Snare, Flitterstep Eidolon, Meletis Astronomer, Triton Fortune Hunter // Ashiok’s Adept, Ordeal of Erebos (if drawn late), Tormented Hero // Centaur Battlemaster, Order of Nylea (if drawn late and you already have access to blue mana), Raised by Wolves
  • Rares: Agent of the Fates // Anthousa Setessan Hero, Boon Satyr, Bow of Nylea, Hero of Leina Tower // Prophet of Kruphix // Astral Cornucopia

There seem to be enough cards that this deck might be possible. As always, keep in mind that an 8-person BNG/THS/THS will only have an average of 1.3 copies of any Born of the Gods common, so you don’t usually want to draft this deck unless you’re already in these colors and have a couple of Floodtide Serpents.

BNG: Sunbond

Sunbond is a card that’s intrigued me since I first saw the Born of the Gods spoiler. The format has a fair bit of incidental lifegain (lifegain that comes with another effect), and has relatively little removal that deals with large creatures. Sunbond seems especially strong on creatures with lifelink since they double in size each time they deal damage.

Here’s a list of all the cards in the format that can gain you life. Cards in bold provide recurring lifegain (this includes creatures with lifelink). While they may gain you less life than some of the non-recurring cards like Ordeal of Heliod, they can help even if you played before you draw Sunbond. Cards in italics are either filler/situational or only gain you 1 life at a time.

  • White (average of 10.1 cards with lifegain in an 8-person draft, 4.5 of which are recurring):
    • common: Hopeful Eidolon, Lagonna-Band Elder, Mortal’s Ardor, Oreskos Sun Guide, Ray of Dissolution, Setessan Battle Priest (Ephara’s Radiance is almost never playable and Last Breath is almost never used on your own creatures)
    • uncommon: Ordeal of Heliod
    • rare: Soldier of the Pantheon
  • Black (average of 7.2 cards, 3.2 of which are recurring):
    • common: Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Pharika’s Cure, Servant of Tymaret
    • uncommon: Cutthroat Maneuver, Insatiable Harpy, Tormented Hero
    • rare: Whip of Erebos
  • Green (average of 5 cards, 0.5 of which are recurring):
    • common: Nylea’s Disciple, Snake of the Golden Grove, Time to Feed
    • rare: Bow of Nylea, Courser of Kruphix
  • Multicolor (average of 3.3 cards, all of which are recurring):
    • common: Scholar of Athreos (while it doesn’t require black mana to be playable, it does require black mana to be used for lifegain)
    • uncommon: Daxos of Meletis, Horizon Chimera
    • mythic: Chromanticore

Unsurprisingly, white has the most cards with lifegain and the most cards that provide recurring lifegain, followed by black and then green. This means that W/B has the most cards with lifegain, and therefore is most likely to be able to maximize Sunbond. W/B also provides access to Scholar to Athreos, both creatures with lifelink in the set, and if you’re really lucky, Whip of Erebos.

Including Scholar of Athreos, an 8-person BNG/THS/THS draft will have an average of 18.8 white or black cards with lifegain. Hopeful Eidolon, Ordeal of Heliod, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Pharika’s Cure, Insatiable Harpy, and Whip of Erebos are high picks in most decks running their colors and constitute 5.7 of the 18.8 cards. If you draft a third of these cards and half of the remaining 13.1, you end up with 9.5 cards, which is enough to power Sunbond.

Keep in mind that Sunbond is an uncommon, so an 8-person BNG/THS/THS draft will only have 0.4 copies of the card on average. I don’t recommend taking Sunbond early and trying to draft around it. However, if you’re looking at a weak pack or if you’re already in W/B, you can pick it up and prioritize the cards with lifegain just a little higher.

BNG: Reevaluating God-Favored General

In my evaluation of Born of the Gods, I’d listed God-Favored General as unplayable. I felt the 1/1 body was unimpressive, that it required other cards and significant effort to trigger the inspired ability, and that 2 1/1s was a paltry reward for that effort. Also, I’d determined that most of the enablers for the inspired deck were in blue and black, so I felt like a W/X would not have sufficient ways to trigger the ability.

However, the card has been quite good against me in recent weeks, and I’ve decided that I shortchanged it. I’d been treating the inspired trigger as a combat damage trigger, but really it just has to survive combat. On more than one occasion, my opponent has cast Divine Verdict on my blocking creature and gotten the inspired trigger even though no combat damage was dealt. Cards like Chosen by Heloid can also be quite effective, at least on turn 3, as they let God-Favored general survive combat.

So, while God-Favored General is rarely good on its own, there are enough things it is good with that I am willing to draft it higher now. In addition to spells that grant it evasion, it is also good with cheap Auras, removal, combat tricks, and tap effects. However, an 8-person draft will only have an average of 0.4 copies of it, so it won’t alter my draft picks much unless I have multiple copies of it. And even with multiple copes, I won’t draft/play cards like Ephara’s Radiance that are only good with a small number of other cards.

Here are the cards in each color that fall into the categories described above. The bolded ones have ongoing/reusable effects that allow you to trigger the inspired ability each turn.

  • White: Glimpse of the Sun God (average of 0.4 copies in 8-person draft), Nyxborn Shieldmate (1.3), Battlewise Valor (1.6), Cavalry Pegasus (1.6), Chosen by Heliod (1.6), Dauntless Onslaught (0.8), Last Breath (1.6), Leonin Snarecaster (1.6) = average of 10.5 cards in 8-person BNG/THS/THS draft, 1.6 of which are ongoing
  • W/U: Ephara’s Enlightenment (0.4) = 0.4, all of which are ongoing
  • Blue: Stratus Walk (1.3), Oracle’s Insight (0.4), Retraction Helix (1.3), Sudden Storm (1.3), Aqueous Form (1.6), Nimbus Naiad (1.6), Sea God’s Revenge (0.8) = 8.3, 4.9 of which are ongoing
  • Black: Asphyxiate (1.3), Bile Blight (0.4), Black Oak of Odunos (0.4), Grisly Transformation (1.3), Herald of Torment (0.2), Necrobite (1.3), Boon of Erebos (1.6), Hero’s Downfall (0.26), Mogis’s Marauder (0.8), Pharika’s Cure (1.6) = 9.16, 1.9 of which are ongoing
  • Red: Bolt of Keranos (1.3), Lightning Volley (0.4), Searing Blood (0.4), Coordinated Assault (0.8), Lightning Strike (1.6), Magma Jet (0.8), Titan of Eternal Fire (0.26) = 5.56, 0.26 of which are ongoing
  • Green: Karametra’s Favor (1.3), Boon Satyr (0.26), Feral Invocation (1.6), Savage Surge (0.8) = 3.96, 1.3 of which are ongoing (I’m not counting Boon Satyr and Feral Invocation here, even though they stick around, because there’s no guarantee that God-Favored General can survive another attack without additional help)
  • Artifact: Springleaf Drum (0.4), Fleetfeather Sandals (1.6), Prowler’s Helm (0.8), Witches’ Eye (0.8) = 3.6, all of which are ongoing

So, God-Favored General works better if you’re in W/U or W/B. Blue, in particular, offers a lot of effects that allow you to trigger the inspired ability each turn. Note that, even if you have multiple copies of these cards, God-Favored General is still a 1/1, so there are plenty of removal spells that can render all your efforts moot.

BNG: How good are the Gods?

For a long time, I thought the Gods in Theros were bombs. I’d read that maybe they were not quite as great as they seemed and perhaps even less playable than their Emissaries, but they’re mythic so I’d hadn’t played with or against them much. The new 2-color Gods in Born of the Gods seemed just as powerful and easier to meet the devotion requirements of. However, at a Born of the Gods prerelease event, I had a W/G deck with both Heliod God of the Sun and Karametra God of Harvests and they were never creatures, even though I cast both of them at least once. That surprised me because it didn’t seem like it should be that difficult to have other permanents with 4-5 colored mana symbols on the battlefield.

Let’s do some rough analysis for a generic 2-color deck to figure out how likely it is that a God will be a creature. Limited decks tend to run 16-18 lands and 14-18 creatures. Let’s say that the deck has 16 creatures and 2 enchantments, making 18 colored permanents. Of these, let’s say there are 2 multicolor permanents that have 1 mana symbol of each color. Let’s assume that the remaining 16 permanents are split evenly between the 2 colors, and that each color has 1 permanent with 2 mana symbols of that color in the casting cost, with the rest having 1 mana symbol of that color. (You’d think there’d be more permanents that require 2 colored mana to cast, but Theros has few such permanents outside black, and to a lesser extent, green.)

So each color has 11 mana symbols spread across 10 permanents, an average of 1.1 mana symbols per permanent. For the monocolored Gods, this means you’d need another 3.64 permanents in addition to the God. That doesn’t sound too difficult, but in order to have drawn 3.64 of the 9 remaining permanents of that color out of the 39 cards left in your deck, you need 15.77 cards which will happen around turn 9 on average, and that’s assuming you are able to cast those permanents and don’t lose any of them in combat or to removal.

So the monocolor Gods are less impressive than they seem at first glance. Some, like Thassa God of the Sea and Purphoros God of the Forge, are playable just on the basis of their abilities. (Thassa, in particular, helps you dig to your other blue permanents, making it easier to turn her into a creature.) Erebos God of the Dead has rather less impressive abilities, but black has more playable cards with multiple colored mana symbols in their casting cost, making it more likely that Erebos will become a creature. On the other hand, Heliod God of the Sun and Nylea God of the Hunt are much less playable; while they can dominate the late game, they require 8 mana for the first use of their activated abilities. Consequently, they should not be high picks, and should probably not be sided in as necessary rather than being played maindeck.

How about the new multicolored Gods, are they any easier to turn into creatures, assuming you’re in that color pair? With the God in play, you only need another 5 mana symbols of either color, and all 22 colored mana symbols are relevant. Those mana symbols are spread across 18 permanents, an average of 1.22 mana symbols per permanent. That means you need 4.1 of the 17 remaining permanents out of the 39 cards left in your deck. That only requires having seen 9.4 cards, which will happen by turn 3 on average. However, each time you lose a creature in combat or to removal, it takes another 2.3 turns to find another permanent to take its place. So it is much more likely that a 2-color God will become a creature, but you may need to play cards like Vanguard of Brimaz over Traveling Philosopher and put in a bit of extra effort to keep your creatures alive, perhaps by not engaging in combat that would lead to 1-for-1 trades.

Of the multicolor Gods, Phenax God of Deception is the best by far; I’m happy to splash him in most decks that are playing at least one of those colors since he will mill out your opponent very quickly if not dealt with, especially if you’re playing cards like Wavecrash Triton and Guardians of Meletis. Ephara God of the Polis is also excellent because she draws cards, allowing you to end up with more permanents on the table and thereby turning her into a creature. Mogis God of Slaughter and Xenagos God of Revels have abilities that shine in the format’s aggressive R/X decks. Karametra God of Harvests has the worst of the abilities; you don’t usually need mana acceleration on turn 6 unless you’re playing a lot of monstrous creatures, so she mostly serves to thin your deck of lands.