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.

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