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Born of the Gods: Back in Black
Feature Article from Adam Yurchick
Adam Yurchick
1/21/2014 10:00:00 AM
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Born of the Gods spoilers have been pouring into our hands at a rapid pace every day. The past week of spoilers means we now know over a third of the new set. This gives us a pretty good picture of what the set is going to look like in its entirety and provides the ability to predict with reasonable certainty what Born of Gods has in store for the future of Standard.

Born of the Gods will make its most immediate and important impact upon Standard. The set becomes legal on February 7th, which is a few days over two weeks away. That is scarily close for anyone looking to play any of the endless available Standard events coming up. On February 15th TCGplayer will be holding two MaxPoint Diamond Open $5,000 events, one in Santa Clara, CA and one in Flint, MI. These events are occurring a full week into Born of the Gods Standard.

I am planning on playing a nearby Standard PTQ towards the end of February, so I need to be fully versed in Born of the Gods Standard. My weapon of choice for the last few months has been Monoblack Devotion, and I am not looking to change that. I did not expect Born of the Gods to give any real tools to the already stacked deck, but boy was I wrong. Born of the Gods is a powerhouse set full of lots of solid cards in all colors, the color black included.

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First off is Drown in Sorrow.

For as long as I have been playing Monoblack Devotion in Standard I've longed for some sort of board sweeper or Wrath of God effect, as have longed everyone else who has played the deck. At its core Monoblack Devotion is Monoblack Control, and I find it a bit ironic that this classic archetype, which has not seen success in many years (but not for lack of trying), has finally found mainstream success but without a sweeper, which has been the exact type of the card the archetype has historically relied on.

While something like Mutilate would be powerful in Monoblack Devotion, a simple Infest would solve a lot of problems the deck has against early aggression from decks that flood the board with creatures. I would even argue that something like Infest is ideal, because it comes down quickly and saves more life points than would Mutilate, and it leaves Monoblack's own creatures like Nightveil Specter alive. This would be ideal against decks like Monored Aggro and all sorts of White Weenie strategies. I had resigned myself to playing Monoblack without a sweeper, but then they went and printed Drown in Sorrow.

At the very least, Drown in Sorrow is a strict upgrade on Infest, a card that sees Modern sideboard play. Scry one is a great effect and particularly useful on a board sweeper because it helps to set up the all-important follow up play, ideally one that further controls the board. Drown in Sorrow seems tailor made to solve the problems of the Monoblack Devotion deck in Standard, and it's going to find a sure home in its sideboard. As the metagame stands right now, I would be playing two or three copies of Drown in Sorrow in my sideboard over something like Pharika's Cure. I imagine that the metagame may get even more aggressive, so I fully expect to be packing some in my sideboard come the PTQ. I do no recommend it as a maindeck card because it is lackluster against much of the field, but it is powerful and efficient against the portion of the field most hostile to Monoblack Devotion, the hallmark of a stellar sideboard card.

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Born of the Gods also includes another potent removal spell for Monoblack Devotion: Bile Blight.

Bile Blight is a monoblack upgrade on Echoing Decay, an old favorite. Giving target creature -3/-3 for two mana is on par with Last Gasp, a solid removal spell in its time. The echoing part of the ability turns it into something like a miniature Maelstrom Pulse, which deals with all other permanents of the same name. This aspect is just a bonus, but when it comes up it is extremely powerful. Bile Blight is particularly useful against the rush aggressive decks that can give Monoblack Devotion trouble. Any draws featuring doubles will have to be played more carefully. Sometimes opponents will walk into Bile Blight and face a two-for-one and tempo loss, while other times they will hold back threats to play around Bile Blight even though the opponent does not actually have it. Bile Blight makes games more complicated and more difficult to play for the opponent, and that's a great thing for Monoblack Devotion.

One of the best targets for Bile Blight right now is Pack Rat. As long as the rats are on the small size Bile Blight will take care of all of them. Bile Blight will even Shrink a team of large Pack Rats, leaving them more manageable to handle in combat. Pack Rat is no longer the trump it has been in the mirror match, and the texture of the match will change completely. Of course this is no reason to leave Pack Rat on the sideline anytime soon, because Bile Blight is going to be restricted to mainly Monoblack Devotion, meaning Pack Rat will still be just as deadly against everyone else. Burning-Tree Emissary is also of particular note as a great Bile Blight target, as are tokens from cards like Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Assemble the Legion.

Bile Blight does has some negative synergy with Monoblack's own Nightveil Specter and Pack Rat, but otherwise it looks to be a great removal spell that is probably an upgrade on Pharika's Cure and maybe even Devour Flesh. I plan on starting a couple in my maindeck come Born of the Gods, but I would not be surprised if we are all playing 4 copies in the 75 sometime this year.

Here's the deck I'd register at a PTQ this weekend if Born of the Gods were legal:

Monoblack Devotion by Adam Yurchick
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Pack Rat
Creatures [16]
4 Devour Flesh
4 Hero's Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
4 Underworld Connections
Spells [16]
4 Mutavault
18 Swamp (260)
4 Temple of Deceit
Lands [26]
Deck Total [58]


2 Dark Betrayal
2 Doom Blade
3 Drown in Sorrow
3 Duress
3 Erebos, God of the Dead
2 Lifebane Zombie
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!

The remainder of the currently spoiled black cards look powerful but I do not think they have a home in Monoblack Devotion as it exists now.

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One of the most interesting black options yet spoiled is Pain Seer.

Pain Seer is a sort of fixed Dark Confidant for Standard that many players have been thinking about for Monoblack Devotion. It is an aggressive creature capable of generating card advantage. The main difference is that Pain Seer must attack every turn in order to generate cards. Dark Confidant is not known for its combat prowess, and for that reason Pain Seer must be supported by a healthy dose of removal to force it through combat. In that vein Pain Seer is much closer to Ninja of the Deep Hours than Dark Confidant. Black is filled with the removal that could push Pain Seer through, so it is certainly an interesting tool for the color.

While I do not see Pain Seer fitting into Monoblack Devotion as it is now, Pain Seer seems excellent in a more aggressive black deck. Earlier in the year Monoblack Aggro saw some success online, and I know Owen Turtenwald championed his build for a while before boarding the Gray Merchant of Asphodel train. This deck takes advantage of many of the same cards as Monoblack Devotion but is much more focused on aggression, which allows it to better leverage cards like Thoughtseize and even Pack Rat. This deck full of one and two-drop aggressive creatures supported by removal seems like the perfect place for a card like Pain Seer.

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Joining Pain Seer is another aggressive black creature, Herald of Torment. A three-mana, evasive, three powered creature is solid but nothing too impressive in these days of overpowered creatures. The cost of one life a turn also hurts it in racing situations. This comes together to make a decent but forgettable card, a limited star and a block constructed staple but not a real game-changer in Standard. The real action on Herald of Torment is the bestow ability. Coming in at 3BB, Herald of Torment is the black answer to Boon Satyr. The flash-enabled Boon Satyr functions something like a combat trick, and paired with the aggressive 4/2 body has made Boon Satyr a Standard staple for all flavors of green decks; I believe Herald of Torment to be more powerful. Bestowing a creature with Herald of Torment provides flying, which turns any old creature into a dragon. This sort of reach is exactly what an aggressive deck is looking for, and in this case it comes attached for free to an already aggressive body. Herald of Torment will win games from nowhere and serve as a flexible and powerful card for aggressive-leaning black decks. It will even trigger Tormented Hero.

Here is a Born of the Gods update to the old Monoblack aggro list:

Monoblack Aggro by Adam Yurchick
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Desecration Demon
4 Herald of Torment
4 Pack Rat
4 Pain Seer
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Tormented Hero
Creatures [24]
4 Hero's Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
2 Ultimate Price
Spells [10]
4 Mutavault
20 Swamp (260)
Lands [24]
Deck Total [58]


3 Dark Betrayal
2 Doom Blade
4 Duress
4 Lifebane Zombie
Sideboard [13]





Click for full deck stats & notes!

Given the relative ease of the 1B cost, I would also expect Pain Seer to see play in multicolored archetypes. I could easily see Pain Seer paired with the hottest new God on the block, Mogis, God of Slaughter. This card is going to have an impact in Standard. Mogis, God of Slaughter is particularly frightening for Monoblack Devotion, which does not have a wealth of creatures to sacrifice and will be forced to take 2 damage turn after turn.

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Mogis, God of the Slaughter seems ideal in a deck like the Rakdos deck that took Grand Prix Santiago by storm last November.

Rakdos Aggro by Luis Navas
Finished 1st Place at 2013 Grand Prix Santiago - 11/2
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
4 Mogis's Marauder
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
4 Spike Jester
1 Thrill-Kill Assassin
4 Tormented Hero
3 Xathrid Necromancer
Creatures [28]
2 Doom Blade
4 Lightning Strike
4 Madcap Skills
Spells [10]
4 Blood Crypt
8 Mountain
10 Swamp
Lands [22]
Deck Total [60]


2 Burning Earth
2 Dreadbore
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
2 Mizzium Mortars
1 Rakdos Guildgate
4 Thoughtseize
2 Whip of Erebos
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!

This deck is perfectly equipped to take advantage of Mogis, God of Slaughter. The god will function something like a Sulfuric Vortex that puts great pressure on an already highly pressured opponent. The wealth of haste creatures and burn spells that this deck plays already make it very difficult for an opponent to gain a foothold, and Mogis, God of Slaughter is a card without many good answers. Mogis, God of Slaughter will simply be too much to handle for many opponents, and it will effectively win games outright. As an indestructible creature, the 7/5 body on the god is enormously aggressive, allowing it to fight through any blocker and deal a massive amount of damage if it connects to the opponent. The five additional devotion it requires is relatively easy to reach in a dedicate Rakdos deck, ensuring it sees combat often. Here is a Born of Gods update to the Grand Prix winning archetype:

Rakdos Aggro by Adam Yurchick
Main Deck
Sideboard
2 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
4 Mogis's Marauder
2 Mogis, God of Slaughter
4 Pain Seer
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
4 Spike Jester
4 Tormented Hero
4 Xathrid Necromancer
Creatures [32]
4 Lightning Strike
2 Madcap Skills
Spells [6]
4 Blood Crypt
5 Mountain (265)
2 Mutavault
7 Swamp (260)
4 Temple of Malice
Lands [22]
Deck Total [60]


3 Dreadbore
2 Duress
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
3 Mizzium Mortars
1 Mogis, God of Slaughter
4 Thoughtseize
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!

To start, the manabase of this deck has been upgraded with 4 Temple of Malice. While it does slightly slow the mana of the deck down, it also greatly increases the consistency. The addition of a new dual land plus the scry ability gives this deck a more consistent base from which to work. With the new and improved mana base, I think this deck can support a couple of Mutavault. The mana in this deck seems solid and I see no real reason not to play any Mutavault. It is an extremely powerful aggressive threat in this metagame and one of the best possible cards to be playing. If this deck is going to thrive as a top aggressive deck in the format it must support some number of Mutavault.

I've ditched two of the Madcap Skills because Standard is filled to the brim with removal spells and answers to creatures, making Madcap Skills more of a liability than a plan, but it can be very powerful in some situations. In turn I've made the deck more resilient to removal and amped up the card advantage. I started by maximizing the number of Xathrid Necromancer, one of the best cards available against Monoblack Devotion and Azorius Control, not to mention other aggressive decks. I filled the remaining slots with Pain Seer and removed the lackluster Thrill-Kill Assassin, along with a couple removal spells that do not contribute to the new devotion plan.

Pain Seer is excellent in this deck for a variety of reasons. This aggressive deck is filled with low-cost threats but starved for card advantage because it can so quickly empty its hand. This is the exact sort of deck that has played Dark Confidant in the past and thus one that would love to play Pain Seer. The drawback of Pain Seer needing to attack is supported by the removal this deck plays, as well as the fact that it plays many other aggressive creatures that draw opposing removal and blockers. Pain Seer also combines quite nicely with Mogis's Marauder, which allows it to profitably attack in many situations and supports the ability to draw a card. Even simply playing this curve on turns two and three is a powerful start that puts the deck into a great position for turn four. Pain Seer also interacts quite well with Madcap Skills, which allows it to swing much more freely. Pain Seer is also a human, which works well with Xathrid Necromancer.

I've fit in a couple Mogis, God of Slaughter, replacing a couple of Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch. Mogis is an ideal tool for this deck but not something it relies on. The legendary nature of the card means it is inherently risky because extra copies are dead, a point made stronger by the fact it is indestructible. A card like Thassa, God of the Sea is a clear four-of because the incredible card selection it generates more than makes up for any dead copies in hand. Mogis also requires a greater devotion count than the Theros cards, and while the dual colored nature makes it in some ways easier, the fact is that the dual colored gods require a greater bulk of permanents to support them than the monocolored gods. Where Thassa is turned on by a one drop and Nightveil Specter or any two double blue two drops, Mogis requires three other cards to support it. Playing two of each four drop legend gives the deck additional options while mitigating legend rule risk. An additional copy of the god in the sideboard comes in against opponents particularly weak to the card.

Born of the Gods is shaping up to be a great set that is sure to have a real impact upon the Standard format. Just over a third of the set is now spoiled but there is already a wealth of quality cards, with only more to come. The top deck in Standard, Monoblack Devotion, is receiving at least two very powerful removal spells that seem tailor-made to solve many of the problems the deck currently faces. The set also contains powerful creatures that Threaten to shake up the established metagame. Stay tuned to magic.tcgplayer.com for the latest scoop on new cards and what is in store for them.

Until next time,

Adam




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