It’s the Friday of the Born of the Gods Prerelease, and the local store is packed. Local ringers, newbies, and Friday Night Magic heroes have all converged on the scene, trading, talking, and playing bad decks with proxies bearing the names of Born of the Gods cards they hope to get their hands on. There’s a murmur running through the room tinged with anticipation and Mountain Dew.
Dustin “Drafty” Dexter spots his friend Chris “Constructo” Christiansen over to one side, playing a deck without any proxies save for a few Azorius Guildgates with “Scry 1” written on them in Sharpie. He wanders over to say “hi.”
Drafty: We missed you at draft on Tuesday.
Constructo: Yeah, there was a Modern tournament down the street, and I really wanted to play with Blake Rasmussen’s sweet Cruel Control deck. That guy is a genius. And also incredibly handsome and virile.
Drafty: Meh, he’s okay.
Constructo: Didn’t see you at FNM. Where were you last week?
Drafty: Didn’t feel like playing, so I spent the night listening to Limited Resources instead. I get lost in Marshall Sutcliff’s voice. It’s like Isaac Hayes’ voice, Morgan Freeman’s voice, and Michael Bolton’s voice all had a genetically engineered baby voice, and that voice grew up to get its own Magic podcast.
Constructo: Meh, he’s okay.
Drafty: So are you excited for Born of the Gods? This set looks sweet! Some of the bestow creatures look insane.
Constructo: Meh, it’s okay.
Constructo: I don’t know. There just aren’t many cards that excite me. The Gods look okay, but I’m not sure any of them are even any good. Maybe Ephara. Xenagos is close, but 5 mana is a lot to ask for that effect. I mean, it’s nice that we get three new Temples and all, but I just don’t see the set making an impact.
Drafty: There are tons of good cards! Akroan Skyguard is an awesome, heroic flyer, Nullify is practically Counterspell in this format, and Brimaz is such value!
Constructo: Brimaz is fine, but he still doesn’t solve the Supreme Verdict or Jace problems White Weenie has. I mean, yeah, the Draft format looks cool, but I don’t really want many of the cards.
Drafty: The Draft format looks awesome! They did some cool things with the bestow creatures, pushing the costs down and making them a bit less swingy, but making them easier to enable heroic. Inspired is a really cool mechanic that rewards knowing when and how to attack, even into blockers. And there are so many cool rares that interact with the set’s themes, like Hero of Iroas, the Fated cycle, Hero of Leina Tower, and Chromanticore!
Constructo: That’s just it! There are a bunch of cool rares that work well in Limited, but they seem pretty narrow for anything else. I mean, I really want to play with a cool-sounding card like “Phenax, God of Deception.” That sounds awesome, right? And then they went and made him a mill creature. I dunno, maybe he’s breakable.
Thoughtseize and Gray Merchant or Mono-Blue without Thassa and Master of Waves? Plus, you got five scry lands, Polukranos, Xenagos, Elspeth, Soldier of the Pantheon, Sylvan Caryatid, pretty much all of the Gods and mother-loving Thoughtseize? Did I mention you got Thoughtseize, which has nothing to do with a Greek-inspired world? You can’t get that many sick cards in one set and expect to keep it up.
But, on the other hand, it took the Draft format and turned it up to 11! Heroic is way more interesting now, and tribute offers a lot of in-game choices. I mean, any format that can make Eternity Snare and Claim of Erebos as playable cards has had some serious thought put into it.
Constructo: Totally agree. Theros was awesome. But I want something I can hang my hat on. Kiora is really cool and I’ll try and brew with her, but she seems really fragile. Maybe that’s not actually the case, but Kiora isn’t beating a Pack Rat any time soon. Ephara might be playable. Courser of Kruphix has potential, but it could also just be a Commander plant. When the most impactful cards might just be Bile Blight and Revoke Existence, sorry, I’m not excited.
Drafty: Did you ever think that maybe the Gods are better than they look? I mean, most people kind of shrugged their shoulders at Thassa at first. And it took people in Constructed for freaking ever to figure out that Pack Rat was good. Limited players could have told you that when it was printed.
Constructo: It’s possible. I mean, I didn’t trade for Thassas till people broke it at the Pro Tour, but that reminds me of another problem—none of these cards is going to get played in Modern at the Pro Tour! Shouldn’t they have given us something to spice up that format from the newest set? What are players supposed to get excited about?
Constructo: Ya know, maybe that’s my problem with the set. Tribute clearly isn’t meant for Constructed play, heroic isn’t either, and bestow creatures have been fringe at best. The mechanics at the center of the set feed a cool Draft environment, but they don’t leave much for sixty cards. Sure, devotion has made a splash, but devotion looks pretty weak in this set and feels pushed to the back. Nykthos is already the best reason to be devoted to a nonblue, nonblack color—making you want to be devoted to two colors isn’t going to help the case of the new Gods when they can’t use Nykthos.
Drafty: I’m okay with Nykthos taking a hit. That card’s already potential trouble, and I hate having to draft it just because it’s worth the entry fee. Maybe it’ll see less play and go down in price so I can go back to drafting Wingsteed Riders like God and Marshall Sutcliff intended.
Constructo: Dude, you really have to get off this Marshall Sutcliff thing. I hear he’s the worst thing about Magic.
Drafty: Anyway, I say give it time. Small sets always have a little less to offer, and you might find out that there’s something awesome that just didn’t look as awesome as before. Besides, not every set can have a Thoughtseize.
Constructo: I suppose you’re right, but it just means I don’t know what I want to trade for tonight. How can I get excited about what I open if I’m not excited about any cards in the set?
Wingsteed Riders and Small Wingsteed Riders.
Constructo: . . .
Drafty: Well, you can always get excited for scry lands, I guess.
I just think the Draft format looks awesome. Theros was really fun and balanced, but definitely needed a few things to spice it up. This does just that in ways much better than Return to Ravnica ever did. It feels a lot like Innistrad, actually, in the way they’ve put a few nice twists on the second set that have the potential to take it to another level. The Archetypes are uncommons that are powerful, flavorful, and fun, which is really hard to accomplish in Draft. The rares don’t look like they unbalance the format, and it looks like a natural extension of Theros, which was already a great format. Sure, Constructed formats might not care about it nearly as much, but Constructed isn’t everything.
Constructo: I’m coming around on the Archetypes in Draft, but I still worry about Constructed. The Standard format is already growing stale, and I don’t see much to shake it up. Bile Blight and Revoke Existence change some of the math, but they slot right into existing decks. The God version of Xenagos might make the Planeswalker Xenagos even better since they work well together, but 5 mana is still a lot, and it does nothing on an empty board. I don’t need a Thoughtseize or Voice of Resurgence every set, but I don’t even really see a Polukranos, Nykthos, Stormbreath Dragon, or any other major incentive to tread outside well-worn paths. Maybe Koira, Temple of Plenty, and Kiora’s Follower put that Bant deck Reid Duke loves so much over the top, but it’s just as likely that Koira and her Follower aren’t good enough. Then where does that leave us? With Brimaz and some removal spells?
Drafty: I don’t know, but you can always retreat into the waiting wings of Wingsteed Rider. He loves and accepts you always. Except when the player to your right is in white.
Constructo: I guess we’ll find out tonight. Good luck.
Just then, seat assignments for deck-building go up. Constructo gathers up his deck, and proxied copies of Brimaz, King of Reskos and Ephara, God of the Polis slip out. He picks them up and slides them back in his deck, blushing and looking at the ground as he does so.
Constructo: And, um, if you open any Brimaz, I’ll trade you for them. Scry lands, too.