While playing the prerelease this weekend I was trying to think about what articles I could write. I find that my brewing brain doesn’t really kick in until I’ve actually played with the new cards, and Born of the Gods seemed to be going down the same path. Having played a lot of white, my first instinct was to write about white weenie. I think there’s an interesting balance between cards like Brimaz and [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] being printed and the amount of quality removal in the format (especially with the addition of [card]Bile Blight[/card] and [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card]), and it felt like there was an article there.
Turns out there was in fact an article there, and Craig Wescoe wrote it. Shocking, right? The man known for playing white cards in every format he can manage wrote a great article on white in the new standard. Nothing I have to say could expand on, correct or improve what Craig said, so just go read that one instead.
One card I played against (though sadly not with) a whole bunch was [card]Mogis, God of Slaughter[/card]. One of my opponents on Saturday in fact had TWO of them, and I was fortunate to get through the matchup with a win on the back of [card]Hunter’s Prowess[/card] and a solid curve-out in game 3. I ended up being his only loss of the day, which makes me think the card is the real deal. I spoke last week about the two possible homes for him, an aggro shell and a more controlling one. I am not really the kind of player who enjoys balls-to-the-wall aggro, so the list I’ve been muddling around in my head is more grindy than sudden.
This one started from a few different concepts. Pro Tour Theros saw a number of interesting decks get the deck tech treatment, including one called Demons and Dragons. A red-black brew that played a ton of removal and aimed to win with [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] and [card]Desecration Demon[/card]s seemed right up my alley, but I thought it was missing something. At the time I felt it was another creature, but now I think it was more that the deck lacked some degree of staying power if the threats it drew got removed.
The Rakdos colour combo has some very powerful yet underplayed cards right now: [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card], [card]Dreadbore[/card], [card]Slaughter Games[/card] and potentially Rakdos himself. OK that last one might be a stretch, but you see where I’m going here. In a format full of devotion decks and counterspells it would seem that the one playing uncounterable spells and removal would be the one feeling good about themselves.
I also really want to find a home for Mogis that isn’t aggro. Most people instantly saw his application there to drive home the last few points of damage, but perhaps there is a second use for him that sees him as a free removal spell or Shock each turn. If we can make a deck that puts his abilities to use without ever having to dude-ify him, any attack for 7 becomes a welcome bonus.
[deck title=Rough Draft by Chris Lansdell]
4 Blood Crypt
4 Temple of Malice
2 Encroaching Wastes
2 Mogis, God of Slaughter
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
3 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Necropolis Regent
1 Lord of the Void
2 Rakdos’s Return
3 Mizzium Mortars
3 Hero’s Downfall
3 Anger of the Gods
3 Rakdos Keyrune
1 Underworld Connections
2 Drown in Sorrow
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Liliana of the Dark Realms
Mogis is going to do his best work when he’s an indestructible [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card]. For that to happen, and to ensure our continued survival, we will need to keep the board free from unsightly clutter like opposing permanents. Fortunately we’re in two colours that excel at doing just that.
We’re going to start with sweepers. [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] is a snap include, being one of the few ways we can reliably deal with a [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] and also allowing us to go big later in the game. The debate over whether we want [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] or [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] is an interesting one. Anger has the upside of dealing more damage and exiling the dead things, but Drown lets us scry (important in a control deck), kills [card]Master of Waves[/card] and gets around a [card]Brave the Elements[/card]. A 3/2 Anger/Drown split feels right, but that might need some tweaking later. Sadly we don’t have a [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] or even a [card]Magmaquake[/card] to take care of bigger things, so we’ll have to rely on spot removal for those.
Again though, we’re lucky to have access to some great spot removal. [card]Dreadbore[/card] and [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] are both must-plays, probably both as fours though I think we will start with 3 [card]Dreadbore[/card]. There’s a fair bit of haste in the format and I’d rather have the extra instant-speed removal spell. That becomes all the more important once we realise we need to include at least 2 copies of Gild to help us take care of the previously-untouchable (for red-black decks) Gods. I seem to be a bigger fan of this card than most others, but giving black decks an answer to indestructible creatures, even at 4 mana and sorcery speed, feels like something that shouldn’t have happened. The one-mana refund is just gravy. We can manage maybe a couple more cards here, which should go to [card]Devour Flesh[/card] and some combination of [card]Magma Jet[/card], [card]Ultimate Price[/card], [card]Lightning Strike[/card] and possibly [card]Bile Blight[/card].
We’re playing 4 [card]Thoughtseize[/card], and it’s non-negotiable. I almost want to play a Duress or two in the main as well, but space might be tight and I don’t like running cards in the main that could well be dead. [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card] is a two-of I think, just to finish the game or to empty their hand after a [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card].
I haven’t yet figured out if I want two or three Mogis in the deck. I almost always want to draw one, but I don’t need him early. Similarly I want one or two Erebos, both to complete the ersatz [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card] and to provide some card draw. [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] will do the same thing while providing some devotion for our Gods, though it’s unlikely we will want to use her ultimate. Playing [card]Temple of Malice[/card], [card]Magma Jet[/card] and other scry cards also interact well with her 0 ability. Because I am a sucker for the card and determined to make it good I want to run one or two [card]Liliana of the Dark Realms[/card]. If any deck can keep her safe it’s this one, and it will be important to never miss a land drop. She also lets us shuffle back something we scryed to the bottom. An [card]Underworld Connections[/card] or two wouldn’t go amiss either.
Which brings us to our finishers. [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] is in without question, the card is too good against control and hardly bad against most other decks. I have an unreasonable love for [card]Rakdos Keyrune[/card], so we’ll play some of those too. Although many of our cards are at 4 and not 5, it will allow us to [card]Thoughtseize[/card] on 4 before playing out a game-ender. I debated playing something like [card]Golgari Keyrune[/card] to allow us to splash for [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] and [card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card] (with Liliana also doing some of the heavy lifting on that front) but I’m not sure we need to go down that road yet. The obvious next choice would appear to be [card]Desecration Demon[/card], but he seems to be falling out of favour now with so many decks able to keep him tapped down. I have heard some rumblings about [card]Liliana’s Reaver[/card] being good now, and perhaps out of the board it might be OK, but I can’t see us playing a 4/3 with no evasion or protection as a game-winner.
[card]Underworld Cerberus[/card] is counterproductive, giving them back everything we worked so hard to kill in the event that they are able to take it out. As much as I would love Rakdos to be a thing, even I am not that adventurous. At least, not without more burn spells than we’re running. [card]Sire of Insanity[/card] is fine in the board but I don’t want it main deck. The splash might end up being correct, Reaper is a heck of a card and we also get Decay, Vraska and [card]Golgari Charm[/card] as utility, but I think our best option to start with is a 2/2 split of two seldom-seen black cards: [card]Necropolis Regent[/card] and [card]Lord of the Void[/card]. Both might seem terrible, but once you have stripped the opponent of their answers and threats they end the game in two turns max. I might end up hating both, but given that my other options were Hythonia (fine but probably too slow) and [card]Scourge of Valkas[/card] (considered it but wanted a black threat), I think these are the right choices.
[card]Slaughter Games[/card] is an automatic, given that the main deck is really soft to control in game 1 and we’ll need good answers for game 2. [card]Toil // Trouble[/card] is also worth considering, along with [card]Sire of Insanity[/card]. In case of more rush strategies we likely want the extra Drowns or the extra Anger in the board, and in the event we don’t have main deck [card]Bile Blight[/card] it needs to be here too. [card]Skullcrack[/card] seems reasonable, and [card]Pithing Needle[/card] is basically required in every sideboard right now. A couple of Duress should round us out nicely.
The question becomes how we handle each archetype. I don’t think creature-based strategies will be a problem, but as with any RB deck we are terrified of [card]Assemble the Legion[/card]. [card]Illness in the Ranks[/card] might help somewhat in that regard, and also limits the effectiveness of Elspeth. Devotion decks are weak to removal in general, though the green decks can sometimes get too good a start and overwhelm us. The sideboard answer there is the [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card], but aside from that we might have to accept it as a trouble matchup.
The Unresolved Questions
Am I better off making this Jund and going into the green splash? That would remove our vulnerability to enchantments, give us a better creature in [card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card] and give us access to [card]Vraska the Unseen[/card] and [card]Golgari Charm[/card] in the board (or even main deck).
Are we playing a deck that needs a lifelinker? I know in past Standard environments I would have slammed 4 [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card] in here and not looked back, but with the exception of [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] we are sorely lacking in good black lifelink right now. Whip is bad here, clearly.
[card]Mutavault[/card] or Encroaching Wastes? Obviously [card]Mutavault[/card] can get damage in but Wastes can kill opposing ones AND get Nykthos or a splash land off the board.
Are we just too weak to control game 1 with all the sweepers and spot removal? We’re well set up to kill Jace and Elspeth, plus we can keep tokens off the board for days, but should we change up some black removal for burn so we can at least dome them?
Are there better finishers? Both my black creatures are bulk mythics that have never graced a top 8 at anything above FNM, but they are objectively powerful. [card]Master of Cruelties[/card] seems too cute, [card]Carnival Hellsteed[/card] feels like it’s wrong but might not be, [card]Nightmare[/card] is rarely going to give the value I want. Could this actually be the deck for Rakdos?
Once I can get my hands on the Born of the Gods cards I’d need for this, I’ll give it a spin. Please do sound off in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook if you have any ideas or suggestions that aren’t “this deck sucks.” And by all means, sleeve it up and give it a go!