Greetings, readers! This week, I conclude my string of Journey into Nyx content by taking a look back at Theros block overall and taking some time to discuss the flagship selling point of the block – the God cards.
EDH is a format where cheap, incremental value cards are exceptional, especially if they have any form of immediate impact. I personally feel the God cards are the embodiment of that, in addition to being ridiculously hard to actually get rid of. Sticking around and continuing to bury tables in the subtle advantages they provide is something that appeals to me, at the very least, and if they’re lucky enough to sit around as indestructible blocking dorks, that works just as well.
I don’t think the full scope of just how good the God cards actually are has been brought into light until recently, when Journey into Nyx gave us the final pieces of the puzzle. As I go over the Gods individually, I hope to give you some insight on strategies where the Gods thrive in.
Theros was our first look at the God cards, and gave us the cornerstones; the mono-colored gods. I think at that point, it was hard to evaluate just how powerful having them around was (aside from Purphoros, who was busted straight out of the gate.), but now that we have all fifteen, the value of the mono-color gods, the ones you’ll wind up playing the most, shines through.
What a lot of people fail to understand about the mono-color gods is that despite the fact that all Gods only have a partial amount of their value when not creatures, the mono-color Gods have multiple uses when they aren’t creatures. To add to this, all of them are fantastic manasinks, making them quite useful whether or not they’re creatures.
Heliod is arguably the least useful of the five original gods, giving an ability to your team that’s not terribly useful. Allowing your creatures to attack and block is nice, as it makes mounting a counterattack against you difficult, and it’s convenient to have if you start to make headway into killing the table. Heliod’s ability to make tokens that aren’t just 1/1′s is also quite helpful. (The fact that they are enchantments can help or hurt, depending on how much you want to maximize what Heliod does.)
That being said, despite having a sizable 5/6 body when you have the devotion, and functioning well when you’re ahead or behind, Heliod feels very much like a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Heliod doesn’t apply any additional pressure, and is defensive in nature, as he lets you build an army, albeit, at a high price; often times, you’d rather cast what’s in your hand than make a 2/1. That being said, while he might by one of the weaker God cards by comparison, there are a number of strategies that are very strong with him. Akroma’s Memorial arguably outperforms him, but Heliod is indestructible, and also a creature. I’ve still cast Heliod multiple times, and I’ve tutored him on occasion, which attests to his power, despite his shortcomings.
Obviously, blue gets the easy pickings here. At 4 mana, Thassa would have been a completely different story, but a 5/5 for 3 that can sit there and grind out your bad draws and make your key attackers unblockable is just ridiculous. It’s easy to dismiss the power of what Thassa does, but when you add up everything, the pure value Thassa has is just insane.
First of all, you get to choose whether or not you want to draw the top card of your deck. If you don’t, you ship it off until your next shuffle. That in and of itself is very useful, because it can help you dig for lands or spells, whichever you’re in shortage of, and it allows you to ride out a clunky, slow draw. Then you get to the part where you force through damage on more creatures the later the game goes, and it gets really dumb. Then you realize you have a 5/5 that’s indestructible doing all of this when you have five devotion to blue. Then you realize you’re paying 3 mana for all of this. There’s very few situations where Thassa isn’t just absolutely stellar, because she comes down early enough where your draws matter the most, and lategame she’s a monster on offense or defense, and when the smoke clears after that Wrath of God, she’s there to ensure you keep drawing gas. She’s in my opinion the second-strongest God card overall, and has the most flexibility and versatility.
Erebos is the one God card I personally undervalue, because I am not particularly a fan of what he does. I think what he does not only draws attention to you, but his drawing ability doesn’t function well with how much attention he draws to you. Stopping your opponent from doing something without stopping yourself as well can be very poor politically, and hinges on you being ahead.
That being said, Erebos is very good at keeping down silly lifegain shenanigans with Serra Ascendant and Blood Artist. He’s also rather absurd as a topdeck, which is something the other God cards can struggle with, because he can just draw you out of a bad situation, so long as you have the mana and life. And as with all God cards, they’re fantastic blockers when they’re creatures. My distaste for his political makings aside, I can’t ignore how powerful he is.
I will sing the praises of Purphoros until the end of time. Have I ever told you the story of the time I killed a 9-man table before untapping on turn 5? Yeah, I did that that one time. While lacking in power compared to Thassa, Purphoros’ best-case scenario is so oppressively powerful that in terms of raw power, he eclipses all fourteen of his bretheren with little to no effort.
It’s no question that all of the God cards are useful when you build around them. While others are simply cute and efficient, Purphoros is downright terrifying. I don’t think I’ve ever had a situation where people feared me casting Skittering Invasion more than they do when I have a Purphoros on the table. Basically, any creature-heavy or token-heavy list makes absolutely absurd use out of Purphoros, and he forces damage on an absolutely unprecedented level, and has a hefty amount of power when he’s a creature. I’m convinced that Purphoros is the most powerful God card, which is a good thing for EDH, because red is getting the love it very much deserves, having been considered extremely weak in comparison to the other colors for the longest time.
Much like Purphoros, Nylea is very useful when backed up by creatures, providing absolutely ridiculous pressure by consistently giving your army the size and power to push through the pathetic blockers your opponents muster. Mass trample is very underrated, if you ask me, and Nylea does a wonderful job of making sure your opponent can’t just make tokens to keep your attackers at bay. To add to that, Nylea makes blocking a nightmare for your opponents, as the threat of her activated ability makes blocking even a 1/1 with a 5/5 a difficult prospect to consider.
That being said, while Nylea is certainly threatening and powerful, she’s not without her setbacks. She does absolutely nothing while you control no creatures, and when she’s not a creature herself. So while her best-case makes her one of the most powerful God cards overall, her worst-case makes her arguably extremely weak when behind. Because of that, she finds herself around the middle when it comes to ranking the gods.
BORN OF THE GODS
Born of the Gods introduced what was arguably the weakest cycle of God cards, the ally-color cycle. While they’re still useful, the ally-colored Gods were likely toned down from their original incarnations to not overpower Standard. They’re also quite niche, only functioning in certain strategies well, and not being as encompassing and auto-include as some of the other God cards, making them less powerful by comparison.
That being said, I certainly underrated them in my Hits and Misses of Born of the Gods, having been disappointed initially with what they did. I’ve been proven wrong by time, and I’m certainly looking to correct myself here. (I was just pissed off about Phenax, in all honesty; where are our useful UB EDH cards?)
While I initially wrote off Ephara as awkward, niche, and strangely designed, I understand that the God cards are all rather wonderful incentive to push EDH to a more creature-oriented format, and allow players to have fun getting into the red zone rather than just casting their “I win” spell and killing the table. Ephara, like Erebos, draws you cards, so she can’t be totally awful, and does work really well at keeping you ahead and making sure overextending doesn’t just completely blow you out.
That being said, like Nylea, she’s a rather miserable topdeck without some way to draw a card out of her, which makes her one of the less powerful God cards overall. (Moorland Haunt, admittedly, goes a long way in keeping her in the game.) That being said, she has her niche, despite wanting to be built around a white-blue creature deck, which is still just…awkward to me. She is a rather easy God to be devoted to, however, as the color combination has some of the better hybrids and mana-intensive permanents (Azorius Guildmage, Geist of Saint Traft, Detention Sphere, Meddling Mage), and a 6/5 is always going to be useful.
I don’t even want to talk about Phenax. He’s easily the worst God by leaps and bounds. I don’t know how they still manage to force this mechanic down our throats; it’s so bad in EDH unless your name is Tunnel Vision, and he’s absolutely useless on offense or defense, because he doesn’t actually give you any meaningful board presence unless you have, say, an active Bloodchief Ascension. People will just kill you when you try to cast this, so don’t bother, really.
I too easily wrote off Mogis as well when I did my Born of the Gods review. While 2 damage is paltry at best, black has by far the easiest time making its Gods creatures, between Necropotence, Grave Pact and Phyrexian Arena, and when Mogis is a creature, he brings the freakin’ hurt. An indestructible 7-power creature for 4 mana is certainly nothing to sneeze at, especially when he’s doing even more damage to you on your upkeep. Whereas most God cards provide wonderful incrementals on defense, Mogis, much like Purphoros, provides insane offensive pressure, able to punch through all but the format’s toughest creatures.
That being said, Mogis is rather difficult to make particularly useful when he isn’t beating face, because very few people will stare at an active Mogis and want to sacrifice a creature not named Academy Rector to it. Like almost every God, he suffers from the issue of not doing much from behind. On the flipside, he’s at least providing a tiny bit of pressure even as a topdeck, and he’s pretty powerful against Planeswalkers.
Xenagod is very clearly one of the better God cards, as he provides rather ridiculous pressure, in addition to being a funny avenue that opens up a number of interesting 1-2 punches. For one, any 5-power Infect creature can automatically kill someone who doesn’t have a blocker, so there’s that. He’s also essentially a haste outlet if you’re only casting one creature a turn, which is helpful to apply pressure. Xenagod can create a lot of interesting combat scenarios, and keeps opponents on their toes, and the raw power and element of surprise that comes from that makes him one of the most powerful God cards.
However, as is becoming routine with explaining how good the God cards are, Xenagod’s shortcomings are apparent in that he’s an absolutely miserable topdeck and does absolutely nothing if you don’t control any creatures. However, a notable dodge of his innate flaw is that the next creature you top deck is massive, and has haste. (Get ‘em, Birds of Paradise!)
Karametra is an awkward case, if you ask me. She does one thing really well that I like–functioning very well as a powerful Mistveil Plains tutor–but unless she’s a creature, she’s very difficult at actually being useful. She goes a long way in doing that by making sure you’re not drawing lands, and she has great synergy with oddball creatures like Kor Skyfisher, Whitemane Lion and Stonecloaker, but it’s a little awkward to get the most out of her that you can. Plus, any deck with a half-decent manabase will not get too many triggers out of this.
That being said, she is an incredibly useful creature in combat if she’s a creature, because 6 power beats a large portion of the creatures in this format, and she’s great in top-heavy strategies like Mayael the Anima where tutoring your lands helps you cast the fatties you have in your hand. Aside from that, however, her awkward abilities and extremely poor worst-case makes her second only to Phenax in weakness when comparing the God cards.
JOURNEY INTO NYX
Journey into Nyx has rounded out the mythos of God cards by introducing the enemy-color Gods, and I will say it again until I’m blue in the face–nothing makes me more happy as an EDH player as when enemy color combinations that aren’t Simic get ridiculously powerful tools to use. I think Wizards knocked it out of the park with the enemy-colored God cards, and they tied up the package that is the Theros Gods extremely well.
I’m going to keep my reviews short for these ones, since I’ve gone over them twice already.
Hey, look, it’s that guy I’ve written about for three weeks in a row.
So…yeah. You known how good I think he is. (He actually ranks #5 in my ranking of the Gods overall, though.) I don’t need to devote more space in my articles to telling you about my sordid love affair with Athreos. He’s fantastic. Moving on.
Basically, Keranos is one of the better Gods to topdeck, and has a worst-case second only to Thassa, and only then because he costs 5 mana. Keranos is seriously ridiculously powerful, and his incrementals can grind your opponents into dust. Cast with Sensei’s Divining Top for great value! You already know about that, though.
Still the queen of the combat step, and like Keranos, has absurdly good worst-case. She’s actually one of the better Gods to topdeck, as she’s a great safety net against any threat that looms directly after a sweeper hits. And on offense as a 5/5 indestructible attacker, she’s pretty damn powerful. All for three mana, too.
Your creatures still aren’t dying in combat. While a pretty poor topdeck, like his brother Mogis, Iroas threatens absolutely ridiculous pressure, and 7 power for 4 mana is nothing to joke about. With his ability, if this thing ever gets active, you’re going to need blockers for this guy, or you’re dying very fast.
I’ve actually had some rather pleasant Kruphix draws in Maelstrom Wanderer. He’s pretty solid despite not being overly ridiculous (I will say it again; can I get an amen on that?), and while most Gods are firmly offensive or defensive in nature, Kruphix is a solid utility God that does what it does very well. And when it’s a creature, despite having the weakest power of the God cards, it still provides some pretty decent pressure since it’s indestructible.
#15 - Phenax, God of Deception (Wrexial, the Risen Deep)
#14 - Karametra, God of Harvests (Mayael the Anima)
#13 - Kruphix, God of Horizons (Maelstrom Wanderer)
#12 - Ephara, God of the Polis (Roon of the Hidden Realms)
#11 - Heliod, God of the Sun (Aurelia, the Warleader)
#10 - Pharika, God of Affliction (Kresh the Bloodbraided)
#9 - Nylea, God of the Hunt (Stonebrow, Krosan Hero)
#8 - Mogis, God of Slaughter (Kaervek the Merciless)
#7 - Iroas, God of Victory (Gahiji, Honored One)
#6 - Erebos, God of the Dead (Oloro, Ageless Ascetic)
#5 - Athreos, God of Passage (Ghave, Guru of Spores)
#4 - Xenagos, God of Revels (Prossh, Skyraider of Kher)
#3 - Keranos, God of Storms (Ruhan of the Fomori)
#2 - Thassa, God of the Sea (Zur the Enchanter)
#1 - Purphoros, God of the Forge (Krenko, Mob Boss)
That’s my thoughts on the God cards. They’re all pretty insane, and when ahead, they’re ridiculously powerful. The incentive to run them alongside creatures is really strong, especially because you don’t totally get blown out by sweepers; at least your Gods will survive most of them. It helps keep the pressure on as you rebuild, letting you at least somewhat overcome the weaknesses of creature-based strategies. I hope Wizards continues to print such cards, as creature-based strategies are on the rise as of late, and the Gods are excellent tools for those strategies to use.
Anyway, next week will likely be my monthly Let’s Build article. Stay tuned!
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586
M14 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508
Born of the Gods - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2800
Journey into Nyx - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=3101
Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617
Part 12 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2691
Part 13 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2822
Part 14 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2933
Let’s Talk M14:
Painting a Target:
Planeswalking and You:
Stacking Up Commander 2013:
The Slippery Slope:
The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Bant - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2907
Boros – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2854
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Esper - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2957
Golgari - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2760
Grixis – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2984
Gruul - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2669
Orzhov - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2681
Rakdos - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2663
Selesnya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2677
Simic - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2900
Trial & Error: