Monday, 25 February 2019
Top 8 Gods
I should probably have made this a top five rather than a top eight. With only 23 gods in the game so far this list contains over a third of them. The bottom end of this list is particularly thin, there will certainly be no honorable mentions. I have run The Scorpion God in several places but it is a push to claim those are note worthy! Heliod is a cute mana sink for your Serra's Sanctum in enchantress decks. Erebos and Bontu crop up now and again in a variety of themed (and usually bad) black builds. Even the lowly Kefnet has done some work in modern with Porphyry Nodes. Being so unique most of the gods have their uses but for the most part they are rare and minor. None feel honorable!
In terms of flavour I love the gods, I also like how the design of the cards emulates a different kind of magic card. The way in which they contain a huge amount of power makes them feel godlike. While the design is great from a flavour point of view I do not have a huge love of the gods from a play perspective. They are a little too uninteractive for such potent cards and can lead to polar games with little relevant options once the god is doing it's thing. I would like to see more gods introduced to the game but I would like them to come with some viable counterplay, in particular to red and green. The poor colours only just got done being bodies by things like Sphinx of the Steel Wind and now they are getting it from the far cheaper and more playable gods. At least the Gruul colours do contain a decent chunk of the better gods.
8. Phenax, God of Deception
This is the main reason I should have done a top five not a top eight! Phenax is super narrow and super lame. No one likes losing to mill in cube. Phenax is extremely powerful but he is in need of some specific support and just isn't in any way fun or interactive, even by the standard of other gods. Even if he is powerful enough for cube I advise against running him in any capacity. You will have more fun without him. The thing that makes Phenax so potent is that he can win the game the turn you make him with ease. In any sort of board stall Phenax is going to be able to end the game quicker than most other sources of reach. This does mean you need a lot of creatures in your blue black deck which isn't all that natural for Dimir. When you don't have any dorks Phenax does nothing at all. Phenax is polar in the extreme. He is also immune to much disruption or able to bypass it making him a doubly poorly designed card.
7. Keranos, God of the Storm
Of the gods that have seen enough play to make any statistical sort of claims I would say Keranos is the least often found in combat. I don't ever recall having seen one in creature form at least. Keranos has seen some love in the past due to Izzet having relatively poor planeswalker options. Most of them are vulnerable and low powered or fairly niche in application. It is not yet clear if new five mana Ral Zarek, Izzet Viceroy is superior, inferior or simply for a different sort of role. If the former then we will likely not see that much more of Keranos in cube but we were not seeing much of him anyway. Most of the four mana Jace and Chandra offerings are just more powerful cards. The real advantage Keranos has is that he is hard to kill but these days if you make a five mana do nothing in a control deck you have already won or you are about to lose. So the fact that planeswalkers are more vulnerable is somewhat irrelevant. If there was a good way to sneak out Kernos before your draw step, say with an Aether Vial, then that speed up would help. Perhaps if you could trigger him with draws in your opponents turns! Then he would just be yet another card desperate to be paired with Divining Top. He somewhat is already given that is allows you some choice over what Keranos does. That segues neatly into the other reason Keranos is mostly inferior to planeswalkers - you get no control over drawing a card or doing three damage. Options is a big part of the power of walkers and Keranos has none. Keranos will win you basically any game given long enough but he lacks the immediate impact, control and safety to really help you survive long enough to take advantage of him.
6. Rhonas, the Indomitable
While clearly a potent god I have found Rhonas to underperform. I think it is just because it is a green beater with some conditionality. If you are beating down in green you are typically at the mercy of your opponents disruption. That tends to make Rhonas a bit of a win more card or a total do nothing. At best he tends to just be a bad Kessig Wolf Run. That in itself isn't a terrible place to be. Wolf Run is the card I splash into green decks most commonly! Rhonas is a great way to turn mana into reach. Especially so in green where he is a creature and thus works well with all the card quality effects and tutors. He is a pretty good way to diversify your threats. This is mostly just a way of taxing and stretching opposing removal. Rhonas may just be a creature but he is immune to most removal and lets you extend into mass removal with a little more confidence than usual. Rhonas makes your mana dorks relevant in the latter parts of the game as well. Unlike a lot of the gods on this list Rhonas fails to do anything at all by himself and has no ongoing perks. Green also has a wealth of robust, high value and high power three drops taking his deck slots. Unless you have a specific need of playing Rhonas it is fairly hard to play him over something like a Jadelight Ranger. He is a great card but hard to find a suitable place for where you cannot find superior alternatives.
5. Thassa, God of the Sea
Power wise Thassa is one of the more impressive gods. She under performs because she is in blue and blue has poor aggressive strategies and has to play dodgy cards to empower devotion. It is not even like you can do much to pick up the shortfall by packing another colour because then you either ruin your mana base or your ability to turn on the devotion cards. Unlike many other Theros gods Thassa is one that you very much want as a creature. A three mana 5/5 indestructible is the stuff of dreams for blue. The other abilities are good but they are not worth the investment without getting that 5/5 body to see some action. Scry every turn is lovely but it is terrible compared to Search for Azcanta. It is also an incredibly slow affair. You would have to have double figures worth of turns to come close to making a card and three mana back in value from just the scry. Thassa is an aggressive card and that just makes the scry worth a bit less. The unblockable ability is great. It provides some reasonable reach but it is pretty late game as it does not come all that cheap. Blue isn't great at racing or at tempo and so you are pretty unlikely to be using it while you still have ways you can invest your mana in tempo. Much as I have marked down Thassa due to weak blue aggressive devotion cards I expect that to change. Blue got several good cheap aggressive cards this year and I fully expect to see it continuing to get more. It really wont be that long before you can support Thassa in an actually quite reasonable deck and then she will be pretty oppressive.
4. Xenagos, God of Revels
Oddly I find Xenagos to be the devotion based god most frequently in creature form. There are some quite playable cards that really empower Gruul devotion (Burning Tree Emissary, Boggart Ram-Gang etc) for one. More over, the kinds of deck that want a card like Xenagos are typically packing some meaty permanents. Green allows you to play more double coloured cost cards in other colours too so you will find even the mono coloured cards adding to the devotion count decently well. Xenagos does a really good job of ending games. He basically gives all your subsequent cards haste while being a pretty unkillable Wolfir Silverheart as well. Ideally you play him and pump up a 3 or 4 drop beater such that thy either chump block or take a massive hit in the face. The following turn you make something else fairly fat and swing in with Xenagos himself, the new empowered dork and your previous dork for what is usually more than enough damage to end things there and then. Xenagos is like having a Kessig Wolf Run that is also a Hanweir Battlements and that fully activates each turn without costing you any mana. Xenagos is the king of haymaker cards. Often a bit overkill but the real reason he sees little play is that he can do nothing the turn you make him and does do nothing if you have nothing else. When you can just play it safe with haste dragons, potent planeswalkers or massive green dorks Xenagos tends to get endged out. There are not that many occassions when your 4/4s and 5/5s being 8/8s and 10/10s makes a huge difference. Surrak is a mana cheaper, a colour less, still gives things haste and can attack himself on the first turn most of the time. Surrak and top of the line five drops are really what killed Xenagos, Elspeth and Godsend had nothing to do with it outside of the storyline! While historically Xenagos has performed better than Thassa and Rhonas I expect both those gods to overtake Xenagos over the upcoming years. Being significantly cheaper and mono coloured puts them at a huge playability advantage.
3. Hazoret, the Fervant
A great standalone card offering huge tempo, reach and power. Hazoret is one of few gods that works well without any real support and towards fairly universal on-theme ends. You can just toss Hazoret into most cube decks that are at all tempo based. My cube is sufficiently low to the ground that you can get away with Hazoret in decks that are basically midrange. You don't need to be just red or even heavy red either. You can splash in a Hazoret no trouble. She is tempo because a 5/4 hasting indestructible is a savage beating. She is unafraid of combat and kills most that stand in her path. While fairly hard to make on curve and attack it is not impossible nor is it even bad to make her and not attack. She would still be a solid card without the haste! It is certainly a whole lot easier in cube to empty most of your hand by turn four. Making her later is no bad thing either. Her power is still pretty extreme if made on turns five onward. It is lovely when you get to make a punchy threat and even have some mana left over to activate a Grim Lavamancer or something. Powerful enough to rival Thundermaw yet cheap enough to run in decks too low to the ground for five drops. The discard for damage ability is nasty too. It ensures attacking is going to be an option but it just ensures victory eventually regardless of attacks. You can sit back and chip people down in some degree of safety behind your 5/4 indestructible wall! The only thing really working against Hazoret is the vast swathes of other great red four drops and only being able to sensibly play a couple of them at any time. Rekindling Phoenix offers more control, Chandra offers more utility, Hellrider offers more burst, Pia and Kiran Nalaar offer more coverage and that is just some of the non-gold stuff.
2. Porphoros, God of the Forge
While this is a bit of an engine card it is in a common and powerful range of archetypes. Porph may look narrow but he sees a massive amount of play. He is just so powerful. He is very hard to deal with and provides inevitability and reach. All the gods a quite hard to deal with, the Theros ones most so with them being non-creature cards often. Of those Purphoros feels like the hardest to remove as he gives you least time alive to do so! Mostly it is about adding two damage to every creature you get, if Purph was just an enchantment with that effect, like a doubling up of Impact Tremors, then he would still see loads of play. Becoming a creature is rare and often more of a risk than anything else! As soon as he animates he becomes vulnerable to Vraska's Contempt, Path, Plow, Repulse, Edicts and swaths of other ways to remove him that only affect creatures. The mini Trumpet Blast Porph offers is also nice, it means he is a huge threat if you have your gas in play or if it is in your hand. In a well built Porph deck you don't really need either provided your library is full of things like Goblin Rabblemaster and Seige Gang Commander. Everything suddenly packs so much punch, good threats become obscene threats when Purph is lending a hand.
1. The Scarab God
In cube, much like in standard, this card is oppressive. It is incredibly hard to deal with outside of blue and white and far from easy for either of those colours. Untapping with Scarab God is usually game over. Making it on 9 mana for the instant recursion so as to get value in the face of exile quality removal is also a huge swing capable of ending most games. The Scarab God is a defensive beast bringing huge bodies to the board. He ends the game quickly if it is clear to do so or he does so safely with scry, loads of blockers and direct life loss. I strongly hope Jund colours get more in the way of answers to the Scarab God going forwards. It is just way too safe and reliable of a finisher in the present meta. Most decks in one of the colours will splash for it given half a chance and it seems to be consistently powerful enough to reward people for doing so. Even the graveyard disruptive element of the card is annoying. It is just a little bit too good in a few too many ways. It probably should be a 4/5 and it probably should cost five to recur things and it doesn't really need the scry and the drain. I think you could make all those changes and the card would still be pretty strong. As it stands the card is a total all star in cube and one of the most desirable game enders out there. The Scarab God is hard to counter and will win through almost all situations, most quickly and easily. It reminds me of playing with Jitte when that was in block/standard. As soon as such cards enter play the whole dynamic of the game shifts and totally revolves around them. You will do drastic things with low value simply to prevent a charge or an eternalize from happening. It is all a bit too much power with no real downsides. At least over time answers and power creep have reduced the tedium of Jitte play. Hopefully the same will be true of this naughty God.