I saw a couple openings of the Born of the Gods Event Deck. So, they were informative on the contents and did throw around a couple of suggestions, but to me, that’s not a real review. So, I bought the deck and took it out for a spin today at the FNM.
[cardlist title=Underworld Herald]
1 Agent of the Fates
1 Blood Scrivener
1 Crypt Ghast
1 Desecration Demon
1 Erebos’s Emissary
1 Herald of Torment
3 Mogis’s Marauder
1 Pack Rat
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
3 Spiteful Returned
3 Tormented Hero
2 Xathrid Necromancer
2 Bile Blight
3 Doom Blade
1 Fated Return
1 Gift of Orzhova
1 Hero’s Downfall
2 Ultimate Price
2 Dark Betrayal
2 Gift of Orzhova
2 Pharika’s Cure
2 Staff of the Death Magus
The rares are [scryfall]Agent of the Fates[/scryfall], [scryfall]Blood Scrivener[/scryfall], [scryfall]Crypt Ghast[/scryfall], [scryfall]Desecration Demon[/scryfall], [scryfall]Herald of Torment[/scryfall], [scryfall]Pack Rat[/scryfall], double [scryfall]Xathrid Necromancer[/scryfall]s, [scryfall]Fated Return[/scryfall] and [scryfall]Hero’s Downfall[/scryfall]. Of those, [scryfall]Desecration Demon[/scryfall] used to be kind of valuable, but has since taken a dive, [scryfall]Pack Rat[/scryfall] has been strangely down of late, [scryfall]Hero’s Downfall[/scryfall] still has some actual value and the rest are pretty much bulk rares. The prices have all taken a dive partly due to this deck, except for [scryfall]Fated Return[/scryfall] which just didn’t have any value to begin with.
So, okay, perhaps the people reviewing this just based on the list get certain things right. [scryfall]Fated Return[/scryfall] just doesn’t belong. Its too expensive and the deck doesn’t have any sweet targets for it. Also, [scryfall]Crypt Ghast[/scryfall] may have been wrongly overlooked in this world of mass mana production through devotion, but it just doesn’t sit well here. Sure, you can cast the [scryfall]Fated Return[/scryfall] off of it, but that’s not good and that’s the only card with a higher casting cost. The deck would have been better with an extra swamp instead, although I’d rather have several [scryfall]Herald of Torment[/scryfall]s. I guess they couldn’t put in a [scryfall]Pain Seer[/scryfall] after it was the game day Top 8 reward and they couldn’t let just everyone have a [scryfall]Thoughtseize[/scryfall] or an [scryfall]Underworld Connections[/scryfall].
Then there’s the sideboard. [scryfall]Gift of Orzhova[/scryfall] isn’t really my style, but I get them. They can be very good against certain decks, when you need to be able to jump your last attack. However, what I don’t get is [scryfall]Staff of the Death Magus[/scryfall]. Probably nice in casual play, but hardly strong enough for Standard play. [scryfall]Cremate[/scryfall] can be strong enough, but not in this environment. There certainly are graveyard based decks, but they are more about stacking the graveyard with creatures for [scryfall]Nighthowler[/scryfall] and [scryfall]Nemesis of Mortals[/scryfall], hardly for reanimation or anything like that. I like the card very much and its actually one of the staples of my black decks in EDH, but would much rather have something else for competitive play. As my usual black sideboards are just a selection of removal so I can adjust my deck according to the opponent. Sometimes I have larger creatures, so that I can move the curve, if that feels appropriate. This approach might require a land or two in the sideboard as well.
Actually, the deck as a whole seems pretty legit. Trying to be two colored or even splashing a third color made for a very awkward manabases when you couldn’t put many dual lands in the decks besides guildgates or similar just didn’t work. Going monocolored was clearly the right choice. Obviously, the designers have a limit on how many rares they can put in a deck, so it will never be on the same level as my own monoblack aggro, but its not supposed to be. After all, its a business and they want to sell a bunch of packs.
Some extra consistency with four [scryfall]Tormented Hero[/scryfall]es and [scryfall]Spiteful Returned[/scryfall] would have been nice too. Also, [scryfall]Doom Blade[/scryfall] is a bit too situational for my tastes. I play against black decks all the time. But hey, lets see how I did.
My first round opponent played a white devotion deck, with a splash of red. The first game began well enough, despite my opponent playing an early [scryfall]Fiendslayer Paladin[/scryfall]. I drew my only maindeck [scryfall]Gift of Orzhova[/scryfall] and did fine for a while, but then lost momentum after a [scryfall]Spear of Heliod[/scryfall] and [scryfall]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/scryfall] came down, so I scooped with 14 life, but my opponent was gaining fast and even though I had him down at 2 life at one point, I just didn’t have anything to push through that last damage at that moment, so we went to the next game, which I won. And the next one. I do have to pat myself on the back that I played these two last games very well, forming very good lines of play many turns ahead and managed to follow through on the plans.
A sideboarding strategy emerged here. I took out [scryfall]Fated Return[/scryfall], [scryfall]Erebos’s Emissary[/scryfall], [scryfall]Crypt Ghast[/scryfall] and a Swamp, and put in the two [scryfall]Gift of Orzhova[/scryfall]s and two of the [scryfall]Duress[/scryfall]es. I followed this basic plan for most of the matches.
The next match was against a homebrewed Rakdos deck. I’ve played against the deck before in a previous incarnation and I think I liked the previous incarnation better, but here I had a distinct advantage in speed, which was enough to win the last two games, after losing the first one quite miserably. Granted, I was very lucky here. My opponent’s deck was pretty midrangy and he fell one land short of “going off” in each game.
Also, I went a bit further in my sideboarding strategy here. I was pretty sure there weren’t any monored creatures in the deck, so I took out [scryfall]Doom Blade[/scryfall]s and put a third [scryfall]Duress[/scryfall] and – of course – the [scryfall]Dark Betrayal[/scryfall]s in.
My third match was against a Jund deck. I was very lucky again. The first game I lost, and it wasn’t close. The next two games started a bit slow for me because in each my opponent was able to play a [scryfall]Sylvan Caryatid[/scryfall] into play and block my early attacks. However, again my opponent stumbled on mana, so I was able to grind each game out.
Going into the final, I was pretty elated. I was actually getting packs with this deck. I knew monoblack aggro was good, but I didn’t think it was this good. Going against a monoblue opponent, I knew I was going to do well. Not sure I could win, because of [scryfall]Nightveil Specter[/scryfall], which would be problematic as its a great blocker against my creatures, but also a good source of card advantage.
In the first game, I had a very good start with [scryfall]Rakdos Cackler[/scryfall] on turn one, another one accompanied by a [scryfall]Tormented Hero[/scryfall] on the next. Sadly, my opponent then played the dreaded Specter (or Petteri, as it now seems to be known). I drew a [scryfall]Gift of Orzhova[/scryfall] at the right moment and could keep on attacking, eventually drawing into [scryfall]Bile Blight[/scryfall] to get rid of Petteri and winning the first game. This was the first match where I wasn’t back against the wall after game one and the game seemed like a breeze.
The second game started almost as beautifully, but not quite. I took a mulligan, but my opponent took two. I didn’t have a one-drop, but gladly drew a [scryfall]Rakdos SHred-Freak[/scryfall] and could get attacks going on the second round, after which I built a good selection of humans, which was important because I had a [scryfall]Xathrid Necromancer[/scryfall], which made my opponents blocks awkward. He did a pretty good job of building defenses with [scryfall]Jace, the Architect of Thought[/scryfall], [scryfall]Thassa, God of the Sea[/scryfall], and Petteri, but I managed to draw [scryfall]Bile Blight[/scryfall] again at the most opportune moment, taking out Petteri and turning off Thassa, letting me push the final points of damage I needed.
So, yes. I went 4-0 and won with an off-the-shelf deck. Sure, it could be better, but it is very good. To make a really good deck, you need to invest quite a bit of money on [scryfall]Mutavault[/scryfall]s and [scryfall]Thoughtseize[/scryfall]s, but to make it somewhat competitive, a little work would go a long way. Take out the cards I mentioned before, put in a fourth [scryfall]Tormented Hero[/scryfall], fourth [scryfall]Spiteful Returned[/scryfall] and maybe a couple of [scryfall]Thrill-Kill Assassin[/scryfall]s or something, and you made much progress. Piecing together the removal and the sideboard based on your local meta will also go a long way.
Anyhow, 10 packs… Pretty much made my money back. I was quite lucky, but you need to right deck to be lucky too. Also, I ate sushi before the event, so maybe that was it. Clearly they’ve really pushed the limits on what they can put out there.
I found this so interesting that I’ll probably try it again after Journey into Nyx and after the Modern Event deck come out.