Hey there, acolytes and acolytettes! Unmistakable back with another Sowing Salt! Amonkhet spoilers are in full swing, and I bet they’re getting me pretty pumped! (Because of the nature of planning and drafting, at time of writing we don’t have any spoilers) (Update: they’re pretty damn awesome). With our new Egyptian plane and the Five gods in mind, I’d like to backtrack a little. Back to Theros block.
The wildly popular (thematically, at least) plane of Theros brought with it its pantheon of 15 (now 14, RIP Xenagos) Gods, 5 major monocolour deities and 10 minor gods around the 10 colour pairs. Flavourwise these were a home run, as these fit the god role of being ever present, and manifesting themselves after enough devotion is shown. These really captured my imagination, being a huge fan of Mythology in general. To date I have built Erebos, God of the Dead, Keranos, God of Storms[/mtg[mtg_card]_card], Xenagos, God of Revels, Nylea, God of the Hunt, and have heavily toyed with Kruphix, God of Horizons and Karametra, God of Harvests in the past; with that in mind, this list could be seen as mildly biased (not this exact list, fear not), but in my mind it may not be any way other than this, and I gravitated towards the powerful and interesting designs, over the boring/mundane (sorry Heliod, but screw you). As always the list is purely subjective; I have my own opinions, but I feel the most compelling Commanders are featured here today. On with the honourable mentions!
Athreos, God of Passage – Perennial Honourable Mention (Nothing against you Athreos, I like you, but more as a friend), Athreos stands above most of his Pantheon brethren due to multiple factors; First, what a design! Athreos is a huge indestructible body (once his devotion threshold is met) who immediately exerts a resilient effect upon your board. Under the influence of the Ferryman, your things either ping when they die (and can double up with Wound Reflection, or heal you with Exquisite Blood), or keep recurring until they do. With this, you can abuse ETB/LTB effects such as Noxious Gearhulk or Archon of Justice. The previous list mentions another build I am rather fond of utilising Shadowborn Apostles (which is why I have elected to not go into depth about it here), but Athreos’ lack of blunt power just about keep him off of a top spot; there is a LOT of power to go around in this list.
Karametra, God of Harvests – A God that I‘m rather quite fond of, Karametra just about misses a formal rank by nature (heh) of just falling behind the rest of the gods in raw power. While she has a powerful passive effect that guarantees ramp (and becomes very noticeable as a game goes long), I just find her effect to be very unimpactful in the short term (unlike, you guessed it, the others on this list). Nevertheless, she has a slew of synergistic picks that make her worthwhile, abusing creatures that allow creature reuse like Fleetfoot Panther, Temur Sabertooth, or the newly released Greenbelt Rampager so that she can artificially cast giant creatures quickly, and draw her late game more consistently through tearing lands out of the deck. This is often where I stumble with her though, because she just seems too… goodstuff-y. Karametra leans nowhere in particular, and is a great pick for a general G/W build. But if you’re doing a general G/W build, you could pick something with more than just the passive effect, like Selvala, Explorer Returned, or Dragonlord Dromoka. I love the G/W colour pair with a passion, but there is something stopping me considering Karametra for a build project.
5) Xenagos, God of Revels – Starting at number Five however, things get real scary, real quickly. I (and the faces of various people in my playgroup) are reasonably well introduced to the madness that Xenagod can unleash. As soon as he comes down on turn 3-5, everything that comes after him is coming out big, and coming out fast. Y’know, unless you can deal with the indestructible 6/5 churning the beasts out. Lacking the utility of other colours, this Gruul God more than makes up for it in punching power. Besides gimmicky (albeit highly respectable) one-shots with Malignus, Xenagos finds himself instantly at home among the trampling creatures of Gruul such as Thunderfoot Baloth (its anthem effect permanently active, regardless of whether Xenagod is a creature) or Atarka, World Render. These cards help him consistently push damage through, and fast. Besides that, there is also the cataclysmic power of a hasty Hydra Omnivore swinging in for 16, or the Pathbreaker Ibex delivering wave after wave of crushing damage. Forever a Timmy’s dream, Xenagos always holds a special place in my heart.
4) Keranos, God of Storms – I may get a few raised eyebrows on this guy, but hear me out. Keranos is a powerful, versatile god. His effect is an engine, similar to Karametra, but his is nowhere near as linear. I have seen him in counterburn, an indestructible engine in chaos builds, and even Blue Moon! Apart from that, the world is your oyster. Run Steal Spell.dec, run infinite mana combos, Keranos is a chill guy. Just run him out when you want him and he’s perfectly happy to just sit there for an entire game, drawing you cards and murdering nerds. Speaking of his effect, though: It is a prime example of passive card advantage, and I love it. At the beginning of your turn, if you flip a land, he draws you that land so you can draw something else during your draw step. Great. In the late game with a colour combination like U/R, you can often find yourself losing your hard-built advantage to blank draws late game, and Keranos aids this by attempting to avoid them. This is an increase in card advantage as you see more cards than you would otherwise in a turn, potentially cascading into more tempo depending on your draw. On the flip side, if you hit a nonland, he just bolts a dude. Bam. Dead. This also increases card advantage, as when your opponents eventually deal with him, they will have expended a card in answer, and he will have taken multiple others with him (unless immediately dealt with), making his impact on the game more tangible in the long-term. In relative numbers, in a 4-player game, if Keranos kills a guy from player A, two guys from player B, and a guy from player C before player C pulled the trigger on removing him, one instance of Keranos would have burned (heh) 5 cards from your opponents before they removed his 1, setting you up on advantage. In a 4 player game, each of your cards need to roughly equal 1 per opponent, which is why counterspells and spot removal can often seem underwhelming: Keranos’ ability to rack up value over time on an indestructible creature is a deal difficult to pass up.
3) Erebos, God of the Dead – An absolute beast that I feel needs no introduction, I am a huge fan of this guy, as detailed in my Deck Tech last year. A simple yet effective commander, at first his passive effect seems worthless. Cutting life gain… why is that relevant? Believe it or not, it has been. From stemming the steady growth of an Oloro deck or turning off both pieces of the Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood combo, to trivialising lifelink and putting a lid on steady sources of lifegain that can often add up over the course of a game like a Courser of Kruphix or even the lifelands, such as Scoured Barrens, Erebos delivers a powerful asymmetric (oh yeah, it doesn’t hit you) aura of oppression to any game he touches down in, looming yet not immediately sinister enough to warrant removal (looking at you, Purphoros, God of the Forge). Then, his other ability comes into play. When playing a monoblack deck, you often have mana left over between turn cycles; whether you’re holding up removal (or counters – Withering Boon), or holding enough up to keep your Nirkana Revenant out of reach of Blasphemous Act, you’ll often have spare mana when the turn comes back around. Luckily, Erebos has your back! 2 life a card may seem steep, but if you pack a decent amount of lifegain (like, say, Drain Life or Consume Spirit), you can find yourself running out of deck long before you run out of life. An absolutely underrated commander, he very much earns his way onto this list.
2) Kruphix, God of Horizons – A God that those of you who follow my pal Crazy’s series No Cash Commander – Kruphix, while not innately more powerful than any others on this list, it makes it this high up due to being probably the most mechanically interesting of the Gods. I’ve tinkered with this guy from time to time, and I’ve got to say he’s overflowing with potential, it’s just nailing it down! His ability to store mana at the cost of keeping it colourless is great, and allows you to crank out huge creatures, like Primordial Hydra or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Or huge spells, like Stroke of Genius or Genesis Wave. Or huge planeswalkers, like Karn Liberated or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. You see where I’m going with this? Kruphix loves drawing cards (as his super flavourful Dictate of Kruphix would suggest), he loves mana (Like Courser of Kruphix and Prophet of Kruphix..? God of Subtlety, he is not.), and he loves his mana doublers in order to maximise his mana storing efficiency! He can also be coupled with some mana-hungry strategies like buyback or Replicate spells (He makes expensive spells like Mimeofacture, Spell Burst or Capsize much more manageable to cast multiple times per turn cycle!), and its this sort of flexibility I like. If you would like a new project that pulls in a lot of different directions, Kruphix has my full support!
1) Purphoros, God of the Forge – Oh come on. You knew who this was. Our runaway winner this week is the God of the Forge, Purphoros. Scourge of metas both casual and competitive, Purphoros draws instant attention when he rocks up and rocks out. Often used with token builds, decks with him at the helm tempo out ridiculously fast producing obscene amounts of small guys, using either Purph’s passive ability to destroy opponents without attacking, or using his activated ability in the late game to simply overrun with an ultra-wide board. Doubling up on damage effects with Impact Tremors, or just doubling his own damage effect with tech like Dictate of the Twin Gods or Furnace of Rath, the God of the Forge has absolutely no trouble unleashing on a table of players with Firecat Blitz, Tempt with Vengeance or Mogg Infestation. A powerhouse god with a reputation to match (a Purphoros player gets no sympathy from me, and will get no mercy), Purphoros is very much the God for you if you are flexible on whether or not you really NEED those friends of yours!
Well there we go guys! What do you think of the list? Like it? Think some of them will lose their spots in Amonkhet? I’d love if you let me know in the comments or on Facebook! I’ll be back soon with a new Under the Hood article, but for now, Unmistakable out.