A Distant Thunder: New Mechanics in Born of the Gods
Looking at the Born of the Gods expansion, it can be said that WotC made few additions this time around in comparison to when Theros came out, but the two main mechanics changes they did make are big ones. Not only are they complex in terms of what they bring to the game overall, but also how players could have to change strategies in tournaments and casual play.
Inspired - I think this mechanic is likely to affect the game the most on a turn by turn basis. It triggers any time a creature with the ability untaps. Take the Oreskos Sun Guide, a 2/2 white creature. Its Inspired ability gains you two life whenever it untaps. The low casting cost means that if you can get the Guide out before your opponent has the resources to stop it, you have easy potential to build up a good life buffer. If you can get Double Strike or Lifelink on it, even better. That’s just taking combat rounds into consideration. Say you cast Chain Stasis, another cheap spell, on your creature. Boom, another two points. Granted, the life points of the Guide isn’t going to keep it alive long once your opponent decides to focus on taking it out, but in tournament play even a 2-4 extra life can make a deciding difference.
On Inspired’s offensive side, there’s the Servant of Tymaret. It’s a 1/3 black creature, that hits each of your opponents for one point of damage and you gain an equal amount of life with every untap. In casual play when you’re playing more than one opponent, be prepared to see this guy becoming a high priority target. Say you’re playing two other opponents. You attack opponent #1 with the Servant for one point of damage, then at your untap, opponent #1 takes another point of damage, opponent #2 takes a point of damage just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you get two points of life out of the deal. Opponent #1 and #2 may not be friends at that time, but odds are they dislike you even more at that moment. I should also point out that it also has Regenerate, so if you can get a Deathtouch equipment or enchantment on the Servant it becomes downright formidable and even more hated.
Tribute - This mechanic is going to have both tournament and casual players making new in game long term decisions for completely different reasons. When a creature with Tribute is cast, an opponent of the caster’s choice can either allow X amount of +1/+1 tokens, where X equals the Tribute rating, to be placed on the creature, or another effect occurs. The Snake of the Golden Grove is a 4/4 green creature with a converted mana cost of 5, so it’s not coming out right away unless the caster built a deck for quick mana generation early on. It’s got a Tribute rating of 3, and its caster gives an opponent a choice; Put three +1/+1 tokens on it, or the caster gets 4 life and the Snake stays a 4/4 creature. This mechanism is fascinating in game play terms simply because of how much control its caster gives over to their opponents. It’s a safe bet in tournament play that, unless your opponent makes a huge mistake, you should put out a “Buff me or get life” creature with Tribute with the assumption that you’re just going to get the life, just because it’s easier to knock your life back down than it is to get rid of a 7/7 creature eight times out of ten. Sure, life is nice when you can get it, but a what a 7/7 can do in two rounds compared to a 4/4 is considerable. You can still come out ahead in a tournament with Tribute creatures like this one, just don’t expect it to be your ace in the hole offense-wise.
Then there’s the Pharagax Giant. This is a nasty piece of work for multi-player games. A 3/3 red creature with a converted mana cost of 5, you can either have two +1/+1 tokens put on it, or all the caster’s opponents take five points of damage. This creature can make the game political. Let’s say you have 13 life, Opponent #1 has 10 life, and Opponent #2 has 7 life. Opponent #1 puts out the Giant and chooses you. Not paying tribute will put you a little bit behind Opponent #1, but it will take Opponent #2 almost completely out of the game. What’s more, I bet you anything Opponent #1 would expect you to take that route, so you’re effectively doing the serious dirty work, and the caster still gets a 3/3 creature. Not a bad payout for five mana.
All in all, Born of the Gods brings some other truly interesting bits to the game, like the Archetypes and the return of the Bestow mechanic, but I think Inspired and Tribute are going to be where the real changes are, and it’s exciting to see what they will do in the long run.