Hour of Devastation brings a new take on the God subtype that was introduced in Theros block and further iterated on in Amonkhet. While they do have the God subtype, these Gods look nothing like the other Gods we’ve seen. Because of this, it’s hard to take a look at them and evaluate their playability by comparing them to past Gods. In this article, I’ll be looking at a few consistencies between them, the environments needed for them to succeed, and then giving each of them a grade based on how playable I think they will be.
Here are the Gods:
None of the Gods do anything when played
One common phrase that tends to kill big flashy creatures before they’ve even landed is “well it’s just a X-mana do nothing.” Frequently, the best creatures and other expensive spells have an immediate effect on the board, mitigating the risk of tapping out and leaving yourself vulnerable. Each of these Gods require that you either reach your next turn (drawing a card or an upkeep trigger) or have access to mana to activate the multicolored ability that each have.
That being said, unlike the Gods that we’ve seen from Theros block and Amonkhet, these are always creatures, meaning that at minimum they are a body and do a little more than nothing. The Locust God is a 4/4 flyer for 6 mana, which is entirely unimpressive unless you get to attack with it and use its evasion. The Scarab God is a 5/5 for 5 mana, which is a decent body for attacking and blocking, although thoroughly unexciting. And The Scorpion God is a 6/5 for 5 mana, which is the best of the bunch, but the extra point of power won’t come into play unless you reach your next turn, which is when each of the Gods can really start to put in work, making the extra power worth close to zero. All things considered, all of these creatures are unexciting, and there is a risk of not reaching your next turn to harness their power is a large one.
Each of the Gods have built-in recursion
This is one quality we’ve come to expect of Gods, but each of these cards have the upside of being very hard to kill, requiring an exiling effect. While returning the God to your hand is much worse than the plain Indestructible keyword that was on all Gods previously, the power of the ability on each of the Hour of Devastation Gods shouldn’t be overlooked.
The main downside to this, however, is that it requires that you recast them, playing another cost-heavy underwhelming body with the hope that it will reach your next turn. This leaves the door open for your opponent to unknowingly tempo you out by casting cheap spells to occupy your entire turn. Recursion is nice, but this type of recursion on these sorts of expensive cards is significantly worse than Indestructible.
Each of the Gods want to remain in play for many turns and have mana invested into them
Cards like these can be risks. Similarly to the first section where I talked about the “do nothing” quality of these Gods, the payoff for keeping them in play isn’t much more than a sizable, recursion-enabled beater. The Locust God gives you an extra 1/1 with flying and haste, The Scarab God lets you filter cards and deal damage based on how many zombies you control (potentially zero if you aren’t a dedicated zombies deck), and The Scorpion God does… nothing.
Over several turns, The Locust God turns into a Bitterblossom that can be triggered again for 4 mana at any time. One turn with Bitterblossom is very poor, but ten turns with it and you’ve gotten significant value out of it. Similarly, scrying and dealing damage turn after turn with The Scarab God gradually kills the opponent or buries them in card quality.
It’s the reusable activated abilities on each that makes each of these appealing, as they give you an excellent mana sink. The Locust God lets you filter through cards while making 1/1 flyers with haste, The Scarab God allows you to make a 4 mana 4/4 (usually with upside) that enhances its upkeep triggered ability, and The Scorpion God gives you a repeatable way to pick off small creatures and use it as a way to draw cards. Each of these activated abilities are large mana sinks that aren’t worth a card each, but when used turn after turn add up to good value.
Conditions needed for The Locust God to succeed
Like any card, the playability of these Gods relies heavily on the environments in which they exist. For The Locust God to succeed, it needs to be able to (at minimum) survive until your next turn. A 4/4 flier for 6 mana that immediately returns to your hand, effectively tempo-ing yourself, is terrible, but if you reach your next turn you at least get a 1/1 out of the deal, helping to stem the bleeding that the opponent is inflicting on you. This means that cards like Grasp of Darkness, Never // Return, Cast Out, and Harnessed Lightning backed up by pressure is a nightmare for this card. Unfortunately, those cards are all widely played, and almost all in decks that put pressure on throughout the game.
The Locust God also wants you to incidentally draw cards, allowing you to trigger the static ability on it multiple times a turn. The cheap cyclers that slow and grindy control decks (which is realistically where this card fits), Censor and Hieroglyphic Illumination, both trigger The Locust God for cheap. Additionally, the existing presence of cycling lands gives plenty of ways to trigger the God cheaply.
The Locust God wants to be able to survive at least a turn to gain value and have access to cheap ways to trigger it. It fails on the first, but passes with flying colors on the second. Because of this, it will likely only see play as a sideboard option in control mirrors, where the opponent boards out their situational spot removal, and The Locust God has plenty of time to make a swarm and use its activated ability turn after turn.
Conditions needed for The Scarab God to succeed
Just like The Locust God, The Scarab God wants to stay in play until your next turn. However, if the upkeep trigger is relevant the first turn, the payoff is worth it. It doesn’t necessarily need to remain in play for the next 5 turns. If you get one trigger and one activation off of it, you’re a pretty happy camper.
The Scarab God wants you, first and foremost, to have zombies in play. If you don’t get to scry or deal damage to the opponent the first upkeep you have it in play, it’s basically a 5/5 for 5 that makes you recast it when it’s killed. That’s terrible. However, if you have 3 zombies in play, the damage you deal on your next upkeep is almost always relevant, and the scry 3 can range anywhere from drawing 3 (ditching irrelevant cards to the bottom) to a strategic rearrange of the top 3 to better your future turns. In this situation where The Scarab God is in a dedicated zombie deck, the activated ability bringing back cards like Lord of the Accursed is excellent value.
Because zombies have already proven themselves as a tribe to be reckoned with in this Standard format, I believe this card will see play. It already slots into an aggressive deck, mitigating the risk of tapping out for it, and it gives the archetype additional damage, as well as card advantage through scrying and the activated ability.
Conditions needed for The Scorpion God to succeed
Unlike the other two Gods which give you value regardless of the game state if they survive a turn, The Scorpion God does not. It requires you to either have easy targets to aim its activated ability at, use its activated ability multiple times, or let your own creature with -1/-1 counters on them die. The second condition is difficult to rationalize, as you’ll need to pour 6, 9, or even 12 mana into it to singlehandedly kill a creature. The last condition is too much of a deckbuilding constraint currently for me to consider it a reasonable route. The first condition is the most reasonable one, but this current Standard format does not play into that. The format’s aggressive decks aren’t like the Humans decks of old with a series of X/1s. Unfortunately, even against those sorts of decks, you’re likely under far too much pressure to have the time to kill creatures with the activated abilities and play the extra cards you draw off of it.
I’m very excited to see how these cards end up fitting into Standard (or not!). This new God design is certainly a new flavor of the powerful, recursive subtype. Hour of Devastation is right around the corner, and I can’t wait to see how Standard is reborn!
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