Despite my general loathing for DC Comics, I find one power relationship in the whole of their canon interesting (even if one of the characters is as one-dimensional as they come)-
Superman, and Lex Luthor.
Think about what it means to be Lex Luthor; he has chosen (and let’s face it, he picks this fight) to contend with a being that cannot really be defeated on a regular axis of struggle. In a stand-up fight, Superman simply cannot lose. But Lex picks that fight anyway, because that’s the kind of world he lives in, and those are the kinds of fights he needs to pick. In a sense, he’s a courageous fellow.
What does this have to do with Magic: the Gathering? It superficially might resemble how we could feel about many Theros-block legends. Often, they frustrate us with their presence, and a few of their abilities (like, perhaps, Erebos, God of the Dead’s anti-life gain ability) can present true thorns in our sides, while others still present insurmountable value every turn (I’m looking at you, Xenagos, God of Revels!)
If your tables are anything like mine, the Theros-block gods have made appearances in some of your friends’ decks. I personally have three divine Commanders: Ephara, God of the Polis, Nylea, God of the Hunt and Thassa, God of the Sea – and I will very likely add Mogis, God of Slaughter to the group. Once you’ve played around a fair bit with the gods as commanders, you might have noticed a trend: You cast them once, or maybe twice. You will get value from them throughout the whole game. The more powerful their passive abilities (Xenagos, and Purphoros, God of the Forge especially), the better off you will be.
Part of the problem with gods with powerful abilities is the narrowness of answers they admit. You can’t destroy them, they can’t be dealt lethal damage (and a canny player will use cards like Arena and Ulvenwald Tracker to take further advantage of that fact.) They can be exiled or sacrificed with Diabolic Edict-style effects, but the scarcity of these, along with the aggressive cost of most of the gods make them temporary solutions at best. When the Born of the Gods spoiler was released and the GDC team shared their opinions, I felt that the gods’ indestructibility would have the greatest impact on the format, and I think that still holds true today (Read about it here – pay less mind to the fact that I thought that Spirit of the Labyrinth could be a real game-changer).
In short, Xenagos would be much more manageable if he could just be dis-enchanted like every other enchantment. It does not help that many of the answers printed in block were clearly intended for Standard and Modern play (Deicide – Erase but with a cooler name), and will not properly function in EDH.
So, what can you do? The truth is, there are a few options, many of which you’ve heard of, but at least a few which you probably haven’t. Some of the classic answers that tend to work on anything will be highly playable here: Oblation, Chaos Warp, Hinder and Spell Crumple will answer nearly anything. In addition to these, consider playing Deglamer or Unravel the AEther ahead of your usual enchantment or artifact spot removal. If your opponent tends to make their god real through devotion, Spin into Myth, Void Stalker, Condemn and the other usual suspects can do well here. There are some interesting fringe cards that may have previously not made the cut that deserve consideration also: Primal Command and Brutalizer Exarch are versatile, but can handle a non-creature god.
Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve already been through the usual answers. Hinder, Spell Crumple, and many of the other cards I’ve mentioned will handle anything they can target. However, sometimes it just isn’t enough. Some consider it unsporting, but there exists a class of cards that will let you choose exactly one card, and prevent it from being played. The prototype for these cards is Null Chamber. More playable ones have been printed over the years: Declaration of Naught, Nevermore, Meddling Mage, Voidstone Gargoyle and Council of the Absolute.
I would consider playing very few of these; the creatures are not especially durable. However, Declaration of Naught, Nevermore, and Null Chamber deserve consideration. Null Chamber, especially, has a political angle where two birds could be killed with one stone if you ally yourself with another player who perceives you both to be behind (or, if you don’t name Maelstrom Wanderer, it falls to that other guy!). It bears mentioning that these cards can deal with other troublesome strategies, especially involving single cards like Mind over Matter or Maelstrom Wanderer (though Declaration of Naught is not as successful here).
Finally, there are the ultra-narrow answers that will perhaps not be very useful the rest of the time, but will surely give a divine commander fits. Steal Enchantment is aggressively costed and handily deals with commanders, whether or not they are in creature form. (Bonus points if you steal Thassa and use the double blue cost to reach Thassa’s devotion threshold!) The same, of course, goes for Mr. P’s favourite, Aura Thief (minus the devotion aspect).
The last super-narrow answer I like to trot out is Presence of the Master. It works well if you also hate auras, Uril, the Miststalker, or really any enchantments of any kind. Presence of the Master will sandbag gods indefinitely if you can push them out of play once you’ve tabled it.
Hopefully you’ve got some new tricks to handle your opponents obnoxious deities. Thanks for tuning in!