Pro Player's Guide to Evaluating New Cards

Saints leaks 8M team alpha in this must-read article for GU competitors

[8M] saints
Infinite Mana Team Manager, Pro Player, Coach
March 15, 2023

Gods Unchained recently announced the release of their new set, Band of the Wolf. While new sets are always exciting, staying ahead of the curve as a competitor can be a challenge. At Infinite Mana, we constantly refine our strategies and practice whenever new sets and major balance changes are introduced. This has allowed 8M to exploit broken combos and cards for Weekend Ranked and tournament profits for years. In this article, I'll explain my methodology for analyzing new cards.


Ok, boring part first. Card additions and changes often cause a shift in the meta. For instance, Control War used to be a decent deck, but it suffered from not having enough draw and struggling to deal with ward/protected high-health creatures like Polyhymnia, Helian Elite, and Hippacria. This meant that you could outrush a Control War that had a bad draw or stall them until you could play your bigger, unanswerable creatures. However, with the release of Blade of Whiteplain and An End to War in Light's Verdict, these precise weaknesses in the deck were addressed. Today, Control War is one of the strongest, most wallet-slappy decks in GU's history.

Adapting quickly is key, and part of that involves understanding what's missing for certain decks to reach their full potential. For example, Aggro Nature could benefit tremendously from better forms of reach, such as heavy-hitting relics. Control Deception could definitely use cheap board wipes to deal with wide boards and hidden creatures before Rapture Dance.

Another factor is also trying to get a sense of what the devs are trying to promote. They'll try to strengthen an under-utilized archetype/tribe, often making those archetypes too good in the process (like Anubians when Mortal Judgment was released).

Card evaluation 101: Stats and Text

The easiest way to evaluate cards is on their own merits: stat points and card text. The average 1-drop has at least 4 points worth of stats and text, like Dryder Sailweaver (a 2/2 with Ward), or Trial Spirit (2/2, give +1 health). Therefore, anything clearly above this baseline, like a 2/3 with minimal downside or a 2/2 relic, would be an immediately strong counter to these 1-drops and should cost at least 2 mana.

Which brings us to, as my teammate Sifu likes to put it, "this little fucker":


A 2 mana 3/3 would almost always be a great turn 2 answer, even disregarding the fact that it has Godblitz, a nearly unprecedented mechanic for a cheap creature. I think the devs intended for Woodcutter Imp to be a strong option for Aggro War, and they were right. But the card is so good that it's also played in Control War.

Its downside is as minimal as you can get; God health is one of the most plentiful, easily expendable resources in the game. There are very few cases where playing Woodcutter Imp on turn 2 would be a bad move. Like the infamous Armor Lurker, Woodcutter Imp is a card that can consistently trade 2-for-1, leading to immediate card advantage due to its superior stats.

When card text is good enough, the stats become less important. For example, when Alastrina was first released, it used to be a 4 mana 1/5 with Roar: Reduce the mana cost of all cards in hand by 1 (Empower 3: Do the same for all cards in your deck). Advantages like these are clearly overpowered, and it was used to great effect in Dralamar OTK and Control Magic. It would be equivalent to printing a cheap War card that says "Deal 10 damage to your opponent's God", which would be far too strong for the current meta.

Card evaluation 102: Value ranges (floors, ceilings, and averages)

Consider a card like Wetlands Ogre, a vanilla 4 mana 4/5. What you see is what you get. Playing it doesn’t carry much of a risk, and you usually get a consistent quantity of value from it: typically trades 2-for-1, although not always. We’d describe Wetlands Ogre as a card with a high value-floor and a low value-ceiling, decent value on average. Beginners can thrive using cards like these because they’re hard to misplay.

Now consider a card like Battle Cleric. It’s under-statted at 2/2, but if allowed to survive, it can snowball hard. But that’s if it survives; if you spend all your mana on turn 5 playing a 2/2, and your opponent trades favorably into it or uses a cheap spell like Stoneskin Poison, you lose a ton of tempo. As a result, a card like Battle Cleric has a low-value floor and a high-value ceiling.

It’s not that the card text itself isn’t valuable in theory, but rather that in practice, it’s very hard to get a 2-health creature to survive on turn 5, even with backline. So on average, Battle Clerics are lower value, as the times they are deleted by a cheap spell do not make up for the few times they print acolytes for free.

So it’s easy to see a card in a new set like Orfeo in Wanderlands and think “omg, infinite value!” And while Orfeo can solo entire decks, the reality is that he’s only drawn once per game on average, and in those situations, you’re spending 3 mana for a delayed single-target removal, and would have been much better off playing a card like Hunting Trap or Stoneskin Poison instead, cards with significantly higher value-floors.

I love theorycrafting decks with wacky cards as much as the next person, but the reality is that the best decks consist of cards with high value-floors and sometimes also high value-ceilings: Sern, the Moderator is strong even with minimal healing and card draw, but in situations where you mass-heal/draw, it’s game-winning.

Card evaluation 201: Quadrant Theory

An advanced way to evaluate cards is by using quadrant theory, first introduced by MTG players. There are four quadrants, and for a card to be good, it needs to serve at least one of them:

  1. To develop your board: These are cards that establish a statful board presence and typically don't require any other conditions to obtain the full value of the card. Cards that you can expect to help develop your board presence (i.e. allowing you a better chance to activate cards like Sole Survivor and other buffs). These include: Pyramid Warden, Armor Lurker, Marsh Walker, Underbrush Boar, Umber Arrow, Light’s Levy.

  2. To pull ahead in an even match: When both players are trading evenly and are in top-decking mode (usually the case in aggro vs aggro matchups, but sometimes others), you’ll want a card that will provide a card advantage impact when it's played. These include: Valewarden Minotaur, Merry Kadmos, and cheap card draw like Cram or high-value cards like Martyr of Whiteplain and Cutthroat Insight.

  3. To cement a lead or finish a game: Assuming you've established a board (or relic, in some cases), you need a way to close out games, and sometimes tapping your Slayer GP for 2 damage a turn isn't enough. Cards that fall under this category include Asterius, Whetstone, Trial of the Hydra, while cards like Protective Benediction help cement your board control.

  4. To prevent losing the game: Winning a game also involves preventing your opponent from winning the game first. Reactionary cards that fall under this quadrant include Unbound Flames, Rapture Dance, Lips are Sealed, Apocalypse Now, Labyrinth Guard.

The cards above are good and have tremendous value in one quadrant, but great cards have value in multiple quadrants.

Prior to Light’s Verdict, Guild Enforcer was sufficient in all four quadrants. Playing it was usually hard-to-punish in most game states and it would usually require more than 1 spell to remove it. It could defend your face, and in certain situations, such as when you’re a Deception player with Orfeo’s Distraction, it could be a win condition all on its own. High value-floor, high value-ceiling. Then Blade of the Whiteplain was released and obsoleted Guild Enforcer. Life comes at you fast.

One of the reasons why Demogorgon is considered the best card in the game is that it not only fits into all four quadrants, but it’s top-tier in the last three. Its unique ability to stall your opponent's board while building your own board provides an incredible amount of value that is always useful, no matter what the state of the game is. Game-impacting value-floor, game-winning value-ceiling.

Other multi-quadrant stand-outs, and therefore the best cards in the game, include: Thaeriel, Neferu, Champion of Death, Pyrrhic Knowledge, Highborn Knight, Blade of Whiteplain, Helian Elite, Sern, and of course, Woodcutter Imp.

Card Synergies and Combos

Broken combos have become more plentiful in the past 12 months, allowing players to dominate with Dralamar OTK, Relic War OTK (Unrestrained Power + Whetstone), Rockdrake OTK (Rockdrake Egg + Over the Line), Anubian decks (Priestess of Takhat + Land of the Dead), and many more.

Where this gets tricky is that GU historically does not provide a lot of card draw engines. Each of the decks I described earlier is forced to include a lot of draw engines and they wouldn’t work without them. For instance, a potential Nature combo like Mistress Scythia + Curious Wisp may fall short due to the lack of Nature draw allowing for a high level of inconsistency.

While making connections between cards that could lead to broken combos is important, you also need to ensure the rest of the deck provides the consistency to achieve it. Relic War daws with Encumbered Looters and Mobilized and stalls with Demogorgons, Magic Missile Launchers, and Carnage Sweeps to fish for their combos. Rockdrake OTK draws with Burrowing Scarab, Untold Greed, and Vrock, while stalling with Siren of the Grave and Canopic Hoarder.

Combos in GU are typically hard to pull off consistently, and synergy in non-combo decks tends to be among cards that are already individually strong (like Blade Borrower and Bound By Her Will) and don't require comboing for them to be playable.

Putting it all together

To find broken combos and decks, you need a healthy understanding of the current meta and an eye for what is overpowered. Cards tend to be more overpowered the cheaper they are, making low-mana cards like Woodcutter Imp more useful than a 10/10 Burnished Bull at 7 mana, despite being a well-statted, strong quadrant 2 card. Combos that cost more than 5 mana are also susceptible to disruption via Cutthroat Insight.

Start by seeing if strong cards or interactions can replace existing decent-to-strong archetypes. Get a feel for how the interaction works first. Is it working as you expect? If it's working really well, try to see how greedy you can get with it. When Dralamar was first released, people played it with creatures and without the infinite Magic Inks combo. Only after realizing they could go even greedier did they put together the current, refined iteration of Dralamar.

To do any of this, though, you'll need to practice with other passionate, competitive players. Join the Infinite Mana Discord, home to the best players in Gods Unchained, if you want to play with others like yourself who have read through this entire article! For more GU articles, check out

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