Theros Previews: Wave 2

previews wave 2

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

A whole lot has been revealed since the last Wave, so let’s get down to it.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

elspeth thero

The ‘big’ Elspeth

The first thing you’ll notice is the increase in mana cost over the previous two Elspeths. Of course there has to be some reason behind it, right? Well, we get a +1 ability that gives us a nice ‘comeback’ ability. Putting three tokens a turn for the initial investment of 6 mana is really not a bad deal. She pretty much protects herself really nicely (as Elspeth has historically been known to do).

At -3 loyalty we get a Retribution of the Meek.

retribution of the meek

Last time I saw this was in my Legacy ‘Death and Taxes’ deck a few years back

We can immediately activate this ability and potentially have Elspeth stick around long enough to continue churning out three tokens a turn. Not too shabby! Especially if we consider that we are playing a white-based deck versus cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa, who is especially against us. We get to kill quite a few ‘monstrous’ creatures as well, since they pretty much all grow past 3 power once their ‘monstrosity’ ability is activated. This is probably why she is shown slaying a Hydra in some of the promo art.

elspeth promo art

Monster Extermination service fee: 6 mana

This ability becomes even more relevant considering that our opponents will probably be enchanting their creatures as well It works so-so versus bestow, since it will kill the original enchanted creature but the aura then becomes as creature itself. So far I don’t think there’s any Bestow creature that seems particularly competitive so that might just be a moot point.

Let’s take a look at that ultimate:

-7: You get an emblem with “Creatures you control get +2/+2 and have flying.”

Nice ultimate bro! Once you finish coming from behind, you get to lay the smackdown on your opponent by buffing your team forever. If you’re really lucky you can even ultimate twice in one game (though it’s doubtful that your opponent isn’t dead by that point). I’m sure the Doubling Season casual decks will have tons of fun overkilling with that ability, since you can ultimate the turn she comes into play.

In a regular Standard game of Magic: the Gathering, I’m not sure how often you’ll get to even ultimate once. I would just content myself with the three tokens a turn. All in all, this Elspeth wasn’t as awe-inspiring as the original but she’ll definitely see some play. People tend to dismiss the higher costed planeswalkers, but I think that last Standard season showed that some of them (like Garruk, Primal Hunter) are quite good despite the higher than average mana cost.

Chained to the Rocks

chained to the rocks

Journey to Nowhere, with a twist!

Of course the initial thought  is: ‘ I’m going to need some Sacred Foundry‘. While the card is a cost-reduced Journey to Nowhere, it does require you to probably splash red (unless there is a Blood Moon effect that is yet to be spoiled). Imagine a mountain enchanted with both this and the following card:

awaken the ancientThen again, maybe not

The card is 100% playable in a format where each color has at least one indestructible ‘God’ card (soon to be previewed). You get to handle them once they become creatures. Thing is, they are all pretty content in remaining in play as enchantments too. You might never get to really use it on their ‘Legendary Enchantment Creature – God’ cards. It might just become a test of patience in which they delay in ‘animating’ their God card until you play your ‘Chained to the Rocks‘. Will the other colors get some good creature removal such as this?  Continue following the spoilers to find out.

Gift of Immortality

giftofimmortality

Great flavor and sweet card

So not all Auras are going to be Bestow creatures, but this one has a heck of a lot of value attached to it. Whether it’s saving your creature from ‘Supreme Verdict‘ effects or repeatedly sacrificing it each turn to get its ‘entered the battlefield’ ability to trigger over and over, Gift of Immortality has you covered. This is also going to go into many Bruna, Light of Alabaster Commander decks as well (so are quite a few other Auras in this set).

You can also maybe use this on one of your creatures that the opponent took from you and then regain control of it when it dies (or more likely when you use a removal on it). Imagine this thing with a sac outlet on an Acidic Slime ? Good times! This is probably why the slime did not get reprinted in Magic 2014, on top of beeing really good versus an ‘enchantment matters’ block.

Heliod, God of the Sun

heliod god of the sun

from the greek ‘Helios’ meaning Sun

Another God card revealed in Theros! At first glance he seems pretty good although not nearly as good as the blue one – Thassa. He can spam some tokens at a steep cost, but for some reason they are enchantment creature tokens? This is obviously relevant, with cards that are soon to be spoiled no doubt. The Serra’s Blessing your team ability is better in Standard than any other format, where creatures are more dominant.

Maybe he can team up with Gideon, Champion of Justice and form some kind of ‘creatureless’ weird control deck. You can be sure that with the increasing number of  noncreature permanents that are likely to see play in Standard, Gideon is in a good position to shine. We can always hope right? You can always run some weird 5-color God control in which you do nothing but spam tokens and never have devotion to make them creatures (to obviously make them even more ‘indestructible’, since they can’t be unsummoned, -x/-x’d and ‘sacrifice a creature’d. It’s probably just sill talk, but if this game has taught us anything it’s that almost anything is possible.

Like Thassa, Heliod is pretty undercosted for a creature. You can easily run him in a White-based aggressive deck just for his statistics and Vigilance to all your creatures ability. If the two gods spoiled so far are any indication, these cards are going to be one of the hottest commodities in recent memory.

Hundred-Handed One

hundred-handed one

Ninety-Nine!

On statistics alone, this guys is pretty decent but his Monstrosity ability is soooooo flavorful and feels almost Unglued-like. He basically becomes a 6/8 vigilance and can block up to 100 creatures. It seems fairly ridiculous that it would ever need to block that many creatures. I can think of a Modern deck that can make that many creatures, times a hundred or more : Splinter Twin/Pestermite or Kiki-Jiki/ Deceiver Exarch. The problem is that they make infinite tokens and that this guy doesn’t get a bonues when he blocks, so he’ll just die to one wave of attackers.

I know, I know, it seems harsh. The truth is that it’s the kind of card that has a good casual appeal as well as being borderline playable. Since Monstrous can be activated at instant speed and he has vigilance, he can shut down most would-be opposing counterattacks.

Phalanx Leader

phalanx leader

Finally, a smaller creature!

Here we have another example of the Heroic ability (the anti thesis to the Monstrous ability). It’s actually not a bad Heroic ability, since you get to put counters as opposed to just temporarily boost your creatures (as we saw with a few other Heroic abilities before). He includes himself in the boost, so understandably he’s just a 1/1 creature to start.

I can picture him in a Boros-style deck (one that didn’t quite materialize in Return to Ravnica/Innistrad Standard). Play a few efficient Red/White creatures and then a cheap instant/sorcery that can target 2 or more creatures (unfortunately ‘Overload’ won’t work in that respect, but Martial Glory seems good now).

martial glory

Maybe, just maybe ….

Vanquish the Foul

vanquish the foul

Removal at a great cost

I really don’t like much about this card, save maybe the artwork. It’s sorcery speed for starters, which is something you almost never want your removal to be. It feels like we’re basically paying too much for the ability to Scry in white. Reprisal cost only 2 mana and was Instant speed. I can understand that it might not seem quite fair comparing newer cards to older ‘powerful’ cards, but Reprisal was hardly a power card.

In sealed formats (which most of you will be participating in during Theros Pre-releases), feel free to include this in your deck as the format is much slower. There’s almost no excuse to put this in your Constructed decks, ever!

Gods Willing

gods willing

Some reasonably costed Heroic action

As opposed to the above card we reviewed, Gods Willing is not charging us much to Scry. In essence, it’s practically free.  Apostle’s Blessing saw a bit of Standard play and continues to see some play in various Infect builds in Modern. For one less mana (or 2 less life), we get the ability to Scry as well. With Snapcaster Mage gone from Standard, we won’t be abusing this any time soon. This is not to say that it’s not going to find its way into a deck or two.

Wingsteed Rider

wingsteed rider

More white cards featuring Pegasi

Before you ask: Yes, I had to Google the plural of Pegasus! Other than that, there is not much to say about this card. It doesn’t benefit the rest of your creatures for its Heroic Trigger. Pht! Some ‘Hero’ this turned out to be.

Artisan of Forms

artisan of forms

Conditional Clone. Good of Bad?

Before even getting to compare this thing to Clone, there’s an important keyword that appears on this and is not on Clone: Target. I’m not talking about the retail giant that has taken over Zellers here in Canada either.

target store

We basically now have to work harder to copy another creature. The card costs half as much. The creature can exist on the battlefield on its own. We can’t copy shroud or hexproof guys. We can switch what we copy by simply targetting our creature. The clone ability can be responded to. We don’t get to copy ‘enters the battlefield’ abilities.

The above is a quick summary of Pros and Cons initially observed on Artisan of Forms. We do get to potentially copy an Monstrous creature, activate Monstrous and potentially copy a creature that can then make further use of the +1/+1 counters. It just seems like som much work in a Magic: the Gathering world where we have become increasingly accustomed to ‘instant gratification’ on our creatures (with about two years of ‘enter the battlefield’ effects.

There are probably going to be some neat tricks to perform with this card, although none come to mind at the moment where I have to review about 30 or so new cards. I would pick up four early just in case.

Curse of the Swine

curse of the swine

Mono blue gets ‘mass’ removal too

Based more or less on Circe from Homer’s Odyssey as seen here. This card may seem rather funny at first, but it’s potentially very playable in Standard. It exiles, for starters. This means that the ‘Gods’ are not safe from it due to indestructibility. It’s good early and late game as well. There may be the odd play that requires you to ‘upgrade’ a few 1/1 creatures on your end into 2/2 green boars ( don’t laugh! ok, maybe giggle a little).

“Ready your boar tokens, because tonight we swine in hell!”

Lost in a Labyrinth

lost in a labyrinth

Look out for those Minotaurs!

Not a particularly exiting card, Lost in a Labirynth is clearly destined for some Limited action. Perhaps if Wizards of the Coast had contacted us to have an exclusive preview on this card, I would have a more detailed account on how ‘awesome’ it is.

Omenreader

omenspeaker

It’s clearly no Sea Gate Oracle

At one mana less than Sea Gate Oracle, this card is just not quite good enough to make the cut in any competitive deck. It does not net you a card (like Augur of Bolas could) and that is argument enough to not consider it when deckbuilding. Unless of course some combo deck were to see the light and you absolutely need to Scry mad for all the pieces.

Sealock Monster

sealock monster

Another candiate for Quest of Ula’s Temple

Perhaps even more evidence that Kiora Atua is in this block?

kiora atua

Dare we dream?

Thassa’s Emissary

thassas emissaryNot too ‘ shcrabby’ eh?

A decent-sized creature that’s bound to be picked up high enough in drafts and thrown into a couple of Sealed decks. Good ability, Hill Giant-sized body/cost and potential bonus later game with the Bestow ability. Unfortunately for you sea creature lovers out there: does not ‘combo’ with Quest for Ula’s Temple.

Voyage’s End

voyage's end

Unsummon+ Scry = this little gem

Yes, you are basically paying extra for the Scry cost. If you were dissapointed that Unsummon was not in M14, you should be glad right now. You can prevent Monstrous from triggering since it checks on resolution to activate the actual Monstrous ability as per the F.A.Q.

Both Unsummon and Vapor Snag saw their fair share of Constructed play so it’s not a stretch to imagine this in some kind of temp-oriented deck.

Wavecrash Triton

wavecrash triton

Such a rude little Merfolk!

So you get to tap their creatures while pumping your Wavecrash Triton? I somehow don’t see that occuring in the realm of the playable. In limited it can get interesting with a 4-drop Bestow ability to get a lead when damage racing. I do like how at first glance you think the merfolk wizards seems gigantic compared to the ships until you realize that he’s simply in the foreground and the ships are in the background.

Cavern Lampad

cavern lampad

Nymphs are black?

So here we have another Bestow creature or, as I like to call them ‘Reverse Living Weapon’. As opposed to the Living Weapon Mechanic, you cast these as enchantments first THEN they become creatures. Interesting … Other than that you get a generic enchantment which then becomes a generic creature. Not so interesting …

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

gray merchant of asphidel

An interesting take on Corrupt

This innocent enough looking card can get out of hand quickly enough. You can run cards like Dark Prophecy and Underworld Connections to ‘ramp’ up into this. Assuming you had a turn 1 or turn 2 black permanent as well, that can add up to an 8-point life swing!

Allright,I might be stretching it a bit. The fact remains that this card should not be totally ruled out as unplayable. To top it off, it doesn’t target an opponent. Your opponent will not be able to save himself by making himself Hexproof.

That is also the most cartoonish Zombie I have ever seen on a Magic: the Gathering card.

Read the Bones

read the bones

Let the Sign in Blood comparisons begin!

Part Divination, part Sign in Blood, part Serum Visions. All very very decent. You can pretty much dig up to 4 cards deep with it but not be able to potentially kill your opponent with it (like with Sign in Blood). It also allows you to splash another color to your black deck more easily. Well, maybe not if you run blue (as they usually have the bulk of the card draw).

Also, the quote is very philosophical/creepy. I expect it will be fighting with Underworld Connections for the 3-drop slot in an enchantment matters block.

Rescue from the Underworld

rescue from the underworld

Just when you thought reanimator was dead

A two for one if it’s countered or a two for one the other way if it’s not. You essentially want to sacrifice a value creature so that you get more out of it when it returns to the battlefield again. Sacrificing a Monstrosity seems ok too, if you wish to remake it Monstrous and activate its sweet effect.  Angel of Serenity anyone?

angel of serenity

Just when you thought it was out of the question …

The instant speed on this is reminiscent of other great reanimator cards like Makeshift Mannequin. With more or less enough hate, the reanimator archetype has been left alone at the time being. I believe that it is poised to make a comeback at one point or another. What better time than the very beginning of a new format?

Whether it ends up being the reanimation target or the sacrificed creature, you’ll be glad either way.

Thoughtseize

thoughtseize

Is that Socrates? I mean, is that really Thoughtseize?

The great moment most Modern players have been waiting for is at hand: Thoughtseize reprint is confirmed! For starters, this will probably know down the ridiculous 60$ price tag of the Lorwyn version by quite a bit. It’s great to have it back. Not simply because it obviously increases the value you can open in Theros, but because it gives you a very good reason to play Black. You see, black has been very very underplayed in Standard as of late (criminally underplayed, even).

Thoughtseize is a bit of a skill-testing card (especially now with Snapcaster Mage gone). Sure, sometimes you will cast it on turn one and completely punish a greedy opponent who kept a bad hand. For example, someone who kept a one Forest hand with Elvish Mystic and 5 2-cost or higher cards.

The thing is: you don’t necessarily want to cast it on turn one. Against slower decks, you have much more time to cast it at an opportune time. It can force a counterspell so that you can then cast and resolve your threats. It can also stop their ‘bomb’, gamechanger,etc by casting Thoughtseize it the very turn before they can possibly play it. Of course that last part applies a little less versus decks packing countermagic.  The main card it may end up hitting on like turn 4 is Sphinx’s Revelation which is sure to still be a heavy hitter in the new Standard format (eventhough  it’s usually the time where quick red decks tend to appear).

Sphinx's Revelation

You’re only kidding yourself if you think you’ve seen the last of this card

In older formats, however, it’s not uncommon to see Thoughtseize cast on turn one. The format is much faster and more combo-oriented. Sometimes you may even end up discarding an opposing Thoughtseize/ Inquisition of Kozilek just to protect your hand from backlash.

Akroan Crusader

 

akroan crusader

Sweet art and abilty

Akroan Crusader is going to no doubt be part of some kind of Boros Weenie deck in the new Standard environment. You might have to target him pre-combat to fully benefit from his Heroic ability, but you will at least always get the 1/1 token. As with many heroic cards you want to try and find multi-target instants and sorceries to trigger more than 1 Heroic ability each times. Remember: cheap Auras also do the trick. It’s a shame Rancor just rotated, but if you’re more into casual Magic nothing’s stopping you from playing it in conjunction with Heroic creatures.

rancor

You will be missed once October rolls around, little Rancor!

Flamespeaker Adept

 

flamespeakeradept

Scry me a river!

This card is rather odd in the usual red card + set mechanic combo. Cards like Lightning Rift and Burning Vengeance actually pump out damage while you go around cycling cards and flashbacking stuff. This card does not guarantee any kind of damage, it only provides a few tricks here and there without possessing any form of evasion. Still, decently sized to continuously attack as a 4/3 first strike and can do somewhat ridiculous damage with Magma Jet in the set as well.

For now, strictly a card you would see in a 40-card deck.

Magma Jet

 

More to come later today…

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