by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos
The third and final set of the Theros block is upon us with the pre-release being this weekend. Instead of making random comments about all the cards, I have decided to simply point out the ones that stand out for various formats. The set does offer much more than Born of the Gods did in terms of brewing and I do hope that shifts the Standard format around a bit. It’s been pretty stagnant for a while with lower than usual attendance at most of the local card shops in the area. Magic has been on the rise as of late, but it had to eventually have a less popular/bad block along the way. It just saddens me that Theros was that block. I guess we’ll just jump right into it by color:
Aegis of the Gods
Take that ‘Shroud’!
This might be somewhat decent in Standard, but it’s definitely at its best in Legacy. Now decks like Maverick and Death and Taxes gain an extra weapon against Storm decks and the like (on top of Thalia). It’s much better to have these enchantments in creature form as they allow us to put the pressure on our combo opponents as well. Also, it can be tutored for with Enlightened Tutor (this is going to be a common point for a lot of the cards here). It’s an upgrade to True Believer (that’s easier to splash as well) and can it into a tutorable sideboard card along the likes of Ethersworn Canonist.
They eliminated the stack tricks with it and Oblivion Ring finds its way to the Standard Format yet again. With Detention Sphere rotating in November, we can’t let UW have the best weapons against the Gods. It’s a good ‘catch all’ card that everyone can appreciate.
Seraph of the Dawn v 2.0
Not sure how many aggressive decks are actually going to run this. It (Seraph of the Dawn) did see some play in more control decks’ sideboards back when it was standard. I can effectively negate 2 attackers, so to speak. Blocking a 3 power guy and letting a 2 or lower power creature through. Due to its lifelink ability, we keep our lifetotal the same. The heroic ability is definitely a plus, although I’m not sure how often it will actually trigger in serious constructed play.
This direct upgrade to Erase is cute and will end up dealing with even more permanents once Return to Ravnica block rotates and the Theros cards see even more Standard play. Not a huge fan of the cad myself, but it does help the gods from getting out of hand in the future (Thassa, anyone?)
Just in time for Easter
While not being a big fan of the uber controls strategies myself, I can really appreciate this card nonetheless. It’s a good ‘Wall’ against the aggressive decks and gives you a little bonus as well. Some Esper decks ran Yoked Ox early in the format, so it’s not unreasonable to think this will end up in quite a few sideboards. For some fun times, try running both in a Doran, the Siege Tower deck in Modern. For everyhting else, there’s Phenax.
Much better looking than the original
Once Selesnya Charm rotates, this card will probably somewhat replace it. You lose all the flexibility of the Charm, but you can now splash it in just about any deck. It still doesn’t deal with Stormbreath Dragon though … Still, almost anything that has Monstrous will be at 4 or greater power, so ‘Yay!’.
You can’t Reprisal a God though 😦
Maybe, just maybe Aurelia’s Fury will finally see some play with this. People will definitely try it in heroic decks obviously. It can make your Flames of the Firebrand into a rather efficient spell, clearing would-be blockers and triggering your heroic guys for peanuts. A pretty fun ‘build around me’ card that will have tons of people looking up cards on Gatherer.
It can potentially generate mana for cards like Aurelia’s Fury if you have multiple Battlefield Thaumaturges in play, since its effect does stack.
Cute and deadly….ok, maybe just cute
At first glance, the effect is symmetrical. However, when combined with Spirit of the Labyrinth, it can be a nice little card drawer. Your opponent will already have drawn for their turn, but you will have not. It’s not the best thing since peanut butter and jelly, but it’s still a sweet little combo that could find a home in a more aggressive UW deck. You do get to see what each player would draw before deciding, so you can just decide to mill that card your opponent scryed on top if you’re not over enthused about what you would draw.
Dictate of Kruphix
Just make sure you benefit from it before your opponent gets to deal with it
Howling Mine is once again in the Standard format. With the ‘turbo-Fog-esque’ Maze’s End decks we are accustomed to seeing in local event, it’s not unreasonable to think that this would a welcome addition to them. Sure, it works both ways, but your deck wil be more geared to take advantage of it. Fog their dudes, drop a land, repeat. Supreme Verdict once in a while. All is good, right?
Of course it can also just make it into some kind of mill build. Since there isn’t one that’s mainstream Standard at the moment, I think it can be worth looking into.
Mind Control + Flying Men
For a mere 7 mana, you get to grab your opponent’s best creature and give it flying plus a boost. Ok, it is rather pricey. Early on, you can get to play it and repeatedly attack for 1 in the air. Yeah, not much better. I guess the best way to put it is that you get to grab your opponent’s best creature and if it then dies, you still get a 1/1 flier out of it. The point that is hard to sell someone on is whether or not this is worth 7 mana. Grab an opposing Blood Baron? Stormbreath?
Control decks won’t really need it and aggro decks might use it a bit, but it’s mostly a very midrange card.
In monoblue devotion, it can sort of replace Judge’s Familiar (it usually doesn’t counter that much anyhow). It’s also a card that you won’t mind seeing later in the game, if you’re mana flooded or otherwise. If the deck does end up running more than 1 Nykthos again, this card might be a worthy inclusion. In a deck with Prophet of Kruphix, you can even Mind Control their guys at instant speed !
Savor the flavor!
Well, it’s settled: If Kiora wants one, then it’s good enough for us. Obviously you’ll want to pair this with any enchantment that gives you value when it enters the battlefield. Think Oath of the Ancient Wood. Yes, it’s janky as hell! Dragon Mantle ? Bouncing an early Hypnotic Siren so that you can Mind Control something late game? Ok, maybe not.
Pre-Journey into Nyx, there are not that many good bounceback enchantments. Eidolon of Blossoms is a good start, as is any other constellation card. That’s a start, but is it enough to build a deck with?
Sage of Hours
To infinity an beyond!
I’ve seen a few combos involving the new Ajani and Vorel, but I seriously doubt anything will come of it. Infinite combos is something Wizards of the Coast tries to catch in testing if they are too easy/consistent. Still, in formats like Commander it should be another Lighthouse Chronologist. A creature that everyone will just hate (Consecrated Sphinx). Why are most of these guys blue, eh?
Still, it’s another heroic dude that grows. He might wiggle his way into a Blue/White or Blue/Black heroic deck. You can ultimate him and get another turn of attacking goodness. Stranger things have happened.
That’s quite disgusting
This card is pretty much a functional reprint of Mesmeric Fiend. I can see it played in a Black/X aggro deck. Use it to take away your opponent’s board-clearing card (Supreme Verdict, for example) and keep the aggression going. Even 1 damage is good when you’re trying to get your opponent down to zero life. It’s a nice follow up to a Turn 1 Thoughtseize.
It can’t be abused with stack tricks, like Mesmeric Fiend could however. In a Monoblack sideboard, it can be paired with Lifebane Zombie to completely decimate the hands of those Green/White aggro decks that still don’t understand that this is not their format. they run no removal (because Selesnya Charm hardly counts). It is an enchantment, so it’s something you can pick up from milling yourself with Grisly Salvage, Commune with the Gods and Kruphix’s Insight. If there is a GB dredge deck post Return to Ravnica rotation, I can surely see this card being somewhere in the 75.
Dictate of Erebos
You needn’t worry. I have not gone off the deep end by suggesting that this is going to see serious play. It’s just Wizards of the Coast‘s way to have another Grave Pact in circulation. The card has infinite reprints, yet still manages to sell for 10$. This way, we can have a slightly different version and Commander players can run both. Those who don’t feel like shelling out 10$ for the original can have this one. Everyone’s happy.
Quite a tricky ‘disadvantage’
Hooray for another 2/1 for one mana with a slight drawback (Tormented Hero). The fun thing about this card’s drawback is that it can later be used as an advantage if we draw it late game. It can effectively pacify one of their creatures by bestowing it and allow us to push through the final few points of damage needed to snatch a victory.
It also happens to be a minotaur, so that tribe now has a 1-drop creature. I doubt it will allow minotaurs to see any more serious constructed play than they already have in Standard. They do get some more support in this set, but everything seems to cost 3 mana for some reason.
Master of the Feast
Juzam Djinn would be proud
Here comes another undercosted fattie! He’s even fat on the card’s art.
I like to compare these kinds of cards to burn spells. He basically will deal ‘burst’ damage. Sort of like a 3/3 flier for 3 would deal over 2 turns. The longer he is able to attack, the better. He eventually gets dealt with, for the most part. You are giving your opponent an extra card per turn, which is pretty dangerous. Of course it’s safer against the little aggro decks since it won’t give them anything to really take this guy down. It’s somewhat more dangerous when you give them an answer to it: Detention Sphere, Hero’s Downfall, Banishing Light,etc
Master of the Feast being an enchantment is very disadvantageous in this case, since it turns their Revoke Existence and the like into live removal as well. Still, it’s very ‘all in’ and combos with Spirit of the Labyrinth as well as Notion Thief.
Uh, say what?
No, I am not trolling you. Seriously. It’s just a black Sedge Scorpion. The keyword being : Black.
One of the monoblack deck’s biggest problem is an early aggro rush. Trading a one-drop for anything and I am mean anything is just good. It buys you time, it might even deter attackers. I’m not saying it will happen, but it is probably very sideboard worthy. It’s like a conditional removal spell that contributes a bit for devotion if it sticks around. I know it doesn’t sound impressive, but it does its part.
Ritual of the Returned
One of my favorite cards in the set
The art on this card is quite nice.The quote is rather good and the effect can be game-breaking. It’s not exactly a reanimation spell, but it might as well be. There are a few Gods at 7 toughness and Worldspine Wurm at 15! The Worldspine scenario would probably require a Lotleth Troll and proper timing to be worth it. Otherwise, it might find its way into another self-mill deck or something wacky in Commander. Flashing a potential huge threat is always cool.
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Pyrostatic Pillar on a stick
In older formats, such as Legacy, this card is pretty sweet. It contributes more to the beatdown/burn plan that a red deck would want over a simple enchantment. In Standard, it’s quite different. The decks casting this will also be casting small stuff themselves. It would then become a sort of damage race where you would need to calculate if it’s worth hitting yourself for 2 in order to continue dropping more dudes or casting some burn in order to win.
It’s going to see sideboard play at first in… you guessed it: Red decks. Will it move up to the main deck? Your guess is as good as mine.
Harness by Force
Act of Treason always seems to find itself in the monored deck’s sideboards, so I would not be surprised if this card did as well. The double red cost is inconsequential, since it will almost always be in monored. You get to cast Act of Treason at its base, so Strive is an upside to it.
Late game, you usually draw an Act of Treason and think : ” Almost, but not quite”. This time you can tap six mana and potentitally just win out of nowhere.
Chandra (0) x 2
The stats on this card are not very impressive, but keep in mind the trample part. This means that if your opponent chump blocks you with a 1/1, you still get to trample over one point of damage and use its effect. Double strike means you can do it twice. is it greedy and ambitious? Yes!
Is it exciting and somewhat different? Of course!
It’s a card that I really want to like, but might ultimately fall short. Still ‘shocking’ my opponent on an empty board and ‘drawing’ two cards makes me all tingly. It really wants to be enchanted by some kind of pump aura. Dragon Mantle ? Maybe …
Splinter Twin it is not
Take your best creature, now copy it. Now copy it again for each 2R extra you pay. Heroic? trigger its heroic!
Sounds like a dream? perhaps, but it’s pretty cool. You can even copy quite a few more creatures than you normally would with Battlefield Thaumaturge. Copy Fabled Hero a few times for some massive damage! Two copies can generate 16 damage. Not too shabby!
Eidolon of Blossoms
They finally printed an ‘enchantress’ but is it too late?
It’s about time, but at least it’s here. I really wanted this thing as of the first set, so that it gives people an enabler for some kind of enchantress build. I believe quite a few people have become ‘disenchanted’ by this block and this might be a little too late. Still, contrary to most enchantress cards, it triggers on its own ‘enter the battlefield’ effect. It’s ‘decently’ costed and all it needs is a home.
You can sort of play it in a G/B dredge-style deck with Kruphix’s Insight post-rotation if the deck becomes almost full enchantment creature based. At the moment, it might seem to be a wee bit inefficient though. You can try to shove into a kind of Sphere of Safety deck and make that work. It makes your Mana Bloom into a draw spell as well as a ramp spell. Mana Bloom also can allow you to cast this on turn 3. You can then bounce Mana Bloom back on your upkeep, re-cast it and draw a card. You don’t actually need to pump any mana into Mana Bloom if you’re just trying to draw cards with it later game either.
Still, making your Detention Spheres and Banishing Lights into draw spells is pretty sweet too.
Oh, the possibilities!
The timing of this card could not be any better. It is going to be a GB dredge enabler. Will it make the deck more enchantmnet-based? Probably.
As with Commune with the Gods, you can grab your Whip of Erebos (as opposed to Grisly Salvage). Nighthowler is also an enchantment. Pharika is an enchantment as well. Will it modify the deck as of right now or will we have to wait to see it played in November? I think there are just enough enchantment creatures to give it a shot now. I would probably just keep Lotleth Trolls and Satyr Wayfinders as the non-enchantment creatures. You can probably piece together a rough list quite quickly with Herald of Torment and the usual suspects. The thing I like a lot is that now we get the GB Scry land, so you can scry first before casting this and know you can at least pick up the card on top off the mill.
Heroic? Check .Mutiple Targets? Check . Removal? Check?!
On the surface, it might just seem like a funny combat trick. Setessan Tactics is quite a bit more than that. Heroic some of your dudes, have them grow and watch them take out your opponent’s creatures. Not bad, not bad at all!
It can shine in aggro mirror matches in decks that don’t necessarily pack much removal. Even at just 2 targets you can pump a couple of your heroic creatures and take out two of your opponent’s. At 2 mana, it’s like a better Pit Fight but let’s not go there…
Strength of the Fallen
GB dredge much?
While it’s not a creature, it is basically a second copy of Nighthowler and works better with cards like Kruphix’s Insight. I actually find it funny that for a creature matters color, the more promising green cards in this set are non-creatures. another thing that is nice, is that since it’s not an Bestow/Aura, you can keep targeting whatever you want.
You can also turn a bestowed Boon Satyr into lethal damage, a play I will certainly attempt. Who knows, maybe Deadbridge Chant will see some fringe play as well …
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
+1 = go get Elspeth
So GW finally gets its two color planeswalker and taht cycle is complete. Ajani might find a home in some Junk or Bant planeswalker control deck. He’s clearly going to be run with his planeswalker buddy Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. You cast him on turn 5, find Elspeth in your top 5 and cast her on turn 6. Then just pump your Elspeth tokens with him or dig for something else in your deck.
He doesn’t protect himself per se, but he is able to dig up something that will on the following turn. I don’t think he is as powerful as most of the planeswalkers we have seen in the past, but he is pretty interesting. The three abilities don’t exactly work together, nor do you need to ultimate (since it doesn’t win you the game or anything).
I actually really hate that he only find aura as I was hoping to live the dream of Ajani ultimate with a Sanguine Bond in play. I can dream right?
Athreos, God of Passage
Not what we were expecting
It’s not really what I was expecting in terms of abilities. While Obzedat does help you get to its 7 devotion requirement, it’s not really synergetic in terms of ability. I’m not sure you can run more than 2 in a deck and the ‘punisher’ style ability (usually seen in red cards past: Browbeat) is not that great at first glance.
It’s going for about 30$ on pre-sale and I would have no problem trading one away in order to obtain 3 Pharikas (going for about 10$).
Iroas, God of Victory
7 power is just insane
While its ability doesn’t complement the main devotion-getter (Boros Reckoner), it is quite decent. The pseudo evasion is nice and it also applies to himself as well, which is great. You can even have a Hammer of Purphoros on turn 3 after having cast a double-white/red guy on turn 2 in order to get a hasty 7/4 Iroas swinging as of Turn 4.
Your guys don’t die via combat damage while attacking, in true Boros fashion. You finally get to do what a Boros deck is supposed to do, flavor-wise (something you couldn’t really do with Purphoros or Heliod).
Keranos, God of Storms
To bolt or not to bolt
The thing that is cool about this god is that he can easily get to devotion via Blue/Red cards (Boros Reckoner and Nightveil Specter). Unfortunately, he will most likely see play in some UWR (USA) control build as a finisher. He potentially nets you cards, regardless of them being lands and deals some burn damage to your opponent/annoying planeswalker.
I don’t particularly like him, since he only really does something as of turn 6 (barring acceleration). Still, the effects are somewhat cool and he should rank amongst the more popular gods. I can also maybe hope that Grixis becomes a thing and then I won’t feel too bad about running him in a non Sphinx’s Revelation deck.
Kruphix, God of Horizons
Very very Commander
As much as I like Kruphix (Spellbook and Upwelling, sort of) , he will probably end up in Commander decks most of the time. Still, you can hope to live the dream by stocking up on mana in a Bant deck only to unleash a huuuuuuuuuuuge Sphinx’s Revelation. You can continue to live that dream by not having to discard any of the cards you drew. Magic Christmas Land? Maybe….
Of all the Gods, Kruphix probably costs the most in order to do the least (at least immediately). It’s not impossible to get him to be a creature though (think monoblue).
Does whatever a spider can! And then some
GB Devotion enabler? Self-mill? Random utility? Enchantment?
All of the above. He feeds your graveyard and even allows you to retrieve a piece that you normally can’t with Commune with the Gods and Kruphix’s Insight. It’s rather efficient in that respect. He himself can also be dredged out by Kruphix’s Insight, since he’s an enchantment. Being able to pay 5 mana to regrowth an Abrupt Decay is nice too.
Its creature stats are not too shabby either. The only bad part is that he exiles himself to regrowth a card. This does not allow you to recycle him afterwwards with Pharika, but that’s fine: he fills up the grave for you so there’s plenty of fodder in there.
Pharika, God of Affliction
Makes lil’ bonhommes
Pharika is my favorite God of the set for a few reasons. The first being that I like the GB dredge style deck and she fits in the deck pretty well. Secondly, I really like the fact that you can pack 4 copies (a la Thassa) as opposed to the other Gods in the set. You can mill extra copies and still get value out of them (Nighthowler or Pharika’s ability) or discard them to Lotleth Troll.You can also just cast them on top of the existing Pharika and exile the graveyard Pharika to make a 1/1 deathtouch token.
She gives your little removal creatures. They are enchantments to boot, so that’s going to be good with constellation (Eidolon of Blossoms). Most creatures in the format don’t have flying so they are pretty much also removal. The big drawback of her ability is that if you target your opponent’s grayard, they get the 1/1 deathtouch snake. It’s quite a downer, I know. You won’t really have to use it all that much unless they are going to do some kind of mad reanimation play.
I’m pretty glad she’s the least expensive God of the set as I want to stock up on them early and play her in the dredge deck. Outside of that, she can maybe find her way in a GB midrange deck with stuff like Courser of Kruphix, Underworld Connections, Nightveil Specter,etc. Basically a goodstuff.dec
More ‘dual lands’ if you plan on playing these color combos
Most sought-after card in the set?
The comparisons to City of Brass have been made. The Commander players want their foil versions. All the multicolor decks that are not heavily control want to run four of these. Will it live up to the hype? I think it will.
Remember to Pre-Order if you haven’t already