Welcome, readers! In this week’s article, I’ll be going over the first half of spoilers for Magic’s upcoming set, Theros.
(Author’s Note: Over the past couple of days before I decided to write this, I’ve come down with an awful sinus infection – I’ve been meaning to write an article on how to introduce players to EDH, and I still plan to, but until I’ve recovered, I’m shelving it because I don’t feel I’m in the right frame of mind to write it. I should be okay for it by next week–fingers crossed!)
Whereas last week, I went over the mechanics and the God cards, this week, I’m just going to talk about individual power-players and what I think their impact will be on multiple formats. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
THEROS’ BIG PLAYERS
I can’t in good faith not at least discuss each Planeswalker, being that they’re by far the most awe-inspiring, attention-grabbing card type for new and old players alike.
Elspeth’s third incarnation is for the most part what we’ve gotten used to seeing from our staple token lady – tokens, destroying things, and putting your army into the stratosphere. I’m of the opinion that Elspeth’s purpose on Theros is a bit more ingrained in the story than in the formats, but I digress.
Her +1 is obviously very strong, being that she does cost 6 mana to cast. In Limited, she is obviously an extremely high pick, as green and red alike will find it nigh impossible to push through the amount of meat you’re putting on the ground not only to soak up damage, but to offer quite powerful trades.
Tacking Retribution of the Meek is a stark reminder to how well Elspeth actually plays the control element. Thinking about her abilities, I can see her in the UWR decks as a potent finisher at 6, as she gets most of the big GR monsters with her -3 and blocks everything else ad infinitum with the +1.
The emblem feels a lot weaker than it actually is. Giving your entire army flying makes anything you play at all a massive threat on its own, which is big game in and of itself.
I personally don’t see the appeal of it in EDH, as the effects it provides don’t feel strong enough, but Elspeth Tirel has always felt fringe playable, and Elspeth’s third incarnation just feels better, having the abilities in all of the right places. Time will tell.
There’s some big upside involved with this all-around. First of all – and I will always think of this point first – it’s a Sun Titan target, making it somewhat difficult to remove overall. Second of all, unlike the card it is -almost- strictly better than, Glorious Anthem, it has a worthwhile effect which makes it independently function.
The card plays the oft-forgotten game of politics in EDH extremely well by threatening to (sort of) Reciprocate whatever hurts you, making it effectively white’s No Mercy. For that reason alone, it has a lot of value.
Obviously, it functions extremely well with the god Helios himself, making his token army 3/2 vigilant stalwarts that shoots down any flier that gets through the army itself.
Overall, I think there’s a lot of value, and I’m very conflicted on playing this myself – if anything, it fills a spot in Trostani to deal with fliers.
There are about a million awful puns about bacon your opponent’s creatures with this thing. For the 2 EDH players that haven’t picked up on this, the world “exile” single-handedly makes this thing positively ridiculous, pushing it from a fringe mass Rapid Hybridization into an absolute all-star.
Exiling is an oft-forgotten ability when so many high-value graveyard strategies tend to get used in EDH. Being able to snipe key creatures from opponents is never going to be bad, and giving them Tilt Pigs is by far worth the price you’re paying. The only issue I have with this card is how hard you’ll have to tap down to make it effective. At the same time, it’s an absolute all-star and I plan on picking up at least three copies for myself.
There are a lot of really good things going for this guy. The first thing’s very obvious – he makes a lot of tokens. By himself, he represents 8 power for 7 mana, which is absurd. This guy will be a huge blowout in Limited for sure.
What might tend to be oft-forgotten is that he enables self-sacrifice. In decks like Karador, Ghost Chieftain or in general anything that contains a Sheoldred, Whispering One, you should be taking a look at this to add to your lineup. The tokens are great fodder for a huge Blood Artist swing or Exsanguinate off Ashnod’s Altar. Overall, really high-value card that I’m going to enjoy playing and loathe playing against.
Our fifth God card was actually spoiled before last week’s article went up, but after I finished writing it. Boo hiss.
In general, I question the flavor of Erebos overall, because preventing lifegain is generally seen as a very red effect (Sulfuric Vortex, Leyline of Punishment), but I suppose Havoc Festival is proof the effect can bleed into red.
Having an indestructible Greed alongside it is a tad unnecessary and really makes me question the actual worth of Erebos, because Greed is, I feel, inferior to Phyrexian Arena, Necropotence and even Dark Prophecy in terms of power, but I digress – there are a lot of ways you can make this work.
It’s cards like this that make me want to consider picking up Standard again.
Between Grisly Salvage, Angel of Serenity and Trostani’s Summoner, there are a lot of ways to pick up right where Unburial Rites left off, and there are so many ways to make this card extremely powerful, one of which I’ll explain later in this article. This gets me excited for how the GBW reanimator deck will evolve post-rotation.
Hey, look, it’s back!
And it’s not like $80 or something absurd anymore!
It’s simple, powerful, it’s Thoughtseize. Good to see it’s back for the sake of the market. I won’t ever have to play against it in EDH outside of 1v1, so my opinion on it is very skewed, but it will very likely be a pillar of Standard until its rotation.
Whip it, whip it real good~
I’ve really got my eye on this one. I’m not sure if this will per se replace Unburial Rites being that Scavenging Ooze is in Standard and it’s a very obvious telegraph, but lifelinking your army isn’t the worst thing to bring with said telegraph.
Regardless, there are a lot of possibilities with this set, and I look forward to seeing some of them realized, this one especially. Fingers crossed.
This one is pretty solid all around. The incrementals it provides are impossible to ignore, and in Limited, this thing will be huge game. It really favors something slow and grindy to make sure you survive.
In EDH, enabling +1/+1 counters is always very strong for proliferate or Vorel of the Hull Clade shenanigans, gaining life and shooting utility fliers is never going to be bad, and it’s an excellent anti-graveyard hate card given that it targets four cards.
I refuse to believe this thing is even real. The amount of work you’re able to do with this in any deck that can abuse it from the graveyard is absolutely freaking insane.
Karador, Ghost Chieftain with a sac outlet makes this thing absolutely terrifying to play against. Being able to constantly bring it back, flickering it, returning it to your hand – seriously, how are shenanigans like this allowed?
And it exiles? I’m sold. It could have just been another Angel of Despair and I would have considered it the best Reanimator target in Standard. The fact that it gets the effect when it dies and exiles instead of destroys absolutely sells me 110% on this thing. I’ll take one, please.
Ashiok is…interesting, I guess…? (And don’t lie, you’re probably thinking the exact same thing.)
She replaces Nephalia Drownyard relatively well, if you ask me. Again, exiling, exiling, exiling. Strictly better then putting it in an opponent’s graveyard, if you ask me!
Clearly, she’s not meant to be incredibly flashy or outright insane, but she offers a very interesting element of luck to her design. Sniping even a Ghor-Clan Rampager is extremely strong, and in Limited, you best pray you can kill this thing, or it will eat you alive.
What I like about her most, though, is how little emphasis is placed on her ultimate. Her second ability is very much what determines her worth, and I personally really enjoy it. I’m looking forward to see what people try with her.
It’s no surprise to anyone who’s heard my opinion of color combinations what my opinion on the strict combination of blue and white is. I just find it…boring. There isn’t a general that I look at and say…I want to build that. (Well, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is an exception, but he’s a douche and very unfun to play against when he’s your general)
Daxos changes all of that.
I like Voltron, that should also not be a surprise to anyone. I’ve tried a number of unsuccessful forays into the archetype, carefully avoiding Geist of Saint Traft, Uril, the Miststalker and Sigarda, Host of Herons just because I find the Hexproof Five just a pain to play against.
Daxos does what I want in a general – attacks well, gains life, draws cards. The epitome of what UW should actually do! I’m just glad I finally found a UW general I’m happy with, and I’ll be looking for a foil for sure.
On the flipside, I recognize the power Medomai provides. Time Walk is overall an insane effect to fight through because of how damn efficient it is on your resources. At the same time, all I can think of with Medomai is how much I want to give it double strike, and if I’m attacking with a 6-mana 4/4, why am I not just using more effective, cheaper mana-wise methods of general damage?
That being said, it’s really powerful on its own, without trying to milk its effect for all it’s worth (which, I find, is what too many people have been trying to do).
I want 2.
If you don’t see the unbelievable power level of this card, I don’t know what to do with you, to be honest.
screams be heard, its Fact or Fiction and Gifts combined
Continuing on my tirade of stupidly powerful multicolor cards, Steam Augury is up next. For those who aren’t aware, Fact or Fiction is an absolutely absurd card for the card advantage, combo building, and overall depth it provides. It enables graveyards, gives you options, and draws you just what you need.
it’s also hilariously political when someone 5-0′s the piles.
Now, while this card is not actually Fact or Fiction, it’s pretty damn close. Instant speed makes it an absolute all-star, despite the fact that you are making piles your opponent has to choose. It adds a new element of gameplay I really like to an already heavily-layered card, and I’m really looking forward to testing this in my Melek, Izzet Paragon list.
To be honest, beneath all of its layers of text that make it interesting enough to work with as an ever-recurring nightmare for opponents to deal with, I personally believe that the biggest attraction about him is the fact that he’s a 2-CMC, legendary mutilcolored Zombie. That fact alone enables a lot of really interesting lines of play. (most involve Gravecrawler)
I think he’ll also be very strong 1v1. He’s obviously very comparable to Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, but I think the fact that it’s extremely easy to build around Tymaret forever costing 2 mana makes him a persistent annoyance, which is good design on Wizards’ part for a format like EDH, which can sometimes incentivize bullying players out of the game simply by making their general cost infinite mana (read: Edric, Spymaster of Trest, and practically nothing else.)
Xylophone is a very powerful Planeswalker for a number of reasons. Personally, I enjoy that Wizards is making a functional Gaea’s Cradle, though costing $30-40 isn’t going to justify picking one up for EDH, as the effect is more a convenience than a necessity.
Of course, its power lies in Standard. Making a consistent stream of high-speed horndogs is the tip of the iceberg. The +1 enables a lot of above-the-curve plays, letting your board explode in aggro mirrors.
And of course, the ultimate. Not exactly the most impactful, but by no means weak. Intrinsically, it works with the +1, and putting them onto the battlefield outright makes for some interesting scenarios in Limited and Constructed alike. I’m curious to see Xenophobe’s place in Magic, and I’ll be keeping my eye on him.
This is perhaps one of my favorite cards of the set spoiled thus far. They printed what is virtually Cabal Coffers, without the intrinsic line of rules text that reads: “This card is absolute poop soup unless you control Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.”
Nykthos is extremely powerful, despite feeling very win-more on the surface. I very much like me some snowbally cards, and Nykthos is powerful in mono-color decks and heavily-focused dual-color decks alike. I’m personally excited to test it in Edric, Spymaster of Trest.
The last thing I’m going to cover in this article is this cycle of lands. While I’m in the majority that believes these lands do not deserve rare status, by no means do I believe being rare makes them bad.
I will go on record and say I’m probably one of the biggest fans of Halimar Depths that exists. In my Maelstrom Wanderer list, I run a grand total of five nonbasic lands (though I honestly should change that, now that I think about it) – the three shocklands, Desolate Lighthouse, and Halimar Depths. Library manipulation is an oft-forgotten and very powerful effect, especially when it’s handed to you on a silver platter. Obviously, there’s an inherent weakness that comes with unconditionally entering the battlefield tapped, but I believe the sheer utility of this cycle more than makes up for that clause. Virtually every deck I can run these in, I’m going to, and I fully endorse you, the readers, to do the same.
So that’s my thoughts on the first half of Theros spoiled thus far. By next Monday, we’ll know the whole set, so hopefully, there will be a lot more exciting spoilers to discuss by that point.
Also, I hope to see many of you next Friday at CG Realm’s midnight Theros prerelease! CG Realm is located on 3147 Techumseh Road East in Windsor, and entry into the prerelease is $25. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the prerelease mechanics work with the Hero cards, and I’m obviously looking forward to getting my hands on many a goodie from the set.
Until next week, which is–again, fingers crossed–my article on helping players enter the format of EDH!
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Let’s Talk M14:
Let’s Talk Theros, Part 1:
Planeswalking and You:
Trial & Error: