I hope your day is going well.
Now that we've gone back to Theros for our fourth expansion set, I have to ask: "Do you feel like we've been missing some Greek things from cards as well?" Is it just me?
The problem with a Greek themed set is that there are two sets of "knowledge" about a given world. This includes everything from Norse Mythology to cycles of stories such as The Arthurian Cycle. Greek mythology is well known, but it's not as well known as Harry Potter.
Let me explain:
Source 1: Canon. This is what was written. Sometimes the details can differ in the original source material, sometimes the Trojan War was told differently by different writers during the era. One older writer may look at Merlin very differently than Le MorteD'Arthur. For folk that have read and are invested in each work, this is the key place to dig for inspiration for modern material.
Source 2: Pop Culture. This is what is currently popular in each work currently. We are hammered with popular iterations of the Canon above that have been changed heavily. Then this heavy interpretation becomes the pop culture takes on the original source material. Take Ares as a good example. The God of War has not historically been the typical bad guy in various older works. But in recent iterations of the Greek Myth? He has been. Similarly, take the Kraken. It's from Norse Mythology, but after it's iconic appearance in the movie Clash of the Titans, we've not had any version of Greek Mythology without it, including Theros.
For example, right now I am playing an Amazonian Ranger set in the D&D 5th edition fan-made world of Thylea, a Greek-themed world. But it's not a normal Greek myth world from Source 1, rather Source 2. I can deflect with my bracelets like Wonder Woman and use a Chakram like Xena. In neither case were those the roles of Amazons in Greek myth, but they are in pop culture.
Which Greek Mythology is missing key tropes? I'm arguing a bit of both. I am also considering for this conversation key Greek thoughts or moments.
Let's also look at some Magical suggestions for ways to bring them in too. Let's get started!
Cassandra and her curse are key aspects of the tragedy of Greek storytelling. After refusing Apollo's advances, he cursed her to always prophesy correctly, but to never be believed. Can you imagine! She foresees the fall off Troy, but none believe her. You could do too cards, but one would be a Curse around it like Curse of Cassandra. Imagine that it read thusly : "When enchanted player draws a card, they draw another. Enchanted player loses two life for each card drawn." You could also have Cassandra do the same making painful prophecies. Or you could do something like Cassandra's Prediction where you discard your hand and then draw that many cards back like a self-Windfall effect. There are a lot of options, and a missed opportunity for a cool character.
As a side note, we had a lot of Curses in Greek Myth, like the Curse of King Midas and the Curse of Cassandra. But we've never had Curses come in. Why not? It's an enchantment world and they are enchantments that are on flavor. You were cursed for hubris and more. The Minotaur is another curse made manifest after the King failed to sacrifice a bull to Poseidon, and his wife is cursed to fall in love with it and thus the Minotaur is born. They are in the stories of others like Oedipus. Why no Curses?
9. Epic Poets
We know how much Greece cared about the arts and poetry. We have epics that we still read today thousands of years and countless civilizations later. We also know how much they loved their tragedy. Their fatal and flawed characters that walk in the art and on the stage. Tragic Poet would have played into that and to have been on theme in an enchantment world. Why not throw it (or a similar themed card) in?
I was shocked that we only had a single Philosopher in the first block, and none in the return. Given how important philosophy was, it seems like a big miss. I also don't like Traveling Philosopher, as it has mechanical dissonance. Look at its flavor text. Does a philosopher that talks their foes into leaving a siege sound like a vanilla dork? Nope! I think there is a place for a Green Philosopher like Aesop that's not the normal, expected White or Blue. A natural philosopher. Aesop was (likely) a slave from Northern Africa who was given freedom. He was one of the most iconic philosophers and doing a legendary Green philosopher with a down home sensibility would be a fun riff.
7. Hippodrome AND #6 Theater
In the Greek world, there were these stadia that represented the entertainment world. They had races of the Chariot and Horse among others, and you can see a call out on the similarly named plane card. However, we did not get any iteration of a Hippodrome, Stadium, or anything else. Sad! We need a Greek Theros version of this card. Today! You could do a fun land that played into this idea. Since you are watching dorks you give it the simple ability to do something like, "2, Tap: Target creature gets +1/+1 until the end of the turn," or you could play into the "Everyone goes there and buys stuff, " with something like a Gemstone Mine version with different counters remade in this image.
On a separate but similar note...where are the Theaters? This is where western drama came from, and there are no theaters here? You could easily do a non-basic land that taps into the Theater. You could do something like, "Tap: Add colorless mana. 2, Tap: Put an Art counter on Theater. Sacrifice this: Draw a card for each Art counter on it," or something similar.
5. Eros's (Cupid's) Arrow
Come on now! Given how common these are in modern storytelling, how can you not want to add in arrows that you can fire and will cause love instead of hatred. They are the easiest thing to equip, and you just need to deal love. Something like, "Equipped creature gains, "Tap: Target creature deals no damage in combat this turn," is all you need to make this happen.
4. Battle of Thermopylae
One of the most iconic moments of ancient Greece is the Battle of Thermopylae where around 7k troops total stood against the Persians for days. Pop Culture thinks it was just 300 Spartans (It wasn't). But the number 300 has become iconic part of the pop culture and modern myth of the event. We've mythologized it more than the Battle of Troy! And yet there are no Battle of Thermopylae references or cards. I think you could reprint a card like Hold the Line and then give it a 300 reference in the flavor text. Such as "The 300 Akroans held off a horde of thousands of Minotaurs that day." That sort of reference is all you'd need.
I do like the version Mark Rosewater had made of Heracles initially. (You can read the story on it here). As a four mana, Green 12/12 that could only attack and block with 12 permanents, it's a shout out to the impossible labors of the guy. It's clever and it works. We need something. This is long delayed.
2. The Golden Fleece
In the story, there is a winged ram called Chrysomallos. It's killed and its coat is turned into The Golden Fleece. That is the object of Jason and his Argonaut's quest. They seek to steal the Fleece and return with it as a sign of his lordship. Many from Heracles to Atalanta will join the crew on their voyage. It's a key part of the Myth, and we do have three shoutouts. One is the Fleecemane Lion and Bronzehide Lion that feel like a Lion version of Chrysomallos. And then we have an actual Ram too, with the name "Fleece"' in it, which is another call out. But we are missing the Fleece itself, which is a great opportunity for a mythical, powerful, piece of equipment. Why no Golden Fleece? For flavor, in addition to power/toughness boosts and abilities like indestructible, can we also give the equipped dork the "Noble" type as well?
1. "Come Back With Your Shield or On It!"
This key phrase was used to remind soldiers heading off to war to remember that they only had two options, not three. They could come back dead with honor, being carried on their shield. Or they came back in victory with their shield, also in honor. If they fled and left it behind, then they were dishonorable rabble. A way to represent this "Death or Glory" concept is the Red ability to take an extra turn after this, but to lose at the end of it. You could have lifted Warrior's Oath from Portal Three Kingdoms wholesale and then changed the art and give in a version of the quote above in the flavor text.
And there we are! Did I miss anything? Anything you expected to see by now? Just let me know! Have a great day!
P.S. - Want to get some updates on my Huntington's Disease? And how things are going? (Or not?) Sure thing! I posted an update on my YouTube channel about reviewing books and stories and such in the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres.