Hello Folks! I hope that your day is going well.
Welcome back to another look at the recent release of Theros: Beyond Death. Now that we've had a chance to try out the cards, what do you think are the best options? Where did they hit everything out of the park? What do you love? Is there art that speaks to you or mechanics that you enjoy?
Here are my top choices for my best of the best.
Honorable Mention #1. Return of the Friendly Temples
This was (probably) telegraphed by the new addition of the enemy colored ones in Core Set 2020. Now we have a whole other set of these. They were heavily played the first time, but lately not as much. Therefore, you can acquire some pretty cheap Temples for almost bulk rates. For example, right now Temple of Abandon is $0.99 for a near mint copy here at CSI.com. A foil one is sitting at $1.99, as it is with Temple of Malice and Temple of Plenty for their foils as well. That is a big price reduction from big time rare land cycles before, so getting another run has really helped!
Honorable Mention #2. A New God
When a certain Satyr God died, one of the key questions was what would happen? Would we see another Gruul God? Up until good Klothys, we didn't have a God of Destiny, and now we do! Klothys's impression of a Deathrite Shaman has lasted post-release, but she has size, speed and power, particularly at the kitchen table. She's been a welcome addition to the Theros mythos.
10. An Enchantment-Matters Planeswalker
Although we've had a Bant-colored "auras matter" 'walker from one of our Commander 2018 decks, we've never just had a solid enchantment-themed one. And that's sad! It's one of the oldest types and with Verduran Enchantress from the first set, it's always been a theme of the game. How many artifacts-matter 'walkers have we had? Everything from Karn, the Great Creator and Tezzeret the Seeker to Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and Daretti, Scrap Savant. It's long past time for us to finally get Calix. Now can we start to get some more? Maybe have one of the current generation of 'walkers get an enchantment-matters version? (I'm thinking Nissa Revane would make sense, or perhaps Ajani Goldmane).
9. Planeswalker Hosing
After War of the Spark and the many substantial planeswalkers getting printed, we've needed an increasing array of answers for them. Enter Eidolon of Obstruction, a perfect hate bear. A 2/1 first strike for two? Yup! Forcing your foes to invest mana each time they go crazy? Yup! Just the minor tempo and mana loss is enough to slow down your foes until tomorrow! It's also a good smash on-curve in case your foe never draws a 'walker or against a deck that's not running any. Welcome to the anti-walker slate of answers!
8. The Uncommon Demigod Cycle
I really enjoy this cycle of cards! From uncommon Daxos that's a Soul Warden for your creatures to more powerful creatures in other colors, there are a lot of things here to recommend. My favorite in the cycle is arguably Callaphe, Beloved of the Sea. I also like the flexibility in various builds, from reanimation to tokens to aggro to midrange. Ever since Dominaria, it seems like we've gotten a cycle or three in the uncommons for legendary dorks. I hope that we'll get more. More Demigods too!
7. Rakdos's Fact or Fiction
After playing this a few times at the kitchen table, this has played like Fact or Fiction. Unlike other cards in these colors, it makes friends instead of enemies. It can really help to get an answer for a major problem. You target someone to help out, and then if you flip over the answer, your opponent casts the destruction and you net five cards. They may just net your best free dork or removal spell and you get five cards. The pure card drawing power is nasty and fun. Like Fact or Fiction, you can tag team to get the best cards. It's amazing.
6. Good Casual Theme Boosters
I already looked at these in a previous Top Ten, but we have several unique cards in the Theme Boosters, some of which are every good. I'm not sure of the general realization of these cards among the public, but there are a big number of casual hits that are in the themed boosters, such as Demon of Loathing and Ironscale Hydra. Check them out!
5. Finding a Way to Make Elspeth's Return Work
When someone sits down to write a set with a theme like this, they want to find a way to bind together the mechanics of returning from the underworld with flavor of the same. The worst game mechanics are those that are untethered to their flavor. For example, take the Middle Earth Role-Playing game in the 1980s by Iron Crown Enterprises. Great game. Great world. But the game had nothing to do with the world, just a generic slate of mechanics. I think they learned their lesson because the Middle Earth: The Wizards CCG they released in the mid-90s just dripped flavor from every mechanic. You want your mechanics to be more METW and less MERP.
Luckily for us, WOTC typically gets those synergized. The escape mechanic does what you need. It has a mana cost you can play with. It comes back from your graveyard. And it requires cards to be exiled so it's not easily abusive. Good job!
4. Hello, Sagas
There are a few reprintable mechanics out there that can suit Theros, like Curses. I love that Sagas came back, as they are both an enchantment-based theme and a historical one. I also feel that these Sagas play better than most of the ones from Dominaria. I love how well they can tell key moments in the long past or recent history. From Kiora's sassy stealing of Thassa's Bident to the ancient war, all of these are great. I also like how some have four numbers. Great job WOTC!
3. Flavor Hits like Haktos the Unscarred and Mirror Shield
While I do think that some key tropes haven't been made yet (such as Cupid's Arrows), we got a great selection of tropes here such as Achilles and Perseus's Shield. These great uses of tropes are powerful, as they give you a fun mechanical take that suits the ability of the story moment or trope perfectly. The Mirror Shield will kill a deathtouch dork that engages the wielder in combat before dealing damage. Hexproof makes sense, and the typical Shield boost of toughness also works. The card perfectly matches the anti-Medusa role it had in the myths and legends. Similarly, many other cards evoke their world, from Haktos giving you the powerful protection against everything save for one commonly used casting cost.
2. The Basic Land Art
The new art is arguably one of the best full-art cycles ever printed, with the tap symbol in the art itself. They look just as good in real life as they do online, and the foils are sweet. I've targeted these in trades and purchases and I've not been disappointed. What do you think? Agree or disagree?
1. Reprinting Underworld Dreams
I love this! Reprinting Underworld Dreams needed to be done. With its , it's great for devotion strategies. It would clearly feel like a weak link as a rare or mythic, and I appreciate how WOTC was willing to move it to uncommon. It's just a big hit from beginning to end. Its three Black in a devotion set, it's an enchantment in an enchantment set, it's named after the Greek Underworld in a set that happens in the Greek Underworld. It's a perfect reprint, and I didn't think about it going in. Thanks!!!
And there we are! What did you think of my list? Did I miss anything? Anything you agreed with? Just let me know!