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Theros Beyond Death Standard Set Review Featuring Ali Aintrazi
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Starting Point Decks for Theros: Beyond Death

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The highlight of this week in Magic will be the release of Theros: Beyond Death on MTG Arena. With every new set, I like to put together lists of cards that I think might be good, and even cards I think might be bad, and pack them into decks made to expose their strengths and weaknesses. Every set has build-arounds, but Theros: Beyond Death has more than usual. Devotion lends itself to build-arounds as a mechanic, and several individual cards leave me with questions that only play-testing can answer.

The lists below are intentionally full of four-ofs and untuned. They are meant to be starting points that push a strategy, not answers to the meta. I expect changes to be made after playing a few games. The decks intentionally lack sideboards because the Theros: Beyond Death Early Access event that I have been invited to is best-of-one only. You can check the event out on Twitch this Wed., Jan 15.

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling


My main questions here are:

  1. Is Thassa, Deep-Dwelling and Cavalier of Gales an awesome duo?
  2. Can this deck keep up with a fast meta?
  3. If this deck untaps with Nyx Lotus, does the mana payoff become worth it?
  4. Can Thassa's Oracle become a real wincon?

Blue Devotion seems to have all the tools to go over the top. It converts devotion points to mana with Nyx Lotus, mana to cards with Gadwick, the Wizened, and cards left in deck get converted to victory by Thassa's Oracle. My goldfishing scenarios make me believe I need about two turns with an untapped Nyx Lotus to shred my deck, and it looks like a ton of fun.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel


Black Devotion on easy mode. Get as many pips for Devotion to Black on the battlefield as you can and burn them out with Gray Merchant of Asphodel.

My main questions for this deck are:

  1. Is Erebos, Bleak-Hearted a better 4-drop than Rankle, Master of Pranks and Deathless Knight.
  2. Is Deathless Knight and Ayara, First of Locthwain a good team or a great team in this format?
  3. How many copies of Gray Merchant of Asphodel can I cast in one turn with Bolas's Citadel?
  4. On a more serious note, does this deck hang in there against powerful endgames featuring Fires of Invention and Nissa, Who Shakes the World?

In theory, Gray Merchant of Asphodel can go face and get around those Nissa, Who Shakes the World boards, while also outpacing the lifegain of Hydroid Krasis. Fires of Invention will try to finish the game quickly with Cavalier of Gales and Cavalier of Flame, and the life gain provided by Gray Merchant of Asphodel may buy a crucial turn or two for the Black Devotion deck.

Nylea, Keen-Eyed


This deck wants to learn if Setessan Petitioner buries other aggro decks, which I expect a ton of in the early days of the ladder. It also pushes Nylea, Keen-Eyed as hard as it can. Not only should the card easy to turn into a creature thanks to Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig and 4 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger, but we are pushing the [2g:] ability with the extra mana from Nissa, Who Shakes the World and The Great Henge. I believe Nylea, Keen-Eyed may be the weakest of the gods, and this deck will test that theory.

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse


I am excited to try out new Gold cards in Esper Hero. Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths and Kunoros, Hound of Athreos look spicy, and I want to see how Ashiok, Nightmare Muse performs, but I found this deck's greatest nemesis to be Questing Beast and none of these cards solve that persistent problem. The deck probably needs a varied suite of removal spells that includes Mortify, and another card that deals with Questing Beast would be very nice. All in all, nothing seems to dampen my enthusiasm for Esper Hero, and new cards always get me back into the deck.

Phoenix of Ash


I am not worried about creating a Red Devotion deck because Phoenix of Ash doesn't need much help. I suspect this may be among the best cards in the set, and I certainly think it is the best Red card in the set. I cut some very good Red cards from this build because Adventure creatures like Rimrock Knight and Bonecrusher Giant don't fill up the graveyard. Embercleave is another powerful Red card that usually sits on the battlefield. Phoenix of Ash likes cards in the yard because it can use them to Escape and hit the opponent again and again, so pump spells and burn spells get more priority in this Red deck.

Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger


Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger is way more than another sacrifice trigger, but I think Rakdos Sacrifice is a good place to start to see the card's true power. There is plenty of creature fodder that must be answered, so the graveyard will fill up to power the Escape cost on Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger. The enters the battlefield ability on the card pushes a lot of damage, so the deck leans more aggressive with Dreadhorde Butcher. I also considered Footlight Fiend, and I still think the card would fit well. Claim the Firstborn looks amazing with Woe Strider making more free sacrifice outlets for it. Woe Strider also plays great with Priest of Forgotten Gods, Mayhem Devil, and Midnight Reaper, but I am not sure if the card is on the same power level as the other 3-drops. This deck will be a good proving ground for Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger and Woe Strider.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath


Cavalier of Thorns and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath seem made for each other. Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Hydroid Krasis seem made for each other. Combine these cards with some lands and ramp spells and it is hard to see what else you could need. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath seems to have a higher upside than Risen Reef, and that is saying something. It may be the best card in the set, but honestly it is probably the only big upgrade Simic will see from Theros: Beyond Death. It is strange to me that two of the most pushed color combinations in Throne of Eldraine Standard are Rakdos and Simic, and those are the two color combinations that are receiving a Mythic Rare Titan in Theros: Beyond Death. I would guess that Rakdos Sacrifice and Simic Ramp will be contenders in the new meta despite all the cards pushing other archetypes like Devotion, Constellation, and Sagas.

The Early Access event for Theros: Beyond Death is happening on Weds, Jan 15 on Twitch. Be sure to check it out. Myself and other CoolStuffInc content creators will be playing on stocked accounts provided by Wizards of the Coast for 24 hours. It is a great chance to see studs and duds of Theros: Beyond Death before the set is released.