With the introduction of Theros, we are also being introduced to some new mechanics. As always, they vary somewhat on the quality of their design mechanically, on their fit flavor-wise, and on their power level.
From a flavor perspective, being able to bestow a powerful Aura onto a creature represents a gift to that creature from the gods. Since that Aura is also a creature, you’re bestowing your target with the essence of that creature. Killing a creature that has been bestowed with one of these essences summons into being the creature whose essence it was.
Like many mechanics, bestow will probably have a much greater impact in Draft than in Standard. Typically, versatility matters more in Limited than in Constructed. In Constructed, you’d generally rather have a card that’s amazing at doing one specific thing than a card that gives you multiple pretty good options. In addition, the bestow costs are usually high enough to make them rarely relevant in Constructed. This is especially true because of the danger of using all of your mana to play an Aura only to have your target destroyed in response. While some of the cards with bestow are decent creatures for their costs, such as Nighthowler or Boon Satyr, they have the further drawback of being vulnerable to both creature removal and enchantment removal.
This is a great mechanic flavor-wise. It represents how faithful you are to the god of that color. The more devoted you are to that god/color, the greater power you’re granted in return. Like bestow, devotion will be much more relevant in Limited than in Constructed. While you are more likely to have a mono-colored deck in Standard than in Draft, permanents generally are more likely to stick around in Limited. In addition, devotion will affect a player’s card and color choices as he or she is drafting. Fanatic of Mogis is intriguing with cards such as Boros Reckoner and Ash Zealot, but red has better choices at 4 mana in Standard. Reverent Hunter is a little intriguing in a green +1/+1 counter deck, and we will at least see Disciple of Phenax seeing a lot of play in Limited.
These cards are well-designed from a flavor perspective. Each God is an extremely powerful legend that globally helps its devotees, and if enough devotion is shown, the God will even make a personal appearance on behalf of its followers to the regret of those who oppose it. The fact that planeswalkers are legendary isn’t a huge deal because they are both really powerful and relatively fragile. These cards won’t be as good for Constructed because they usually don’t do anything the turn you play them (unlike planeswalkers) and they’re quite bad in multiples. They may see enough Standard play to increase the pressure to play with exile effects. I expect to see Thassa, God of the Sea to be played in Standard, and Erebos, God of the Dead probably will as well.
Any story about gods needs heroes, too. It takes courage to take the risk of being heroic, but if you do and you survive, the rewards of the god’s favor are great. Creatures with heroic pair nicely with bestow and various pump spells, but they are much weaker in Constructed than in Limited because there is generally so much more removal in Constructed. The most exciting heroic effects are the ones that immediately regain you the card advantage you are potentially sacrificing, such as Agent of the Fates, Triton Fortune Hunter, and Akroan Crusader.
Dragons, Hydras, Cyclops, Gorgons, Giants, and even a Kraken, oh my . . . these do seem like the sorts of monsters that fit the theme Wizards is going for here. I also like how just when our hero seems to be gaining the upper hand that the monster being faced can suddenly become even scarier. The monsters seem even scarier than the heroes in this set.
Not surprisingly, I expect we will see more monsters than heroes in Constructed. In most cases, it will have little to do with their monstrous abilities, though. Fleecemane Lion, Nemesis of Mortals, Stormbreath Dragon, and Polukranos, World Eater are all likely to see play in Standard, primarily due to the threat levels they present pre-monstrous. In Limited, I expect for monsters to be a dominant force and for monstrosity to be a game-changing mechanic.
The design team for Theros may not be doing their work from Mount Olympus, but I’m quite impressed with the design work on this set. I think it’s interesting from a mechanical perspective, it works really well from a flavor perspective, and the power level of the new mechanics won’t take over Constructed but won’t be completely irrelevant either. I’m especially looking forward to playing with Gods and monsters in Draft. What about you?