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The Archetypes of Theros Limited

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Welcome back to Very Limited, Gathering Magic’s newest Limited column. Last week, we took a look at big picture Limited strategy. Understanding the basics of Limited strategy gives us the groundwork necessary to delve into more advanced topics. Today, in an effort to ready ourselves for the Born of the Gods prerelease, we’ll be discussing Theros card power level.

Colors

Nessian Asp
Let’s start by discussing color roles in Theros. Generally speaking, blue is the most powerful color in Theros Limited. Blue decks can range from being very aggressive to very controlling and remain successful.

Green is the second-strongest color in Theros Limited, but we need to be taking the right kind of cards for a specific deck. For example, Leafcrown Dryad is the best green common for an aggressive strategy, but we’d much rather be taking a card such as Nessian Asp or Voyaging Satyr if we’re working toward a more controlling strategy.

White and black are very close in terms of power level in Theros. White has a lot of depth, and the cards available therein are some of the very best for aggressive strategies. Black, on the other hand, gives us access to some of the best controlling rares and uncommons. There’s also a lot of value in moving in on black very early; Gray Merchant of Asphodel is a common, and its power level increases dramatically as we pick up more black permanents.

Red is quite weak in Theros Limited. Early on, aggressive R/W heroic decks enjoyed a decent amount of success, but there are a lot of 3- and 4-toughness creatures in this format, and the most aggressive strategies, while capable of nearly unbeatable draws, are generally weak and unsuccessful when forced to play three matches. Red isn’t unplayable, but we’re generally drafting red because we picked up a lot of cheap removal and we’re looking to pair it with something of another color.

A+ Archetypes

It’s not entirely necessary that we adhere to a specific archetype when drafting or building a Sealed Deck, but it’s good to know what kind of synergistic decks are available. When building a Sealed Deck, we should be looking to see which of these archetypes offers the most powerful cards in our pool. When drafting, we should be looking for signals that verify a specific archetype is open before moving in on it. We need to keep our deck’s mana curve in mind when drafting—we should draft for our curve if offered two options of similar power level. Let’s take a look at the most powerful archetypes of Theros Limited.

G/W Heroic

G/W heroic is the best aggressive Limited strategy in Theros. We want to be taking bestow creatures very highly when drafting the G/W heroic deck. We want to take very strong heroic creatures such as Wingsteed Rider, Phalanx Leader, and Fabled Hero over bestow creatures, but other heroic cards, such as Staunch-Hearted Warrior and Centaur Battlemaster should be coming around a bit later if this archetype is open and ready to be drafted.

Top Rares (in order of power level):

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Top Uncommons (in order of power level):

Top Commons (in order of power level):

Wingsteed Rider

W/U Heroic

W/U heroic has the potential to give us what might be the most powerful strategy in Theros Limited. Unfortunately, white and blue seem to be the most-drafted colors, and the W/U heroic archetype desires a lot of cards that are desirable for most decks that would be playing that color. Again, we want to value bestow creatures very high. We probably need to start reconsidering this archetype if we fail to wheel (when we open a card, take something else, and see the card again when the pack comes back) a Battlewise Hoplite, especially out of a strong pack.

Top Rares (in order of power level):

Fabled Hero

Top Uncommons (in order of power level):

Thassa's Emissary

Top Commons (in order of power level):

Nimbus Naiad

G/U Monsters

G/U monsters is among the better available decks in Theros Limited. Our commons do a lot of work when we’re drafting this archetype. A lot of decks will be forced to try winning in one big turn by taking our Nessian Asp off the table to set up a nice attack. Blue gives us a lot of tools to prevent our opponent from winning when he or she uses all his or her cards. Green cards like Voyaging Satyr make the blue bestow cards a lot better, and bestowing Nimbus Naiad onto a fatty like Vulpine Goliath is usually enough to bring home a game.

Top Rares (in order of power level):

Polukranos, World Eater

Top Uncommons (in order of power level):

Sea God's Revenge

Top Commons (in order of power level):

R/G Monsters

R/G monsters is similar to the last archetype, but we’re replacing cards like Voyage's End and Griptide with Lightning Strike and Magma Jet. We shouldn’t be trying to draft red in Theros, but we should also remain pragmatic and open to the possibility that red is open and available. If that’s the case, this is our best option for playing red in Theros Limited.

Top Rares (in order of power level):

Stormbreath Dragon

Top Uncommons (in order of power level):

Top Commons (in order of power level):

Minotaurs

We’re not the type of people who just slam Kragma Warcaller first pick/first pack, but there’s definitely something to be said for the Minotaur deck when red isn’t being drafted at a table, which happens reasonably often. This doesn’t mean we should be trying to be the red drafter when we show up—that’d be silly—but it does mean we should have the Minotaur deck in our repertoire if we happen to table some Minotaurs when we used our early picks to grab strong black cards.

Top Rares (in order of power level):

Abhorrent Overlord

Top Uncommons (in order of power level):

Top Commons (in order of power level):

Lightning Strike

W/B Control

W/B gives us a lot of options. I prefer drafting W/B as a control strategy, but the escape hatch into an aggressive deck is quite good. The best part about this deck is its ability to build a Baneslayer Angel. We want to be taking cards such as Insatiable Harpy, Sentry of the Underworld, and Hopeful Eidolon very high. Sentry of the Underworld comes around very late, and if we’re willing to take Hopeful Eidolon high, we can put together a 4/4 lifelink, flying, regenerating, vigilance creature that will make the game nearly impossible for our opponent to win.

Top Rares (in order of power level):

Spear of Heliod

Top Uncommons (in order of power level):

Top Commons (in order of power level):

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

U/B Control

Most of the top Limited players in the world believe this to be the strongest archetype in Theros Limited. Going into a Draft, we should always be hoping for the U/B deck. The deck is able to play all the most powerful cards to their fullest potentials, and it’s easily the best Gray Merchant of Asphodel strategy.

Top Rares (in order of power level):

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Top uncommons (in order of power level):

Keepsake Gorgon

Top commons (In order of power level):

When to Move In

Knowing how to draft a specific archetype is important, but knowing what archetype we’re supposed to be drafting is even more important. We should be using our early picks on the most powerful cards available. Let’s rate the most powerful cards in Theros.

Top cards in Theros (in order of power level):

Prognostic Sphinx

  1. Elspeth, Sun's Champion
  2. Polukranos, World Eater
  3. Stormbreath Dragon
  4. Prognostic Sphinx
  5. Agent of the Fates
  6. Spear of Heliod
  7. Keepsake Gorgon
  8. Celestial Archon
  9. Abhorrent Overlord
  10. Arbor Colossus
  11. Bow of Nylea
  12. Fabled Hero
  13. Boon Satyr
  14. Phalanx Leader
  15. Sea God's Revenge
  16. Thassa's Emissary
  17. Hythonia the Cruel
  18. Shipbreaker Kraken
  19. Hundred-Handed One
  20. Hero's Downfall
  21. Ember Swallower
  22. Ember Swallower
  23. Bident of Thassa
  24. Master of Waves
  25. Nighthowler
  26. Heliod's Emissary
  27. Erebos's Emissary
  28. Nimbus Naiad
  29. Gray Merchant of Asphodel
  30. Wingsteed Rider
  31. Griptide
  32. Lightning Strike
  33. Voyage's End
  34. Whip of Erebos
  35. Leafcrown Dryad
  36. Nessian Asp
  37. Voyaging Satyr

We should have a very solid understanding of Theros Limited by combining what we’ve learned in this column and last week’s column. Going forward, we’ll begin shifting focus onto Born of the Gods and tie that information into what we already know about Theros.


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