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Ten New Theros Beyond Death Standard Brews

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Warning!

The decks you are about to see are mostly untested first drafts! They were played live on stream during the special early access event on MTG Arena this Wednesday and are my first stabs at the Theros: Beyond Death Standard format. Most are brews jam packed with Theros: Beyond Death cards, while there are also a few updates to previously established archetypes, but it's important to note that these are the first steps and not finished products! Use them as stepping stones for your own deck brewing process, but play them card for card at your own risk!

Elspeth, Thassa, and friends are here to save Standard!

It's no secret that 2019 was a rough year for Standard, with numerous bans and all around frustrating gameplay; but, since the last wave of bannings, Standard has looked pretty interesting, and now Theros: Beyond Death comes like a breath of fresh air. As usual, there were plenty of sneaky plants for devotion and enchantment-based things already in Standard, meaning we not only have a whole new set of cards but an entire formats worth of cards to reevaluate. The best way to learn is to do, so let's get right to the brewing!

Today we are going to go over all ten decks I played on my stream Wednesday, briefly going over each list and my thoughts on how it was, giving it a letter grade, and talking about what kind of potential it has going forward. I played four to five games with each deck in best of one so the deck's record will also be included.

Let's go!


Deck's Record: 4-1

Deck's Grade: A

Deck Potential: High

Starting off with a heater!

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

The return of the devotion mechanic alongside the very popular Gray Merchant of Asphodel makes revitalizing Mono-Black Devotion, arguably the best deck of that Standard format, an easy one. Interestingly enough "Gary" feels even better this time around, as previously the best cards in Mono-Black Devotion had been spells - Thoughtseize and Hero's Downfall. Now with Murderous Rider providing devotion as well as more of a focus on creatures and permanents we get something very exciting.

Nightmare Shepherd
Ayara, First of Locthwain

The real surprise is Nightmare Shepherd, perhaps one of the biggest sleepers in the set. Nightmare Shepherd already has phenomenal rate, but plays amazingly well with Gray Merchant of Asphodel as well as other cards in the deck like Yarok's Fenlurker. Double enters the battlefield triggers, protection against removal, and a huge body make Nightmare Shepherd the deck's biggest standout.

When you add in Ayara, First of Locthwain things start to go crazy. If you play a Gray Merchant with only Ayara and Nightmare Shepherd on curve, you can drain for eight (including the Ayara trigger), then sacrifice the Gray Merchant to Ayara, return it with Nightmare Shepherd, and deal another eight. This is a very easy to pull off interaction and shows the power of Nightmare Shepherd alongside sacrifice outlets.

While the list isn't perfect, the tools are here for this deck to be one of the best in the format.


Deck's Record: 3-2

Deck's Grade: C+

Deck Potential: Low

Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded is the most unwieldy of all of the Theros: Beyond Death gods, but Sneak Attack certainly has a pedigree and he works very well alongside Cavalier of Flame, which of course works very well alongside Fires of Invention.

Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded
Cavalier of Flame
Drakuseth, Maw of Flames

Drakuseth, Maw of Flames is the best creature in the format to put onto the battlefield with Purphoros, as if you get to attack with it you are a huge favorite to win almost any game. Drakuseth and Cavalier of Flame also help to make Purphoros into a creature, leading to some extremely swingy attacks. Fires of Invention allows you to have the extra mana available to activate Purphoros and Cavalier of Flame, while also leading to some great turns in the midgame.

Bond of Revival
Chandra's Regulator
Rix Maadi Reveler

The rummage effects and reanimation package, however, didn't pan out very well. We never cast a successful Bond of Revival and there was a lot of tension between wanting Drakuseth in our graveyard but also wanting it in our hand. If you want to keep the reanimation element a better looting color like Blue may be needed.

Storm's Wrath

Storm's Wrath was phenomenal though and is a great tool for Fires of Invention decks going forward. All and all an amusing deck but probably not a great one.


Deck's Record: 3-1

Deck's Grade: B+

Deck Potential: Medium to High

Already a solid fringe deck in Standard, Azorius Control had a number of very big gains from Theros: Beyond Death.

Shatter the Sky
Thassa's Intervention
Dream Trawler

Shatter the Sky is the four-mana Wrath of God variant this deck has been waiting a long time for, without the extremely awkward mana cost of Kaya's Wrath. The threat of a sweep on turn four is huge, and adds a large amount of power level to the deck. Thassa's Intervention was also very impressive; at worst it draws two cards for four mana, and later in the game it was similar to Dig Through Time. The fact that it's also a reasonable counterspell is amazing. Lastly, Dream Trawler is a very impressive finisher that basically does everything you could want besides stabilize the board against a removal spell the turn it enters the battlefield. Hexproof finishers are phenomenal, and gaining life while drawing cards is perfect.

Thirst for Meaning
The Birth of Meletis
Omen of the Sea

The deck also gains a small enchantment package to fuel the very powerful Thirst for Meaning, an excellent and efficient card draw spell. The Birth of Meletis compares favorably to Wall of Omens while also bring great with Thirst for Meaning, while Omen of the Sea acts in the same manner as a Think Twice. Both are reusable with Teferi, Time Raveler for even more card draw, forming a nice little engine.

It is possible the deck wants to move toward Banishing Light rather than Planar Cleansing, but that will be metagame dependant. Regardless, if you like control decks there's something serious here.


Deck's Record: 0-4

Deck's Grade: D+

Deck Potential: Low

Best name, worst deck unfortunately. While the games weren't as awful as the 0-4 record indicated, the enchantment-zombie token engine failed to deliver.

Aphemia, the Cacophony
Tymaret Calls the Dead

It's not that the synergy between Aphemia, the Cacophony and Tymaret Calls The Dead didn't work. On the contrary, it actually worked fairly well. The issue was that a handful of 2/2 zombies just didn't really stand up to all the other things happening in the format. We were getting flown over or drained out for 20 with Gray Merchant and just couldn't find great things to do with our tokens.

Hateful Eidolon
Dead Weight
All That Glitters

The Hateful Eidolon package also didn't perform super well. Dead Weight just wasn't good in some matchups, and the other auras were not providing enough power to be worth the risk. The cards did what they were supposed to but that wasn't good enough. This just wasn't the right mix of enchantments and enablers.

Archon of Sun's Grace

I also missed on Archon of Sun's Grace, which was a big mistake as the card is bonkers. There are powerful enchantment synergies to work with in this set, but this wasn't the way to do it.


Deck's Record: 4-1

Deck's Grade: B

Deck Potential: Medium

"Jam mythic rares, profit" has been a valid strategy in Standard for a while now, so we attempted to do just that.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is a bit overrated right now, but the card performed reasonably well. Gaining life from your Growth Spiral and being able to flashback later is some nice value, but you need some way to put cards in your graveyard - something Simic isn't great at - to reliably escape. Adding Black help to solve this problem, which led another great new card in Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths. Aside from being super fun, Atris is a very solid value card that provides card advantage and graveyard fodder.

Mire Triton
Eat to Extinction

Perhaps the most surprisingly powerful card in the deck was Mire Triton. Mire Triton is cut from the Jadelight Ranger shell, it that it's a fantastic card on rate that does a phenomenal job of bridging the gap in the early game to your better cards. Great blocker, solid attacker, life buffer, and graveyard activator is quite the package for only two mana. Eat to Extinction is also going to serve an important role in the format similar to Vraska's Contempt.

This problem isn't the correct mix, as you probably just have to play Nissa, Who Shakes the World, but there's something here for sure.


Deck's Record: 0-3

Deck's Grade: F

Deck Potential: None

Oh boy.

Wavebreak Hippocamp

I have no comment on the rumors that I allegedly built a deck called "Horse Mill" based around Wavebreak Hippocamp and Drowned Secrets, and find such accusations to be hurtful and borderline slander.

I will have no further comment at this time.


Deck's Record: 2-3

Deck's Grade: C-

Deck Potential: Medium

Another shot at the enchantment zombie makers, this one fared a little better thanks to the power of Setessan Champion.

Setessan Champion

Essentially the Tireless Tracker of enchantresses, Setessan Champion performed well despite our enchantment count probably not being high enough. Being able to guarantee value off our spells is great and if Setessan Champion goes unchecked this get wild.

Aphemia, the Cacophony
Tymaret Calls the Dead
Hateful Eidolon

The problem is that the Aphemia / Tymaret Calls the Dead engine once again was a big let down. The 2/2 zombies just didn't do enough by themselves, and Tymaret Calls The Dead lacks the huge punch that the third chapter of History of Benalia provided. Hateful Eidolon just feels like a trap.

Again there are definitely good constellation decks to be built, but this was not it.


Deck's Record: 3-2

Deck's Grade: B+

Deck Potential: Medium to High

Esper cards are already good and Theros: Beyond Death delivers some more great ones.

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths
Dream Trawler

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse was a huge standout. It's hard to realize how much more impactful 2/3 tokens are than 2/2s until you see a battlefield littered with them. The exile clause doesn't matter too much, but just being able to come down on six loyalty and make a 2/3 is great, and the -3 removal element is also welcome. Ashiok is your basic "raw power" planeswalker, and they do it pretty well.

We see Atris and Dream Trawler again too, with both cards looking great. The card advantage of Atris is very welcome in a deck like this, but Dream Trawler ends up being the perfect curve topper to completely slam the door against most decks. As long as Wrath of God effects aren't popular, Dream Trawler is an absolute house.

Hero of Precinct One
Mortify
Despark

Aside from the new cards we've got a pretty normal Esper Hero shell, with the only interesting deviations being Despark in the main and the return of Mortify. With the gods and planeswalkers like Nissa and Ashiok demanding answers Despark feels great, and Mortify has a whole set worth of enchantments to kill to bring it back to respectability.

It's hard to go wrong with Esper.


Deck's Record: 4-1

Deck's Grade: B+

Deck Potential: High

Speaking of decks it is hard to go wrong with, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Cat/Oven decks, in general, have been a major part of the metagame for a while. However, they just got some big upgrades.

Woe Strider
Nightmare Shepherd

Woe Strider is the extra sacrifice outlet the deck was looking for to really push things with Claim the Firstborn and Mayhem Devil over the top. Being able to scry is great, but the synergy with Nightmare Shepherd really puts things over the top. Nightmare Shepherd is one of the best cards in the set, and being able to double up on all your creatures while also flying over for four damage a turn is phenomenal.

Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
Careless Celebrant

Not every new card impressed though. While Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger is cute with Witch's Oven, we never used the escape cost once and it was mostly unimpressive. Careless Celebrant also seemed only good against decks we were already good against while being poor against the mirror and tougher matchups. Mire Triton makes much more sense in that slot.

There's no doubt that something like this deck is going to make major waves in Standard going forward, as the more reliable mana base with Temple of Malice joined with new cards like Woe Strider and Nightmare Shepherd combine to do some powerful things.


Deck's Record: 2-3

Deck's Grade: B-

Deck Potential: Medium

Perhaps the most surprising result for me was the losing record of Mono-White Lifegain Devotion, a deck I thought had huge legs.

Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Daxos, Blessed by the Sun
Ajani, Strength of the Pride

Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Daxos, Blessed by the Sun join an already impressive lineup of lifegain synergy cards in Ajani, Strength of the Pride, Ajani's Pridemate, and Linden, the Steadfast Queen to form what I thought was going to be an absolute powerhouse. For the most part the deck was successful in what it was trying to do, but the problem was how that lined up with the format.

Cauldron Familiar
Mire Triton
Foulmire Knight

The issue was that our 10/10 Ajani's Pridemates kept running into annoying infinite blockers and deathtouch creatures. This, coupled with some missed land drops and run bads left us with an unimpressive record overall. Still, I think this deck has some serious legs but it will depend on how the overall metagame looks.

Shadowspear

Shadowspear was suggested as a reasonable card that could give our huge Ajani's Pridemates trample and it's definitely a reasonable card. More work is needed here.

Cards I Didn't Try But Should Have

Obviously with only ten decks I couldn't get to every card in the set, but here are some cards that really overperformed against us:

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling
Elspeth Conquers Death
Archon of Sun's Grace

I can't wait to try all of these out as well!

If you'd like to see me playing any of these decks the videos will be going up on my YouTube over the next few days, but it's safe to say we're just getting started. There's a lot to unpack in Theros: Beyond Death, and I can only hope that once we start to unpack it we get a vibrant and exciting Standard format. As someone who loves Standard but has mostly stayed away in the last few months, I'm excited to get back to it!