It's time again for another set review! Theros: Beyond Death releases next Friday on January 24th and I couldn't be more excited to play with and talk about it. There's powerhouse cards in the set for a multitude of formats and shows just how much R&D is continuing their push for a higher standard of power in their Standard sets. While I'm dying to talk about cards like Underworld Breach in Legacy, today I'm going to be talking about a number of commons from the set and what their role may be in Pauper. So let's dive right on in and look at the sweet new cards for Theros: Beyond Death!
We've already got a couple three-mana artifacts that tap for any color in the form of cards like Darksteel Ingot and Manalith. Adding one pip to your devotion isn't really going to help, especially when Pauper runs few devotion oriented cards that aren't Gray Merchant of Asphodel. As a result, I expect this to see no play unless you were looking to a play to splash a bit in Mono-Black Control for some spice.
Arena Trickster looks cool at first glance, but then when you compare it against cards like Pyre Hound and Spellgorger Weird - not to mention Kiln Fiend and Nivix Cyclops - it becomes a pretty safe bet this will never see play in Pauper.
The Aspect cards are two neat auras. Aspect of Lamprey may cost a lot, but since it's a Mind Rot and Lifelink stapled together, the cost makes sense. It's still probably too expensive to see real play, but it is worth mentioning that you can bounce it back to your hand with Kor Skyfisher or something similar to make your opponent discard even more cards. Even then it probably won't make the cut, but still an interaction worth noting.
Aspect of Manticore on the other hand looks pretty neat, both acting as a sweet combat trick, an enchantment, and a permanent buff. The problem I see is that most of the Aura-focused lists already have better, cheaper ways to get first strike on them, so I wouldn't expect this to see much play either.
Six mana is a lot, but it both gets you a reasonable body and removes opponents' creatures in the process. This might make it a potential for something like Mono-Black Control, which can see a large number of lands to cast it with, but even there it probably costs too much. Now if you add Ephemerate or Ghostly Flicker into the mix, however, you've got a repeatable source of removal at your fingertips.
Brine Giant is simple and elegant: basically it has Affinity for Enchantments. This is the kind of card that you can try to make work by building your deck around it. It's probably too pricey to be played in Bogles, but might be playable in an Enchantment Control build as a finisher. This is even more possible give those decks often run Abundant Growth and the like. It's important to note that if you land Pestilence from that deck with this bad boy on the board, then your Pestilence should stick around for some time.
It might not seem like much at first glance, but two mana for a 3/3 flier is nothing to scoff at. If you build your deck right, you really should have no issue sticking this on the field at all for a cheap rate. Thraben Inspector, Kor Skyfisher, and more all add to this monstrosity's cost reduction. I expect to die to at least a few of these at some point in the future.
Deny the Divine is another in Pauper's three-mana countermagic repertoire. It's unlikely that this sees play over something like Exclude, but being able to hit enchantments in addition to creatures and also exiling them seems solid. Probably not solid enough to be played, but a nice addition to the toolbox.
In truth, I don't expect Discordant Piper to see much play. The effect doesn't have too much payoff even if it feels like it's pretty solid. The one place I could maybe see it showing up in is the Golgari Sacrifice decks. Even then, though, I said similar about Lazotep Reaver in my War of the Spark set review and that saw hardly any play and is comparable, if not better. As such, I wouldn't expect much of the Piper.
Seven mana to activate this card's ability is a lot. Like, A LOT. Despite that, I feel like it may find a home somewhere. I somewhat expect we might see a new Blue-based Enchantment archetype with this set, and Eidolon of Philosophy might be a way for it to draw some cards in the late game.
I just want to point out that this card does not let you target players. It's bad, don't play it.
Playing Flicker of Fate when we have cards like Ghostly Flicker and Ephemerate may seem strange. Flicker of Fate, however, can do one thing those cards can't: flicker enchantments. As such, I wouldn't be too terribly surprised for this card to find a home in the right deck. It even pairs fantastically with the Omen cycle in this set itself. I don't know that Pauper has enough enchantments that you want to flicker, but if you're playing a deck of value creatures and enchantments, then this might just be what you're looking for.
One mana for two points of life loss isn't much, but the fact that you can cast it repeatedly makes it worth giving a look. I think if this card sees any play it's going to be as a finisher in Dimir-based control lists. Teachings might be a solid fit given how much that deck fills its yard - even if you can't find this with Mystical Teachings itself.
Funeral Rites does quite a lot for three mana. Read the Bones has seen play before, as have Sign in Blood and Night's Whisper. While this won't scry any cards for you, Pauper has a long history of having decks wanting to fill their graveyards, so it wouldn't surprise me too much if this found some niche play somewhere.
I just wanted to take a moment here to acknowledge some of the sweet new reprints in the set. Heliod's Pilgrim has some of the most gorgeous art in the set, and I'll definitely be looking to replace my Core Set 2015 versions with this. We also got new art for Gray Merchant of Asphodel for those interested! It's been a bit contentious among players, and some don't like the uncommon set symbol, but it's a great reprint nonetheless.
Now here's something cool: mass heroic cards. Hero of the Pride is the one I think seems more likely to see play between all the cool spells that can target it in White. Meanwhile, Hero of the Games isn't likely to be targeted by anything beneficial in Red, so I doubt it's going to be playable. Still, it's a cool effect, so who knows. With Brute Force, Titan's Strength, and the new Infuriate, I suppose the possibility is there.
A 3/3 that untaps a creature when it enters the battlefield is a pretty fantastic rate, but probably isn't worth it when it comes to Pauper. Still, you can flicker this, which can enable some shenanigans with the right deck.
Inspire Awe is such a weird card. One-sided Fog effects have proven to be quite strong in the past. Despite that, four mana is a lot, and the only deck that probably would want this - Bogles - probably doesn't in all actuality. In any other deck, a Prismatic Strands or Moment's Peace would just be better.
These two cards offer Bogles some really sweet alternatives to Cartouche of Strength. The Cartouche does give trample, which is relevant, but both of these cards come in, pump up, and take out opposing creatures in their own way. For some situations, I can see both of these being better than the Cartouche, but it all comes down to what you see yourself looking for the most.
This card is great with excellent flexibility. If you make it a hasty three-mana 2/2, you're getting a pretty reasonably priced creature. If you don't give it haste, however, you can instead blow up an artifact, which isn't nothing. Think of this like a charm spell and you'll see that the flexibility can make it quite potent.
Karametra's Blessing works very well for decks like Heroic and Bogles (assuming you run non-hexproof creatures in your deck). Pump and evading removal in decks that already want to pump creatures up to the max seems fantastic to me. Definitely expect this to be played.
This creature offers a little bit extra for the sacrifice decks of the format by making it so you can slowly ping away your opponents. It's not a free chip away, but it works all the same in the right archetype.
Four mana is a lot for these stats in Pauper, but self-mill decks like TortEx might enjoy the benefits of its ability. Just be careful not to mill yourself out too much with this kind of ability, as it triggers during combat and doesn't care if the creature is attacking or not.
This is actually a pretty solid removal choice to go along with something akin to Dead Weight. Yes it's -3/-3 over -2/-2 for a whole extra mana, but sometimes that's enough. I think Pauper's removal suite is strong enough that this might not really see much - if any - play, but I also wouldn't be too surprised to see it here and there as well.
Mogis's Favor is a really sweet design. You can either use it as repeated removal or as a repeatable way to beef up your creatures. The flexibility this offers, along with the fact that it can keep coming back, make me think it's got some play, but we'll just have to see.
Naiad of Hidden Coves is one of my favorite cards in the set. There's so many cards this can impact. Here's a small sampling: Spellstutter Sprite, Exclude, Condescend, Prohibit, Snap, Ghostly Flicker, and so much more. I wouldn't be too terribly surprised if this card helped bring along the introduction of at least one new archetype to the format - even if it's not a top tier one. I'm very excited to see what this does in the format and what role it'll end up settling into.
With Enchantment Control being a deck that's existed, I think this is a solid way to make sure that you're able to stick in the game in creature form. It should also be noted that this having 4 toughness also means it should soak up Pestilence damage quite well.
Nylea's Forerunner has one thing going for it that we haven't really seen in Pauper to date: giving each creature you control unconditional trample. This is a genuine first, and while there aren't many decks that could want that ability in the format, it's such a unique effect for the format that I have to mention it.
I'm a huge fan of the Omen cycle. All of these might seem a bit too overcosted at first, but they get better when you consider that they're enchantments that stay on the field. When you don't want them anymore, you can sacrifice them and scry two. There's just a whole lot of subtleties with these. You can pick them up with something like Kor Skyfisher and they also pair up quite nicely with Naiad of Hidden Coves. Can you imagine casting Omen of the Sea as an instant speed Preordain for one mana that has additional benefits by staying on the board? It's unreal, and I think these will also see a fairly reasonable amount of play in the format.
Oread of Mountain's Blaze has tough competition in the form of Throne of Eldraine's Merchant of the Vale. That one has the adventure spell of Haggle attached, but it also costs three mana to cast. This one is just a flat two mana and is an enchantment, but has a bit less power and has no adventure. There are cases where one is better than the other, so use your best judgment of how your deck works.
Three words: Black. Enchantment. Hate.
This is literally something we've never before seen in Pauper, with the only Black enchantment hate thus far being an uncommon in Commander 2019. It also just happens to be an instant speed Edict, which is sweet. I definitely think this will be played, if only as a sideboard option for the likes of Mono-Black Control.
Pious Wayfarer feels so close but probably won't do anything. Heroic doesn't really want him and neither does Bogles. I don't think this is a card that makes the cut in Pauper, but I expect to see plenty of him elsewhere.
Three mana for a souped up Adventurous Impulse is rough, but this one lets you take a land as well as a creature. It's still likely a bit too much to be played, but is an interesting choice worth looking at.
Anything that can repeatedly make tokens sees pretty good to me. I don't expect this to see a crazy amount of play because of the amount of effort you need to make those tokens, but I also wouldn't be too surprised to see it show up either.
Honestly, if you're looking for graveyard hate, I'm gonna suggest you just play Faerie Macabre instead.
Sentinel's Eyes is about to become an instant staple in Heroic, and will probably be played somewhat in Bogles. We don't have any one mana +1/+1 and vigilance auras, so this just feels like a slam dunk in both decks, though probably in somewhat varying amounts between the two. Expect to see this card a ton.
Skola Grovedancer seems absolutely fantastic for Tortured Existence decks and total garbage pretty much everywhere else. A 2/2 for two mana isn't bad, but its triggered ability is rarely going off and its activated one is a bit too costly with no minimal benefit.
Just dropping a reminder for those who think this looks cool: Spark Reaper from War of the Spark still isn't seeing any play and this won't either.
Remember what I said about how Karametra's Blessing is going to be great for decks that aren't normally huge on hexproof? Starlit Mantle fills a pretty similar niche. You'll definitely be seeing this one around here and there in the meta as a way to pump your Bogles and sidestep removal with your Heliod's Pilgrims and the like..
Excuse me? Did they really give us an enchantment version of longtime powerhouse Thirst for Knowledge? And at common? Yeah, you'd better believe this is going to be played. It fills your hand and your graveyard, and probably works in any new flash and enchantment-based decks going forward. I can't wait to see this putting up some results time and again.
Most times, this card is going to be a trap. If you're dealing damage to mill, then you should either be trying to mill yourself out or else just take your opponent out with damage. As such, there just seems like so much more potential for other cards to do a better job on either end of the spectrum.
This card has a fair body and solid effect, but the decks that would want this - Bogles and Heroic - wouldn't net much benefit from the cost reduction effect. As such, I wouldn't count too much on this one seeing much play.
Escape creatures seem very good. Early game, they come down kinda weak, but it doesn't take long to pump the heck out of them once your graveyard starts getting super full. Still, these are effectively French vanilla creatures, and as such won't do too much, but boy are they strong all the same.
And last but not least we have one of the most flavorful cards in the set: Wings of Hubris. They're basically the wings Icarus uses to try flying to the sun and that flavor is reflected well on the card. This could be used as an alternative to Fling and the like in some matches, or even as a bad Cobbled Wings, but I wouldn't expect to see it outside many places other than Affinity.
Theros: Beyond Death has a surprisingly strong and healthy number of cards for the Pauper format. In fact, as I mentioned before but want to give a shout out to again, I think there's enough here to fuel a new archetype. Consider just four cards to start:
That's four cards that already feel like they have synergy with one another. Seriously, I'm very curious to see how many times we get an Omen of the Sea that gets cast as an instant speed Preordain. And this is just in Blue as well! When you start adding in other colors to the mix, it really starts to feel like you could pretty easily build a or list involving either enchantments or flash spells and they'd work very well. I wouldn't count on it being tier one or anything like that, but I think it's something that people will likely mess around with.
Either way the set just looks like straight gas to play and I couldn't be more excited. Remember to check out your local shop for a prerelease this weekend! What cards are you most excited to play with from the set?
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