Hey there! This week, I will be taking my first look at Theros and, in particular, what it has in store for Limited. I will be covering what I think are the top five commons in each color along with some explanations as to why I think they are good.
I think commons are the most defining thing in any Draft format, especially when we are talking about “normal” decks. Some gimmick decks might have engine cards that are uncommon, and they are worth pursuing because nobody else will want these cards. You will have a high probability of seeing at least one of these cards if the Draft format is using three boosters of the same set, but as you add more sets to the mix, these strategies often grow progressively worse. Examples of gimmick strategies like these are Burning Vengeance in Innistrad and Dampen Thought in Champions of Kamigawa.
I will be covering the five colors in order, so let’s get started.
Ray of Dissolution – The fact that this card is an instant makes it really good, as you have the potential for some combat blowouts against bestow cards. Killing an opponent’s Nimbus Naiad and blocking a creature that suddenly isn’t a big flyer is super-good, and often, this can be better than an actual removal spell. That said, the targets are quite limited, and not all decks will be packing a lot of enchantments—hence it is not higher on the list.
4. Observant Alseid – This is a decent creature on its own, and giving your best creature vigilance is very strong. Even just putting this on a 3/3 makes it so that most early- and midgame drops cannot attack into it profitably.
3. Wingsteed Rider – This card would already be solid without the heroic upside, and being able to make this a 3/3 or even larger is quite an upside for a cheap common. I was thoroughly trounced by this card at the prerelease, and it didn’t even need that much help to be awesome.
2. Divine Verdict – There is no Pacifism available in this set, so if you are drafting white, you are going to have to be willing to pay a bit more for your removal. As the set features a lot of large creatures, something that can kill anything that enters combat is very nice, even though 4 mana is a significant cost.
1. Gods Willing – And moving from a moderately expensive spell to a very cheap spell, we see a very good trick for a very good cost. This might not have applications in absolutely all decks and all matchups, so rate it accordingly. However, being able to trigger heroic, save your creature from removal, or push through those last points of damage for the low, low price of is well worth it most of the time. Not to mention you even get to scry, which can be very valuable especially in the midgame and late game.
White looks to be a solid color, with a few cheap and good tricks coupled with some decent creatures. White seems to work well in a more aggressive deck, especially if you can get a lot of heroic cards to really enable powerful tempo swings.
Vaporkin – The return of Welkin Tern is a bit of a strange one, as the format looks to be quite slow. However, a very good way of beating all those slow decks is to be very aggressive, and that is a thing this Elemental knows a thing or two about.
4. Griptide – These other four slots are very close to each other in terms of power, so they are quite interchangeable, and some decks will want cards other decks might not need that badly. That said, Griptide looks to be miles better this time around, as it works so well against the slower things going on in the format. I do not look forward to going monstrous only to have my creature Griptided.
3. Voyage's End – This often does the same thing Griptide does, but against decks with cheaper cards, it’s not always the guaranteed one-for-one that Griptide provides. However, the fact that this costs half of what Griptide does—plus, you get to scry—means that this will be better in most cases.
2. Prescient Chimera – I was very surprised when I read the spoiler for the first time and realized this card was a common. A 3/4 flyer for 5 mana would already be a good deal, and adding a very useful ability makes it even stronger. It should be able to hold off most opposing creatures the turn it comes into play, thanks to the 4 toughness, leading to some nice tempo swings.
1. Nimbus Naiad – This card looked quite innocent at first, but it can be a nightmare to play against. Making any creature into an Air Elemental or Dragon is already good, but the fact that you then have a Wind Drake if the opponent deals with it makes this card very strong. That you can play this for 3 mana is just gravy.
Blue looks to be the best color as far as commons are concerned, as there are already several premium commons to go along with many solid ones, several which didn’t even fit into this list. I look forward to actively going after blue in this format. It’s almost as though we had the opportunity to do exactly the same thing just a short while ago.
Pharika's Cure – This will be higher if you are playing against decks with mainly small threats, but as the set looks to be quite beefy in general, the value of this card is lower than it would be in some formats
4. Gray Merchant of Asphodel – I think this card has the potential to be very powerful in the right kind of deck. Should you happen to pick up multiples, you can also chain them into each other. The first one might drain for 3 or 4, but the second one is already doing some considerable damage. The body is also quite decent for the cost, so this looks to be one of the better common creatures in black, and black is otherwise a bit lacking in that department.
3. Lash of the Whip – This is sort of what Fatal Fumes wanted to be, but it was not very exciting in that Limited format. Lash of the Whip looks to be much better, as removing 4 toughness is enough to kill a majority of the common threats in the format.
2. Sip of Hemlock – Paying 6 mana is a lot, but at least you have one of the few unconditional removal spells in the format for that price. The life-loss is also not insignificant, and it can help finish off an opponent.
1. Read the Bones – There is not a whole lot of card advantage in this format, so this really seems to be a premium spell. By paying 2 life, you are essentially drawing close to three cards, as you can ship away any lands you see once you don’t need them anymore.
Black is the color with the best removal, and as there is not a whole lot of removal in this set in general, that is a good place to be. Once again, the creatures in black are quite poor, and having to team up with another color means all the devotion cards become less powerful, so it is a tricky thing to balance.
Dragon Mantle – I like that this is a very cheap heroic enabler that is also a cantrip. It works well in several types of decks, as the Firebreathing ability is also highly relevant on evasive creatures that white and blue provide, and it’s also relevant on creatures with trample in red and green.
4. Borderland Minotaur – These are some very solid stats for a red 4-drop, leading to some quite aggressive draws. It’s not quite as strong as Marauding Maulhorn was in Magic 2014, but it’s a solid aggressive creature.
3. Ill-Tempered Cyclops – This is slightly better than Borderland Minotaur even though the starting stats are worse. The fact that this can become a very relevant threat in the mid- and late game means this pulls ahead of the Minotaur on this list.
2. Rage of Purphoros – Again, solid removal comes at a slightly high cost, but I am pretty sure you are taking all the removal you can pick up, as is the case in most Limited formats. The additional scry on this almost makes it worth the cost.
1. Lightning Strike – And here is the outlier: a premium removal spell at a very reasonable cost. This should be among the main reasons to draft red. Unfortunately, this is easy to splash, so your neighbors might be stealing your goods.
Red seems a bit lackluster, as after the first four cards, the rest are not all that impressive. Red seems to be more geared toward aggression, with many of the commons working best in that type of deck.
Fade into Antiquity – Exiling the card is a nice bonus, and also hitting artifacts is good, but this is not quite as good as Ray of Dissolution, as it doesn’t work as a combat trick due to it being a sorcery. Still, it’s a solid card, especially since green’s removal options are not all that great.
4. Voyaging Satyr – Being able to develop your mana more efficiently than your opponent seems to be a great thing to be doing in a format in which a lot of players are trying to go big. This seems much better than the colorless Opaline Unicorn, as costing 1 mana less is a big deal.
3. Leafcrown Dryad – I really like that this card has a very reasonable bestow cost to go along with base stats that are perfectly fine on their own. Helping out against flyers is always nice.
2. Nessian Courser – This will mostly be good in a deck that is slightly more aggressive, as other decks might rather have a card that does something slightly different, such as Nylea's Disciple. However, costing only 3 mana means this card lends itself to some solid aggressive draws.
1. Nessian Asp – Now, this is a very large creature and a rock solid deal for 5 mana. It should be able to keep most creatures on the board in check if it comes down on turn five, and being able to make it huge later on is a big part of why it is so high on this list.
Green in general has a lot of very solid cards, and I am sure this list could be configured in many different ways. It might be that green decks end up in a certain direction often, making some of these cards much worse than they seem right now, and vice-versa of course. Time to Feed looked nice a first, but having played with it, I can say it is tough to actually cast it profitably a lot of the time unless you have a very solid base of creatures.
I hope all of you will have a chance to do some Theros Drafts or Sealed decks during the weekend. I would love to hear what you think about the format if you have had the chance to play it. To really understand what makes the format tick, you have to actually do some Drafts, and theory can only take you so far.
I’ll be returning in a few weeks’ time, gearing up for Pro Tour Theros in Dublin. I’ve done a bit of Standard testing so far, and I will probably have done a whole lot more before it’s time to write my next article, so I might bring you some insights about the format. Please let me know if you would rather read about Limited or Constructed, and I’ll try to tailor my writing accordingly. Also, please don’t hesitate to contact me either via the comments section below or directly through Twitter if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or ideas in general.
Thanks for reading,
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