While we await spoilers for Theros: Beyond Death, we eagerly devour what cards we are offered. We also look at what cards are being carried forward. Players who became intimately familiar with trying to brew up decks before a set release have a huge leg up after the new release, because they know (at least some of) what cards are good but don't have a home, and (at least some of) what decks are one card short of competitive.
This is a list of cards, and sets of cards, that could be huge under the right circumstances, many of whose power in Standard has not had a chance to properly shine in Throne of Eldraine. For some, shortfalls are because the metagame renders them an ineffective tool. For others, it will be because the deck is missing key pieces or is simply not good enough without help. A handful will likely be because no one has figured the deck out yet, as there is always new stuff waiting to be found when things are even a little balanced.
As you build your deck or sideboard, or search for new strategies, it is good to look back on such a list and see what you can find.
You need to be pretty serious to make this boost worthwhile, but it's an acceptable effect at +3/+3 and gets rapidly game winning beyond that. Enchantment creatures will be a key theme, so we may get a lot of help with making this large, and this may help trigger heroic. Artifact help would also be great; there are several ways to go here. We could be an enchantress-style deck, a heroic deck, a Steel Overseer deck, a White creature deck that happens to have enough enchantments, or something else entirely. Right now, none of them are within one card of good enough, but I do think the artifact deck is within two cards, and the White creature deck already has Daxos, Blessed by the Sun to start us off. We could turn to Ancestral Blade in that build, potentially, as well.
There have been attempts to make Knights happen, but the only successful color combo turned out to be Rakdos. The mana for playing all three colors seriously is too painful, and right now there aren't good payoffs for doing White Knight synergies. But either of those things can change. Better mana would make going all three colors more attractive, and is the most likely scenario to open these opportunities up. Reward for White creatures make a White-centered base make more sense. Even one more good Knight in any of the three colors changes everything, but we're unlikely to see it given the setting. Bumping White from three good Knights to four would be huge. Additional exciting equipment could also pull us back towards Acclaimed Contender.
Ajani's Pridemate does not take that much lifegain to get potentially out of hand without much investment cost, and Daxos already makes this card more interesting. You get a boost every time a creature comes into play on your side, including itself, and when one leaves, plus any other sources you have. Linden, the Steadfast Queen could get us lots more triggers while being great for our White devotion. So we need to check that plan, at a minimum. If we get serious enough, Ajani, Strength of the Pride becomes a consideration.
Charming Prince can take lifegain when it wants, or it can use the flicker ability to get extra triggers of various sorts, so perhaps there is something to be done with that in context.
Dawn of Hope tends to be too slow for such plans, but at least it's an interesting sideboard option.
If we get serious about going full lifegain, there are some more tools. Angel of Vitality seems potentially exciting in this shell. Bishop of Wings is double White for devotion and triggers even more lifegain, but is unlikely to get help on the angel front. Soulmender is here if we are going all-in, if not we can use Healer's Hawk to have an actually reasonable Magic card. If we just don't care anymore, Beloved Princess exists.
Twinblade Paladin is asking a lot of commitment, but if we really are going nuts, maybe we should keep going. It's also worth noting that Witch's Oven can give us both death triggers and then additional food-lifegain triggers, and perhaps we can play Black as well for the cats...
We will mention Gideon Blackblade on his own, but it is a good way to get incidental lifelink. Kenrith, the Returned King does not offer much devotion, demanding it instead, but if we have life to burn we might be able to splash enough to support lots of interesting activations, especially if a new land helps us.
A final note is that Daxos triggers off tokens, so March of the Multitudes could do some really nasty things here.
Anything that Fogs an attack, or at least ensures the attack will not be lethal, is always potentially interesting. Angel of Grace also offers a respectable threat to finish them off while you are not dead, or as a rude surprise at instant speed, especially in multiples. The exile ability isn't bad either. Standard became much less about life totals and the cat decks laugh at this extra hard, so it's a really bad time to try and play this, but if the cats are shooed away, this becomes potentially interesting again.
If White creature decks return, this is potentially a monster in their mirror matchups, or out of bigger creature decks against them. They won't be able to remove it, and making profitable attacks becomes very difficult even against it alone. Likely never happens but can be kept in mind.
Some people like Ari Lax got way too hyped about this one, but there wasn't zero reason for this. Anything that does something when discarded or milled should be kept in mind. More food payoffs are not coming, but combining existing food things with a new thing is much more plausible.
If you are being given strong incentive to kill off your own cards, that can make this a lot more interesting, combined with the default 'make it hard to kill my stuff' mode. Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis is not a great card by any means, but it is a cool effect and flavor win to use with Brought Back, so perhaps we will get more such opportunities.
"Basic tools of the color" is always a category worth keeping mentally available. This is the best removal for White creature decks.
In similar fashion, we keep in mind general sideboard utility options. Leyline of Sanctity could be strong in a White devotion deck if you want both halves of that effect.
This is a ton of investment, but turning a bunch of 1/1s into a bunch of 4/4 flying vigilance creatures can dominate a game, things might slow down and enchantment decks might end up being good at token generation. It's been almost good more than people realize.
I'm noting this one more as underappreciated than anything else. Its inclusion in Azorius Control felt like a huge upgrade and this card plays much better Magic than we give it credit for.
Gideon is another source of incidental lifegain triggers, which might come in handy, but it's more that we are likely to see double White decks and/or White devotion decks that can support him. He's strong for devotion and can sit easily behind Daxos while helping on a variety of fronts. We haven't seen much of him so far but that's only because White has not been competitive.
Heroic is making a comeback to combine with the existing supports, which already make a tier 2 strategy (okay, more like tier 3 strategy) that centers around Feather, the Redeemed. It makes sense to group the worthwhile enablers together to know where we are starting. Faerie Guidemother is another good White way to target if we get more aggressive, and provides a well-needed additional creature source to prevent super ugly draws. It's listed with the White flying package. Glaring Aegis is an example of a next card up if you need the effect badly enough and are sticking to White - if we're trying to win in four or five turns, perhaps the tempo swing here works.
If Oketra lives in a creature deck, the zombies will probably take over the game, and the body alone is an effective 6/6 already. Cuneo had it in his sideboard in Richmond, presumably with that in mind. Now that Oketra is not destined for elkhood, this is probably more currently neglected than waiting for the right help, but the right help would also be appreciated. The 5-drop devotion alternative is Cavalier of Dawn, which gives three pips and deals with permanents. I can see either one.
What would make this a thing? You get to count permanent types in your graveyard, so potentially this could be as easy as a turn four Niv-Mizzet Reborn followed by discarding the extra permanent types. Land, creature and enchantment is three types already. Then again, all of that seems horrible and completely unreasonable, and I'm hard pressed to actually think of what would get us anywhere close. It would probably start with good artifact mana so we could get a free extra card type, since we can likely get at least a few instants and sorceries and planeswalkers mixed in, but it's not realistic to go six for six. Another option would be to use food (and then maybe Witch's Oven) for the artifact, since we will need more lifegain anyway, but it's hard to see how this fits into a food engine. The whole 'need to be at an otherwise 16 or this does nothing' problem is the one that is almost certainly fatal, especially given how many shocklands we'd be forced to run even if land options improve.
Proliferate on a stick can run away with things if left unchecked. There hasn't been a good enough way to set up this effect, but it feels like the deck is at least halfway there, we just need more ways to take proper advantage. Green has a lot of good things to proliferate with, but one of them is Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig and you also would want Karn's Bastion, so mana help will probably be crucial to making this play.
This annoyed me greatly when I was trying to play Niv-Mizzet Reborn, which is always a good sign. If you can find good effects of your own that you wish to shut down, as opposed to the current best find which seems to be Clackbridge Troll, or come into play effects rise in importance, then suddenly things get a lot more interesting.
Get two flyers for three mana, one of which can double as removal. Not good enough now, but if the supports were better, then maybe? What other cheap White flyers feel good enough already? Healer's Hawk is likely fine as is Faerie Guidemother, Loyal Pegasus plays if you get serious enough, and Tomik, Distinguished Advokist can do some work. Tomik is also good at devotion and has an ability that could become relevant some day. That gives us up to five supports in White alone for Sephara, Sky's Blade, who is another member of the once a future Elk club waiting to make a comeback. We'll still be at least splashing Blue if we go here, but White could take on the primary color role if we wanted it to for whatever reason. And of course, if we have all the flyers anyway then Rally of Wings is sweet.
How badly do we want White token creatures? Who knows? Tithe Taker is also a way to annoy control or flash players.
The mana is harsh for what the Hero wants to be doing, and the types of enemy action are harsher, but this dominated once and many of the supports remain. There is no reason to presume it can't happen again.
If this didn't work at Peak Planeswalker, presumably it isn't going to work now as a five-mana spell that only draws two cards is asking too much. We can imagine a Fires of Invention shell where you would deploy both cards over this and next turn, or perhaps a Nissa, Who Shakes the World shell where you either find Nissa or play this after Nissa which gives you the mana to deploy the high end, perhaps Liliana, Dreadhorde General and Garruk, Cursed Huntsman. Alternatively, perhaps we get Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis and Ajani, the Greathearted if Nissa is already present, and suddenly we go completely insane in some sort of proliferate shell. Again, such things need help, but you never know.
Golems don't live on Theros, but we do flicker around these parts and you never know.
You'd never want to pay for this, but if we can cheat it into play on even a temporary basis and can crew it reliably, then there's a lot of payoff. Otherwise, ignore.
Planar Cleansing very much falls into underappreciated even with it being a centerpiece in Azorius Control. This card is bonkers good and people need to appreciate what it can do. Realm-Cloaked Giant is more of a card that isn't getting good opportunities yet but will have its chances later and I should probably be fitting that into my brawl deck.
This is an almost free extra heroic target, but with the downside that the creature does not stick around to enjoy the benefits. So we have to look for heroic things to do that don't mind or even want to return to hand, but this is already a pretty solid card so the threshold is not that high.
This is one of those places where you would love it if somehow both halves were relevant and it was hard to kill. Probably never happens, but maybe?
If we have lots of creatures and access to White this card is great, so always worth remembering it is around.
Blue has been appreciated quite well, as is usually the case, but still worth listing off some great pieces lying around.
Finding key cards has never been more important. I see players anywhere and everywhere not playing enough of such effects when they need them. Love these cards.
Good old-fashioned basic card drawing, represent.
I was surprised to see Finale of Revelation become a part of Azorius, since it seems so slow, but it gets the job done and doing it for ten became realistic. It can keep serving this role going forward if pure control remains a thing. Winged Words in particular is looking for one more good flyer.
The Elemental engine can make this a reasonable card, depending on exactly what you are up to. I doubt elementals get any help on Theros, but again mana is always a possibility at a minimum, and you'd love to be able to play more Cavaliers reliably.
The problem with Augur of Bolas is that a 1/3 is no longer a meaningful speed bump. Creatures got too absurd and left this behind. Then the final nail was half our spells technically being adventure cards. If the new wave of spells displaces the adventure cards, cards that trigger off of actual instants and sorceries can make a comeback. Pteromander, Bond of Insight and God-Eternal Kefnet have the same problems and similar potential opportunities. We can only hope for actual spell cards to be great again.
If you both want to proliferate or otherwise add counters and also want to be looting, then this is a very small investment to get such engines started. You have to want both halves badly but that doesn't seem impossible.
This found a roll in some Nexus of Fate lists as a spell that can be recursed later for a kill while being useful early in stalling the board. That is a use this can be put to again if another engine arises. The card isn't good for anything else.
I was asked on my stream why Pros don't play Clear the Mind. I explained it was too much mana for something that didn't have any impact for a while. But if this doubles as breaking up an opponents' escape engine, and we want games to go super long, then maybe?
The Simic Flash mirror seems like a non-insane place to try this. You get to ambush an attacker and gain card advantage, and strand the counters being held up, allowing you to go to six mana where you otherwise couldn't. I can also see it doing a similar thing in other places when there are control battles.
For a while this has been a better flash option than people have appreciated, although it lines up especially badly against Brazen Borrower, so that card's popularity would have to plummet. The value of surveil could go way up with the escape mechanic, so if bounce also goes up in value, playing this as an extra Brazen Borrower could become possible, although that implies Borrower is still good. Perhaps you can put it in Izzet where you can realistically kill any enemy Borrowers without much trouble.
Drowned Secrets is by far the best escape enabler coming into Theros. If you can keep your deck mostly or all Blue this is a big game. The trick will be having a deck that plays a good 'normal' game without Drowned Secrets while also taking proper advantage of Drowned Secrets if it shows up early. So far we've seen builds that are very good at taking advantage of Drowned Secrets to set up Creeping Chill and Arclight Phoenix, but that can't properly operate without it. Merfolk Secretkeeper is a backup plan for what happens when Drowned Secrets does not show up, combined with a one mana spell for Arclight Phoenix, that we'd hope to be able to improve upon and thus get away from.
When this works, it is a full removal spell plus a major clock. By default it is too vulnerable to be worthwhile, and it lines up terribly against much of what is out there right now, but there can easily be moments where this is devastating.
Emry is a huge game in older formats with better artifacts. Standard makes her life harder, and she remains a fringe card for now. But we already have The Great Henge, Witching Well, Golden Egg, Witch's Oven and the beginnings of a Steel Overseer engine, and food is plentiful to provide a discount. Cards with escape don't need to be artifacts to be happy about self-mill alone. There's a very good chance that Emry gets there thanks to Theros, perhaps in multiple ways.
I list Portal of Sanctuary here because it seems like it might be a way to turbocharge Emry if you have other cards also worth returning for their come into play effects, or to turbocharge such shenanigans in general. The Great Henge might also fit into that plan. Emry is a special case because she only costs one mana if things are going well. I don't suppose we can get her haste and use her twice per turn somehow.
This card has historically been massively overplayed. Unless you are making Mox Amber happen or somehow putting Fblthp into play from the library, the deal being offered seems quite awful. That does not mean that there can't be new ways to make this a good deal, but be skeptical.
This also has been overplayed, to the extent it has been played at all, but perhaps one will get the chance to make token copies of cheap cards in some fashion or otherwise reliably assemble multiple copies.
One Faerie Vandal trigger makes it acceptable. Two triggers makes it pretty sweet, if you are in the market for cheap creatures. Spectral Sailor, Opt, and Winged Words are currently the only good ways to trigger it in decks that still want the creature that much in the first place, unless you dip into Red or we find a way to use Faerie Miscreant. That does not seem like enough. If there was a heroic trigger that drew a card, that would potentially be a big game, and we are getting a curiosity variant in Azorius. So the flying deck could potentially play Spectral Sailor, Opt, Winged Words and Staggering Insight, which does seem like an exciting package for Faerie Vandal, and which gets us to up to twelve flash flyers if we wanted to make that who we are. Interesting. Hypnotic Sprite gets better if we are more into flashing.
As a format expands, the ability to tutor tends to improve. Some better wish targets would make me more inclined to run the wish engine in Fires of Invention decks, or perhaps even elsewhere, than I have been so far. In particular I'd love a four or 5-drop that does a better job of dominating and/or cleaning up the board, especially in decks that can't access a lot of White mana for Time Wipe or Kaya's Wrath. Getting Nicol Bolas at five as the generic plan is fine for now, but it feels like we should be able to do better.
These might get much worse rather than better, if opponents can use their graveyard size as a resource to be spent. But if most opponents don't do that, then the extra utility of milling cards starts to make these cards more exciting. They're already very strong in the right shell, with the problem being that the shell isn't providing enough in the way of messed up Magic, which escape has the potential to change. You're counting on wanting to use the mechanic without opponents wanting to also use it, which is a narrow window to go through, but it is not so implausible.
Jace only makes sense when you are in the self-decking business reasonably often, and won't accidentally kill the opponent before that happens. Alternatively, you need to get a lot of benefit from the self-mill and otherwise have this be a great fit, but I'm deeply skeptical of that path. Elemental Simic ramp engines are currently the only serious way to make this card interesting, but if Drowned Secrets becomes a thing for various reasons, and/or Lochmere Serpent starts removing people's win conditions from their yards more often, Jace starts to come back into consideration more.
Veil of Summer remains banned, so this will be a strong high end option for decks that can ramp and support this level of Blue, and need a finisher. Simic Elemental Ramp seems to be happy to kill with End-Raze Forerunners in that slot instead for now, and no one else can support the mana requirement, but that's because the land situation is terrible. Give us better lands, and suddenly a lot more decks can cast this on six and get interested.
This is a fine idea that pays off handsomely after a while, without too much extra investment, so we can't count it out, but it does not solve any of your real problems in time while being unwieldy mana acceleration. In the places it would be good, it is helping where a deck does not need the help. I don't see that changing, unless we start getting into fog or time walk modes. So keep an eye out for those.
Mu has been underplayed and underappreciated, but even properly appreciated has always lacked a good obvious home outside of Temur Walkers. The +2 ability has more upside than it looks like it does in many situations, and once you get the 4/4 you've already gotten your money's worth unless it is bounced. If mana improves to help this deploy turn two off of Arboreal Grazer and Gilded Goose more reliably then this starts doing a better Oko impression.
The question here is whether self-mill becomes a thing for other reasons, which would bring Narcomoeba back into the mix, but you'd still need some reason to want the 1/1 flyer beyond mundane utility, or it won't be worth the deck slot even then. There are too many other good things to try and flip over otherwise.
The gold standard target has for a while been Risen Reef or Cavalier of Thorns with additional options. If we can find other 3-drops that have great payoffs for duplication, this would once again become super interesting, and I keep almost putting this in other decks. The other route is heroic, as this gives us a trigger and then sets up another copy so future spells might even get multiple triggers. The mana to make this work with Feather, the Redeemed is beyond prohibitive, so we won't get to live that dream unless we get a ton of help or we're doing some monstrosity that uses Fires of Invention.
In case there is a trigger that does something huge, especially something your own card does that you'd prefer to avoid.
This could potentially be a great devotion card, and at some point might come down for only three mana on a reliable basis. Like many other cards enabled by spells, it needs to have spells be real spells, which kept it extra safely out of the Drowned Secrets decks this cycle. I don't see how this becomes something that works, as it is reasonably slow and difficult to set up, but there's obvious potential here.
Old reliable is always available.
Consider where else this might go.
Ayara seems, like the entire rest of the cycle, tailor made for a devotion deck. The deck already exists without any devotion cards and is solidly tier two, so let's see what the devotion cards are and adjust the rest of the deck accordingly.
Priest of Forgotten Gods has been a trap card for a long time, being almost good enough and tempting players into playing bad decks. Now the Gods will perhaps be properly remembered. The problem with Priest is that while Priest is awesome in the decks that play it, the rest of the deck is not, so a few upgrades to Black would be a big help even if they don't directly enhance the value of her activated ability all that much. They could easily make the ability worse, by making the loss of Black devotion matter.
Rakdos knight decks have been solid contenders for best aggro deck for a while. To stay near the top they will need help, as the mono-color competitors will no doubt get a bunch of help to compete with them, and Black Knights on their own don't have enough good payoff. Knight of the Ebon Legion however is generically good and will be played in every Black creature deck that doesn't have a theme that rules it out, until Standard rotates.
Dead Weight and Disfigure, which will potentially be joined by Mire's Grasp, provide options for early turn removal in Black that aren't too horrible. Epic Downfall is for later turns and probably is slightly underplayed at the moment.
Bleeding Edge has always struck me as a fine deal in search of good targets. If the targets come around, count me in, even if Murderous Rider seems like stiff competition. Murderous Rider is certainly the gold Standard and not going anywhere for a long time.
Noxious Grasp will remain a quality sideboard card that keeps things in balance if something goes amiss, now with the ability to target actual White cards.
If counters become a big enough deal this could be a thing. It kills or cripples many things including any incoming Hydras, although it does not stop Nissa, Who Shakes the World. It is possible that this will be an effect we want.
Every now and then I see a lifegain deck that crushes a game with Bolas's Citadel, but they also manage to get Bolas's Citadel into play at a high life total so it isn't clear how much work the Citadel is doing. In some cases it does steal otherwise unwinnable games, but it seems like the majority of them were already in the bag. The question is whether we can either build a sustainable way to gain life while playing cards off our library, hopefully plus a way to dispose of lands when we find them there, and whether this will actually win us games. Black devotion previously had a drain effect that would help us a lot here, so it's reasonable to look for another one. Alternatively we could look into White, which would give us a very clear path but also make casting the Citadel exceedingly difficult unless we made casting the White spells tricky. Lot of potential here in any case.
Command the Dreadhorde involves paying life up front but in exchange you get a truly dominant set of cards, essentially everything good that's died the whole game up to a sufficient level to end one, provided the opponent is not in the habit of attacking you. That's going to remain a great way to finish things off and an excellent wish target.
It's also likely a great pairing with Bolas's Citadel since a deck that can maintain a high life total into that range can use either effect, but that presumes we want enough high end finishers that we can't just go with more copies of the better one without risking bad duplication.
You sacrifice a creature at the front but likely get it or something better back on the other end, so there's always been good value here. The problem has been the competition, and getting a heavy Black deck interested in 5-drops at all, both of which are rather stiff asks. Good devotion payoffs could change all that. I'm not sure what else can.
Always remember what the reanimation options are. Five mana is a lot, but getting to choose on resolution with the option to find new good targets is at least some upside, as is the +1/+1 counter. We'll need this to be a backup play rather than the main event if this is going to work, but it seems acceptable as part of a dynamic graveyard engine. We'll need something worth hitting, more ways to return things and likely some extra milling as well, but all of it might fit what Theros is about.
There are some lousy ways to dodge the trigger. Suppose we had better ones and we could usually get an 8/8 creature with haste and trample for. That certainly seems relevant to our interests, just not enough above rate to justify a ton of work or a card that often won't function that way. If there was one we-get-the-effect-for-free card that we'd want to play anyway, that might be enough if we could also justify Hushbringer. If we can't justify Hushbringer, we'll likely need more upside than that, but then again it's not like 3 life and a card each turn is that bad a return for five mana.
If self-mill becomes more of a thing that naturally leads into Creeping Chill. I think this is good as a payoff if you're going crazy to the point of imitating a dredge strategy, but terrible if you fall even a little short of that, so the question is whether Going Full Self-Mill gets some impactful help.
These are not great sweepers we are working with here, but they will serve in many pinches. I am everywhere more inclined to count on Ritual of Soot than Cry of the Carnarium, as Cry will often miss the cards you want to hit most, whereas Ritual of Soot can hit surprisingly large 3-drops. I expect that trend to continue, but perhaps things will change.
Finale of Eternity is a sleeper pick, especially if you need the effect to be one-sided. When it works, it is devastating, plus in theory someday it will be cast with X of 10, although today is not that day.
Witch's Vengeance depends on the decks you want to hit being tribal, so we'll see if that happens.
Massacre Girl, where she works, is the ultimate trump card, wiping the board and giving you a solid creature afterward. The risk of not working keeps her from getting too popular, but the threat of Massacre Girl is a big discouragement to go-wide aggressive strategies, and a strong defense for decks that would otherwise be vulnerable to them. It's going to be important for any Black deck to think whether they have the support necessary for Massacre Girl.
I keep trying this in the sideboard of various decks, and often it's quite good when played against me. It always ends up being cut out because the places where it is good do not seem especially important, slash games are decided too quickly and where this would be good, it often wouldn't be good enough to turn things around. If there were enough other good ways to lean on card count, this gets more interesting, and it was certainly worth having access to in Doom Foretold decks. The brief wave of anti-cantrip died out because the deck is terrible and doesn't do anything, as opposed to the old Esper model which does things but does them slowly and unreliably, but there is a good chance that Davriel finds a home as a way to pick up extra card advantage and fully empty enemy hands.
If we get good escape cards, then that adds an extra dimension to what Doom Whisperer can do for you, and the body only stopped being a threat because of Oko. Cavalier of Night will be the competition in devotion, so the escape deck that plays Doom Whisperer probably ends up being distinct from the heavy devotion deck, to the extent each exists at all. Worth remembering that 6/6 remains the sweet spot for quickly taking out Nissa, looks good against the Blue flyers in Jeskai and versus the adventure creatures that are everywhere, and generally plays fine Magic.
Getting more Zombies or Armies seems highly unlikely, but a good use for a stream of sacrifice fodder is always plausible. This is also an enchantment for constellation decks that ensures you'll always have a creature in play, and it occurs to me it plays quite well with Divine Visitation. Lazotep Reaver is the safer and more direct way to get sacrifice fodder.
Last time we visited Theros we got Thoughtseize. That better not happen again. We still have good discard for when we want it, especially if we reliably deal damage. Drill Bit gets more exciting, like many things, if our lands improve, since that makes dealing damage on turn two or three also more reliable.
Specter's Shriek is the Black devotion mirror card you never knew anyone would ever want, in case anyone ever wants one.
If Black aggression gets there, this is where it starts. We have two great 1-drops available. One never dies, the other grows scary large in multiple ways. The problem has always been how to finish the deck that starts that way. Foulmire Knight is a third 1-drop I have zero problems running, even if we don't care about Knights. It's unfortunate that it doesn't actually help us with enabling Blacklance Paragon.
If we're serious about our knights and our adventures, we can use these to go deeper. Order of Midnight can also be part of plenty of other potential engines. The default is that the whole Knight play is purely parasitic and will get zero help aside from mana fixing, but if that does not happen, it's worth keeping in mind how close the deck is already.
This is another card that keeps almost happening. You do get six mana worth of stuff for five mana if you hit all three, but the amount of hoops required to get them is high and the value in the late game of early drops is usually low, whereas the deck that can play enough cheap stuff wants a much more impactful big payoff. What would change that? A game-winning combo this can bring back would do it, or perhaps a series of coming into play effects that could all trigger on each other for huge value.
Escape could easily make graveyards worth going after. And as with all the other leylines, if devotion is serious business, this is two for free at game start.
Liliana's fine. You can do better. She'll get more interesting if there are plausible scenarios where you really get someone with the -4, or real decks that can't beat her, but if they can't beat her they can't actually beat anything else, so I doubt there's much prospect that she'll finally get her moment in this incarnation.
We likely already hit peak Midnight Reaper, as it is at its best in the cat engine and in the Knight deck, and it isn't great against aggression. That doesn't mean there couldn't be a new engine where things constantly die. The most likely candidate is a Black devotion deck built around Ayara, which could easily get turbocharged from its present form.
Vampires would need a lot of support before this once more became a thing, and I see no reason to expect it, but it's worth noting.
Pestilent Spirit creates wrath effects from much smaller effects. Right now, there are no such effects that are worth playing, but if one did show up and could combine with solid one or two mana burn spells, and there were targets worth hitting, this could become interesting.
Rankle plays solid Magic, but right now none of the three abilities or the exact size on offer are appealing. That could all change. Rankle could get support in the sense that you might want to discard cards or the sacrifice engine might get stronger, but the bigger thing to look out for is a shift in other cards played to where a 3/3 flyer is a better place to be, or people care more about preserving all the cards in their hand.
Mana has kept Spawn of Mayhem down. Good Black aggressive decks wanted to play Red and usually Tournament Grounds, which meant this wasn't reliably castable. That turns on its head with Black devotion, if an aggressive version makes sense, or if the lands improve this simply becomes castable in regular builds, and provides a big boost in threat level. I love what this does in play if you can get it down when you want to.
The best Limited uncommon is worth keeping an eye on even when it does not look like much. Five mana is a lot, and activating him is very slow, and all that, and competition is very stiff, this is all true, but there is certainly potential for this to add up fast if Black gets an absurd mana engine especially if that combines with good escape fodder.
There is a lot of work to be done, but if you do it then you get to pay two mana for the chance to continuously reanimate everything in your yard. Your creatures can't die and come back, but you can still do self-mill to set up more fodder. No one has found a way to make this work yet, but looking at it I'm tempted to try to brew up something now. We can start with Emry, Lurker of the Lock, since that can mill both this and additional creatures (and artifacts). The biggest problem right now is that the creatures you are bringing back are not all that great. End-Raze Forerunners seems like the clear winner, or Villis, Broker of Blood. Agent of Treachery has its charms as does Harmonious Archon. Lochmere Serpent is good to mill. Izoni, Thousand-Eyed is a wild card if we're doing the work. Or perhaps we just recur Cavalier of Thorns a lot, which then mills us more copies of things. I don't want to do work for something that dies to Murderous Rider with no upside.
This definitely feels like the kind of deck that can get nasty quickly if it gets some help, with a better reanimation target being at the top of the wish list.
Teferi, Time Raveler, Ashiok, Dream Render, and Planar Cleansing are three great targets that already exist, because all three stop the opponent from using the Talisman. Another great idea I keep meaning to use is Trostani, since you then get to make the other two wishes, but the mana does not work at present. There are also a lot of places where them using the Talisman is not that scary since that means you get to use it twice. It has more been a matter of time, and of finding the right shell in which to place this, since Doom Foretold decks have underperformed so much in general. If our flexibility opens up, or we get more good things to fetch, watch out. This is a sleeper for sure.
Nyxthos is exactly the type of card this wants to see, where you get to enable it early and then get mana pumped into it late. Even then, it's a big reach, given power levels involved, but certainly if you want a bridge to establish your devotion on turn two you can do far worse.