Theros Beyond Death is here and it’s time to start digging into which cards are going to be playable in each Constructed format. Theros is very nostalgic for me, the original Theros was the first time I really started to look at Magic competitively. Naturally, I am very excited to return to this plane.
Theros Beyond Death hits it out of the park with new cards that will likely be Standard all-stars, as well as a handful of cards likely to see play in Pioneer and Modern. There are numerous cards that already stand out, but I will be going over my Top 10 Constructed cards for Theros.
Heliod-Sun Crowned is the first card I’m going to touch on because there is a ton of hype around this card. Most of this hype comes from the allure of the two-card-combo between this card and Walking Ballista in Pioneer. Give Walking Ballista Lifelink with Heliod’s ability, remove a counter from Walking Ballista, gain a life and put a +1/+1 counter on Walking Ballista, then rinse and repeat.
I’m a huge fan of two-card-combos like this that can exist in fair decks (unban Splinter Twin), and I think this combo will likely see play in Pioneer. I don’t think something like this is too powerful for Pioneer, so I don’t see a ban incoming either.
I could also see Heliod potentially slotting into Modern decks, like Devoted Devastation, however here I think it could be a little “win-more”. I’m skeptical that this combo will be very good in Modern outside of Devoted Druid or Collected Company decks. It’s difficult to make Heliod a powerful card in such a high-powered format. That said, there’s definitely some, “oops, I win” potential here.”
It wouldn’t be a Theros set if all of the most powerful cards were Gods, right? Moving to Standard, Erebos, Black-Hearted takes a spot in my Top 10 for slotting well into the already established archetype of Jund Sacrifice.
An additional sacrifice outlet, card advantage and the ability to kill creatures — Erebos has everything that a Jund Sacrifice players wants in a card. While Erebos would likely solely function as an enchantment the majority of the time, the synergies within the deck make it worth considering dedicating one or two spots for this card.
I don’t want to dedicate all of my Top slots to the Gods even though I can see all of them represented in Constructed formats. So I’m putting Klothys, God of Destiny as my last God in the Top 10 because she is both a new character and doesn’t necessarily slot into any Tier 1 deck in Standard currently. Klothys definitely has the potential to push the Gruul Aggro archetype further than it has been during this Standard season because of her cheap mana cost, dealing two damage per turn and she’s relatively easy to turn into a creature because of her ability to ramp. I envision a Gruul Aggro deck utilizing powerful old cards like Embercleave and Gruul Spellbreaker alongside the new cards, including Klothys and Gallia of the Endless Dance.
Three mana gods are just good, Thassa taught us that, and this is now exception.
There are two Titans in Theros Beyond Death that highlight the new mechanic — Escape. Both Titans seem very powerful, however Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath takes the cake for me. Simic colours have constantly gotten powerful cards printed in the last year, and Uro fits into many of those established archetypes flawlessly. A three mana Growth Spiral that gains you three life and eventually turns into a 6/6 with the same ability can be back-breaking in multiple formats.
In Standard, Uro slots into the Simic Ramp deck flawlessly — especially considering that Cavalier of Thorns fuels the Escape mechanic for free . Additionally, I can see Uro enabling some new archetypes such as a Temur or Sultai Midrange. Mono-Green Ramp is currently a powerful strategy in Pioneer, and I definitely see that archetype expanding to Simic colors to make a spot for Uro. Even the five colour Niv-Mizzet decks have started to incorporate Uro into their early game.
Modern is a little up in the air; if the Simic Titan decks are still strong after Theros release, Uro could definitely find a home there. It’s usually pretty easy to find room for a powerful threat that just, never, dies.
Polukranos, Unchained is another powerful card that highlights the new Escape mechanic. This card appears to be extremely powerful, specifically in Standard. A 6/6 for four mana is already just good on-rate, and the rest of the text box makes me more confident that Polukranos will be played in Standard. You can effectively fight all of your opponent’s creatures until your Polukranos dies, then you can bring it back for its Escape cost — and then it’s a 12/12!
Theros Beyond Death showcases three planeswalkers, and two stood out to me as Constructed playable. The first one is Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis. I’ve seen a lot of people underestimate the strength of Elspeth, and I think that largely has to do with not seeing the Escape mechanic in action yet. A planeswalker that is nearly impossible to get rid of permanently is extraordinarily strong. Additionally, she can create creatures to block attacks at her directly and planeswalkers that can defend themselves well are always strong in Standard.
We are finally seeing strong white cards being printed into Standard, so maybe 2020 is the year of white? I can definitely see Elspeth being relevant in Standard.
The second planeswalker that caught my eye in Theros Beyond Death is Ashiok, Nightmare Muse. I might be a little biased on this one because I love Dimir colors, but I can see Ashiok having a significant impact in Standard. Dimir Control decks have been floating around every so often in Standard, but they all had the problem of not having very many effective win-cons, and Ashiok brings that to the archetype. There’s also Esper Hero, a proven midrange threat that very recently lost it’s top-end threat when Teferi, Hero of Dominaria rotated.
The +1 and -7 abilities on Ashiok obviously play very well together and create a very powerful win-con. Additionally a 2/3 every turn isn’t a negligible board presence. However, what really stood out to me as a game-changer was the -3 ability. Dimir colours historically have a difficult time dealing with problematic enchantments. With Theros being built around enchantment themes, being able to combat those is some way is likely to be relevant for the Dimir decks out there. I don’t see Ashiok seeing play outside of Standard, but I’m very inclined to try to make Ashiok work there.
Finally turning away from Mythic Rares, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove is likely to be a multi-format all-star. Playing additional lands has become a staple of green cards, but what makes Dryad so powerful is that it also doubles as a Prismatic Omen AND has four toughness, meaning it is fairly difficult to remove.
This card slots well into any green ramp deck in both Standard and Pioneer. In Modern, this card can be a consideration in Amulet Titan decks worried about Damping Sphere, but likely a true powerhouse in TitanShift decks because of the ability to ramp into a Titan and establish easier lethal Valakut triggers.
Thassa’s Intervention is a nice pick up for blue decks in Pioneer because of the versatility of the card. Plus, the current counter-suite in the format is just a little under-powered. Any upgrades to the current options are definitely something to take note of when it comes to control in Pioneer.
This card can easily replace some of the weaker counterspells in the Azorius Control deck , as well as create a spot for other blue decks to take hold in the format. When it comes to Standard, this card could likely be added to Simic Flash as well as more currently undiscovered archetypes.
This final card choice may come as a surprise, as Selesyna has not been a serious contender in Standard since rotation, but Bronzehide Lion does a nice Fleecemane Lion impression at two mana. A 3/3 creature for two mana that can gain indestructible is no laughing matter as we know. Additionally, Bronzehide Lion’s ability gives off “backwards Bestow” vibes from original Theros, so I appreciate the nod to the old mechanic there.
This card is likely only going to see play in Standard, but I could also see a new archetype being developed in Pioneer in the future. Obviously a new deck would have to emerge for this card to be playable in Standard, but it is a very good start to Selesyna decks. Remember how dominant Selesnya Tokens was in Standard with Gideon? Well all of that still exists in Pioneer AND can support the Heliod combo.
Theros has started putting the colour white on the right track to become a contender in Standard again.
I am very excited to see where all these new Theros cards take us in the various Constructed formats. Many of the cards seem powerful enough to break into eternal formats, as well as the potential to shake up the current Standard meta significantly. I’m most excited to see the impacts of the new sets in Standard and Pioneer – especially with the first ever Pioneer PT coming up! Happy brewing!