Welcome back to my set review! If you missed the previous installments, check them out:
Here’s the ratings system I’ll be using:
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. Azorius Charm.
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Naturalize. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.)
1.0: It has seen play once. One with Nothing. (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card’s color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I’m playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I’ll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)
You’d be wise to avoid this, especially with Gods Willing in the format. Protection from a color is much more valuable than +2/+2, as is costing half the mana.
There is an interesting tension when it comes to combat tricks and auras in Theros. On the one hand, the heroic mechanic means that these effects get better, as they can trigger all sorts of cool effects. Sometimes you will play even the very mediocre targeting effects, just so you can turn normal mortals into heroic warriors. On the other hand, bestow cards and all of the combat tricks compete for space, and you really can’t play 8 creature-targeting effects and 11 creatures in a deck. So, even though Battlewise Valor is a strong trick and one I’d almost always expect to play in a normal set, I can see leaving it out here if I end up with enough bestow cards (which are almost universally awesome).
If you are in a bad spot and hoping for the cavalry to arrive, you are about to be disappointed. The aggressive decks that want this effect can get 2/1’s for one with great abilities, and don’t need to horse around with 1/1’s for two
In a land of good Auras, sometimes a 1/1 flier can be awesome, especially if you have a couple of humans that want to bum a ride. In a more human-heavy deck, this becomes awesome, so the combination of humans and auras gives Cavalry Pegasus a lot of outs to see play. I wouldn’t just run it arbitrarily, and I suspect people are going to overvalue it, but it’s one of those variable-value cards that makes Limited much more interesting.
Bestow dodges a lot of the pitfalls auras usually face in Constructed, which may widen their range to more than “put this on a Gladecover Scout”. It does require you to actually want the base body, which is tenuous at best for Celestial Archon, so my interest here more lies in the possibility of using this as an expensive trump in creature stalls. There are probably enough sweet expensive things that Archon doesn’t quite make it, but the split card of the 4/4 and the +4/+4 (with an implied 4/4 later) is powerful.
Not only does this turn a creature into a gamewinner in one fell swoop, if the opponent does deal with your monster, you get a 4/4 flying first striker as a consolation prize. Even if you don’t hit seven mana, just casting this as a creature is awesome.
Chained to the Rocks
I feel Chained to the Rocks might peak early, if only because it’s so strong that cards like Peak Eruption were put in the same set to limit its power. In a solid RW deck, or a red deck splashing it, Chained to the Rocks is the most efficient removal spell we’ve seen since Path to Exile, and that’s saying something. The drawback here is pretty horrendous, opening you up to a 2 for 1 if your land gets blown up and still making cards like Abrupt Decay into huge liabilities. The power level here is high enough that I think this will be a consideration across many decks and formats, but the power comes with a price. I like the idea of this in a Modern Zoo deck, particularly because of how ineffective land destruction is against decks like that (as well as how easy it is to guarantee you will have a Mountain in play at all times). If the spotlight is focused elsewhere, Chained to the Rocks is a strong card to remember, but I have the fear of getting my Mountains destroyed in a blaze of fire.
While this is clearly a card that costs RW, it is close enough to a Terminate that it’s more than worth the awkward cost. Enchantments are much riskier in this set than normal, much like artifacts in Mirrodin block (either of them), but that doesn’t make Chained to the Rocks horrible or anything like that. It is worth considering siding it out if you are low on enchantments and your opponent has multiple removal spells, which is also something true of any enchantment. This set more than most rewards clever sideboarding, and if you only have 1-3 enchantments maindeck, siding them into slightly worse non-enchantments can leave your opponent stuck with useless enchantment removal.
Chosen by Heliod
Heliod may have chosen you, but I certainly will not. Even replacing itself doesn’t make this good enough for Constructed, where mana, more than cards, is the limiting factor.
The creature count warning applies, but if you have a couple slots for targeted spells, I’d generally choose this. Cantripping is always nice, and triggering heroic is a bonus to a card I’d usually play anyway. This is excellent filler, though not something I’d usually look to pick up early.
If heroic is relying on cards like this to make it work, I have to break it to you: it won't.
Even at 50% more expensive, Symbiosis is a great combat trick. Sometimes it's just a one for one with 2 extra damage thrown in, but often it will be so much more than that.
You could paper your room with this and call it Decoration Griffin, but that’s about the only use I can come up with.
I don’t think most decks will be lacking in high end, making the Griffin a little lackluster. Though the ability isn’t bad, paying five mana for a 2/3 flier is, so you have to really need mana sinks to want this.
This card may have been reprinted, but my verdict hasn’t changed.
Removal that can kill large creatures is in high demand in this format, so I’d almost always be happy playing at least one Divine Verdict. Its usefulness does fall off quickly against good players, which is certainly something to consider. Still, if you don’t have a way to kill a 7/7, I see no way to avoid running this.
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
It feels like we’ve been living in a Planeswalker-light Standard over the last few months. Domri has been seeing a lot of play, but besides that, the scattered Garruk, Jace, and Sorin sightings are few and far between. Elspeth may not single-handedly change that, but she’s still strong enough to see a good amount of play.
Getting three tokens a turn while ticking up makes Elspeth very hard to kill, and most creatures that can threaten her walk right into her -3 ability. Stormbreath Dragon is fairly strong, but past that, there aren’t very many creatures that can go toe to toe with the Sun’s Champion and live to tell the tale.
If you do manage to get an emblem, hopefully you have a Curse of the Swine in your deck, but even if you don’t, it’s still pretty good. It’s no Domri Emblem, but Elspeth comes with her own army, so it will often be more than enough.
Six mana is a lot, so I don’t expect Elspeth to be a 4-of, or even a 3-of most of the time. I do think that many of the controllish white decks are going to look to her to finish things off, and she does fit nicely into the plan many midrange decks have.
Not only is Elspeth nigh-unkillable on the ground, she effectively assassinates almost anything that could potentially threaten her. Add all that to the fact that this set has a much higher than normal proportion of giant creatures and you have a certified bomb.
Besides a stunning similarity to Natalie Portman, there isn’t much going on here.
How bad can a tapper be and still be playable? This feels like the updated version of Ember Shot, which certainly pushed the boundary for removal spells. As it turns out, even though Ephara’s Warden can’t tap monstrous creatures or those that have been bestowed powers, she still does her thing well enough to see play. I wouldn’t want many copies, and I wouldn’t hesitate to side her out, but she still does provide a good amount of control over the flow of the game.
Evangel of Heliod
I’m a big fan of Cloudgoat Ranger (though not the biggest; Cedric can probably lay claim to that), but Evangel of Heliod is no Cloudgoat Ranger. Costing one more and making an inconsistent amount of soldiers is tough, even if that number is sometimes much greater. Part of the problem with some of the devotion cards is that they pay you off when you already are doing well, which doesn’t make them good comeback cards. The decks that would use Evangel the best are often vulnerable to Supreme Verdict to begin with, and having Evangel produce the most value when Verdict is a beating is unfortunate. This is a strong combo with Spear of Heliod, and that might be enough to side in Evangel if you expect a lack of sweepers and a big board stall.
In the worst case scenario, Evangel of Heliod still brings three creatures to the table, and it isn’t hard to make sure you get quite a few more than that. Against non-evasive monstrous/bestow creatures, putting out three or four 1/1’s can be a very good solution, and there are enough ways to take advantage of this that I’m a fan of the card.
Silverblade Paladin has put in some hours, and even if Fabled Hero doesn’t have pseudo-haste, it still threatens to do a lot of damage. The lack of Rancor hurts, as apparently Paladins and Heroes are at their best when the hate is flowing through their bodies. Even without Rancor, there are a ton of heroic enablers, and Fabled Hero could be a good three-drop for the deck that is all-in on targeting its own creatures.
Even without heroic, a 2/2 double-striker for three is great, and Fabled Hero is much more than that. This not only threatens a ton of damage with a combat trick, it just does a ton even if you don’t do anything, making it a must-block later in the game.
While this isn’t quite Soldier of the Pantheon, it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump away. If this reliably hits two power by turn three or so, it’s worth the investment, and later the prevention ability becomes more relevant once the creatures get larger.
You don’t really want to be blowing combat tricks on turn two or three, but hitting for 1 damage is fairly anemic. Later in the game, growing by one just isn’t that exciting, and overall I’d avoid favoring this when it comes to what you end up playing.
Gift of Immortality
I don’t know what matchup this is good in, but it’s strange and powerful enough for it to be possible that there is one. Enough removal exiles these days that I’m skeptical, so use at your own risk.
Gift of Immortality has all the drawbacks of bestow without any of the advantages. It’s still an aura, still requires a target, but doesn’t even stop the 2 for 1 when you get Griptided into oblivion. It isn’t the worst maindeck card, but I’d be more prone to side it in against an opponent without bounce or exile cards.
Glare of Heresy
Once again, the cycle of color hosers has some nice cards. Getting rid of a white permanent for good is especially relevant in the world of indestructible gods, and just giving white a solid removal spell is nice. This is flexible enough and powerful enough to earn sideboard space, even if it is pretty far from a maindeck card.
It isn’t heresy to call this an awesome sideboard card and a borderline unplayable maindeck one. The only reason I even say “borderline” is that some sealed formats skew heavily towards certain colors, and it’s possible white is one of them (but I make no claims one way or the other).
You get a lot of value for one mana here, and that’s even without taking any heroic shenanigans into account. Countering a removal spell or winning a creature combat is powerful, and the addition of Scry 1 makes me pretty interested in casting this (or at least figuring out how to beat the decks that want to cast this). Plus, heroic is a real thing, and if there is a good heroic deck, I’d be shocked if it didn’t play four Gods Willing.
There’s nothing better than moving in on a huge play and having a card like this in your hand, whether that play is activating monstrous, bestowing an aura, or just casting your 6-drop bomb. Putting the shields up for one mana is incredible, and the use of Gods Willing isn’t even restricted to that, as it’s also good to burn early to win a brawl of 2-drops. There are some diminishing returns with this, and against removal-light decks maybe it’s not insane, but I’d take this early and play as many as I could pick up.
Heliod, God of the Sun
I feel like Supreme Verdict just got a whole lot less effective. Not only does Heliod bash for a ton of damage once you have a good board, he lets you crank out a post-Wrath army with ease. Add in his Spear and you have a two-pronged threat that is resistant to most removal. Vigilance may not be the best, but it’s still relevant, and like most gods, Heliod looks like a great card if the board ever gets stalled (as well as contributing heavily to the possibility of that happening). The gods look awesome to play with, and all of them are going to have a good impact on Constructed.
Heliod is one of the best gods when you don’t have much going on, which is normally when the gods are at their weakest. He doesn’t need followers, he creates them! In any sort of close race, vigilance becomes very relevant, and needless to say, a 5/7 can certainly turn the tables.
Some of the bestow cards are a big game, but this one isn’t really worth hunting.
Just casting the Emissary is great, making this one of the bestow cards that spends more of its time in creature form. A 3/3 that taps their best creature is very hard to block, and if you ever do manage to land it as an aura, there’s no way you are losing that monster in combat.
Even if Spirit Link occasionally sees play in Modern hexproof, I’m not hopeful that this will. Paying four for the aura version is just too much, despite the card advantage possibilities.
Dropping this on a 4/4, trading it off, and getting five points of life and a 1/1 lifelink out of the deal is pretty nice, and sometimes you even get multiple hits in. If you don’t have any big creatures, this certainly loses some of its luster, but it’s hard to avoid getting at least a couple high drops.
As much of a joke as the card looks like, what with the awesome and insane card text, I actually think Hundred-Handed One (100H1, if you like initials) has some legs when it comes to Constructed. A 3/5 for four isn’t the worst deal, and it can completely shut down the opponent’s offense if they aren’t prepared to deal with him.
Not only is this undercosted to begin with, it turns into an absolute beast once you get to six mana. You suffer the same risk of tempo loss as with any monstrous creature, but at least this halts their offense if it does survive.
In this case, I’d advise against getting the band back together. Centaur Healer does this much more efficiently and reliably.
A Warpath Ghoul isn’t the worst fail case, and you do end up gaining the life fairly often here. It’s not exciting regardless, but you have to fill out your curve somehow (is what BenS keeps telling me, at least).
Take that, Voice of Resurgence! If you don’t care about the opponent’s life total, and many control decks don’t, having a reliable way to interact early and kill opposing Voices is very valuable. Last Breath isn’t the most powerful card, but what it does do is specific and unique enough that it is certainly going to see play.
I’d be surprised if I ever cut all my Last Breaths from my maindeck, but I can see only playing one to begin with. It misses often enough that it can be a liability, and giving the opponent four life is often quite relevant.
When you are getting one-mana 2/1’s with protection from many of the relevant creatures in the format, it’s hard to get trapped into playing two-mana 2/1’s with marginal abilities.
In most formats, this would warrant at least a 2.5, but Theros is shaping up to be slow enough that I don’t know if you want a 2/1 for two all that often. It’s probably still decent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was not the format for Leonin Snarecaster.
They alseid I was crazy for running this terrible card, but look who’s laughing now?
Them, at me.
This reminds me of Dragon Scales, and if you ever drafted Onslaught-Legions-Scourge, you know that’s a good thing. Vigilance becomes very desirable once you have a giant creature out, and bestow ensures exactly that. This even leaves behind a 2/2 once things get messy, which is also pretty nice. Plus, sometimes you just need to play a creature on turn three, and Observant Alseid also does that.
Ordeal of Heliod
Boy, they weren’t kidding when they called these ordeals. Having to attack three times is a tough sell, even if 10 life is the prize at the end of the rainbow. Unfortunately, any matchup where you want 10 life is going to be a matchup where you can’t really afford to attack three times before getting that life.
The ordeals are like the opposite of the bestow cards. They are just as vulnerable as normal auras to getting 2 for 1’ed, and instead of a bonus they make you wait a bunch of turns before the real payoff shows up. I don’t think 10 life is enough of a reward, as large as the number 10 is.
As a potential Glorious Anthem on legs, Phalanx Leader could be the 2-drop the heroic deck is looking for. This is an actual payoff, one that could justify building a deck around the mechanic, and even if Phalanx Leader starts small, the upside is high enough to be worth exploring.
Unless you’ve managed to draft a deck with almost no enablers, Phalanx Leader will be a glorious addition. With this in play, every trick becomes awesome, and even if you don’t have anything, your opponent will have to respect the fact that you will. I might even be tempted to side this in against removal-heavy decks when I’m light on tricks, just because of how much of a target it has on its back.
Ray of Dissolution
I hope it doesn’t come to this, especially given that this doesn’t deal with gods at all. I’m not sure why Rays kill enchantments, but two makes a theme to me.
Playing up to two enchantment removal maindeck seems reasonable in this format, especially sealed. In most formats, this would be a strict sideboard card, but here I like playing it main and siding it out when appropriate.
Scholar of Athreos
Civilized Scholar this is not, which I’m sure makes everyone disappointed. This is also not playable, but that’s less relevant.
Sometimes you need a Horned Turtle, though less in this format than most. The activated ability isn’t too relevant, though it can justify the Scholar in edge cases if you are BW.
Setessan Battle Priest
What is exactly is so heroic about gaining 2 life?
I wouldn’t mind siding this in if you want a 1/3 for two, but the heroic payoff is low enough that it’s barely worth mentioning.
I’ve played bad cards, but if you settle for this, you are in real trouble.
In a GW deck, this is a very strong attacker. I’d hesitate to play it in a non-green deck, but sometimes a 3-power flier is still worth it, especially if you have some good auras.
At least Shuhei will be happy. It’s also funny that this is of a higher power level in this set because of the second white mana symbol, thanks to devotion.
Look, sometimes you need a Thraben Purebloods. There’s no shame in that.
Soldier of the Pantheon
As Josh says, this card is insane. I might not be the biggest Boros fan, Tempered Steel days aside, but even I can respect how much power there is here. Even without the random lifegain bonus, Soldier of the Pantheon would be competitive in the all-time one-drop competition. I’d be surprised if any aggressive white deck didn’t come packing four, and you should choose your removal with that in mind. Every now and then you might catch multiple with Detention Sphere, but past that it’s hard to really get an advantage when dealing with Soldier of the Pantheon. I miss Augur of Bolas already.
Unfortunately for Soldier of the Pantheon, Limited is the wrong kind of war. There aren’t that many gold cards, and the Soldier is mostly just a Savannah Lions. That’s not terrible, but it’s not particularly exciting either.
Spear of Heliod
I like Glorious Anthem, and Spear has multiple advantages over Anthem. It powers devotion, which is now a thing, and can punish the opponent for attacking. Unfortunately, not being able to double up is a real drawback, and will limit the number of spears in my quiver to three at max (and most likely two). Still, this is a strong addition to many of the aggressive white decks, and plays very nicely with many of the other cards in the set, such as Heliod himself.
Spear of Heliod is incredible in Limited. Not only is it Glorious Anthem, which is awesome to begin with, it makes it very hard for your opponent to attack. That makes it good when you have few creatures or a lot of creatures, which neatly encapsulates most games. It can be tough if you leave up Spear mana and the opponent destroys it before attacking, so be aware of that risk when planning your turn.
If a Grizzly Bears and a Philosopher fight in a forest and there is no one around to hear it, who wins?
If you need a bear, you need a bear. That’s not particularly deep, but it’s the truth.
Vanquish the Foul
You don’t always get to play Terminates, and creatures always need killing. Even expensive and conditional kill can get the job done, and this at least hits all the creatures you will usually have problems with. Scry 1 is a nice bonus, but not a huge part of why this is good.
Three is the most contested spot in white’s curve right now, so unless you are set on winging it, I’d avoid this.
Wind Drake that helps devotion is nice, and you get to pick up enough stray +1/+1 counters that Wingsteed Rider is substantially better than Wind Drake.
After looking at the picture, I can verify that this is one totally yoked Ox. It’s surprisingly also in contention for Standard play, just because of how effective a blocker it is, and how little it costs.
I’d rather keep this in the sideboard so I can figure out what my opponent’s creatures look like, just because of how bad it can be if it’s mismatched. Against fliers and auras, it just does nothing. It is worth noting that the Ox can be a good target for your own auras, if need be.
Top 5 White Commons
The ranking numbers were initially reversed, and have now been fixed. Sorry for the confusion - LSV
The value of Gods Willing probably fluctuates the most on this list, just because it's the card most dependent on the rest of your deck. If you have nothing worth protecting, you need to pick the other cards, but once you have a couple good threats, I like Gods Willing. White has a good mix of bestow cards, removal, and threats, making it a pretty well-rounded color. It doesn't look particularly aggressive, though a heroic deck might have the best shot of getting there.
Top 5 White Constructed Cards
The ranking numbers were initially reversed, and have now been fixed. Sorry for the confusion - LSV
White has a ton of interesting cards to play with. Soldier of the Pantheon along with Heliod and his Spear all promote aggressive white decks, while Elspeth enables control more than anything else. Chained to the Rocks is a bit of an outlier, just because of how restrictive its demands are, but it is the most powerful of the white cards. Either way, white has a lot of potential decks, covering all parts of the control to aggro spectrum.
Tomorrow, I release the Kraken!