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%)
I’m not just horsing around when I say that this has vague Constructed applications. It gives you a Soldier each turn, and some decks may well have no way to effectively rid themselves of this fine gift. It’s like the first Horse planeswalker we’ve seen, with the only ability being 0: put a Soldier into play.
If you are trying to attack on the ground, this is fairly ineffective. It’s hard to find a deck that doesn’t have any four-power creatures, and giving them a 0/4 Wall is very annoying. Where it shines is in a deck with all fliers, where Akroan Horse makes you extremely difficult to race.
One day, Josh (Utter-Leyton) is going to get a Constructed-playable Wrapter. Until then, he can content himself with being the only one.
This isn’t efficient by any definition, but it battles small creatures well enough to make it a mediocre maindeck card and a half-decent sideboard one. High praise indeed.
Great Sable Stag this is not, and it doesn’t even make it to Silver.
Whether you play Bronze Sable is completely curve-dependent, and whether you are happy to do so is a resounding “no.”
I like Explosive Vegetation more than most, but it’s hart to justify paying six mana for it.
The possibility of getting ramp and card advantage all rolled into one card makes this a fine pick, even if a bit on the slow side. Sometimes you just use it turn four, and sometimes you curve out and don’t use it until later, but either way it’s good.
Colossus of Akros
The last time I played a 20/20 a million cards got banned. Somehow, I don’t think there’s a colossal chance of that happening here.
Colossus should come with a warning: Proceed with caution. Advanced durdlers only from this point. This is obviously powerful, and gigantic, but at 8 + 10 mana, it’s not for the faint of heart. I’ve managed to pull it over before, though it’s not a common occurrence.
Once you’ve gotten used to casting this effect for one or two mana, there’s no way you are going to be willing to pay six for it.
If you are completely lacking removal, you might have to try and wheel the Wheel in your draft. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done.
This is certainly not equipped to deal with Constructed, and if that seems like too hasty a judgment, so be it.
I have to be really aggressive before I want to put on this pair of Sandals, so as you can imagine I don’t do so very often.
Guardians of Meletis
The idea of an 0/6 defender isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard, but Yoked Ox has this niche covered.
Defensive decks that need 3-drops aren’t too unhappy to play Guardians, and it does some good work out of the sideboard. It’s especially useful against intimidators such as Cavern Lampad, so keep that in mind.
The most notable part about this card is that Martin Juza keeps calling it Charlie, which is now our official name for it.
I’m not averse to running Charlie in my deck, mostly because I end up with a high curve and/or three colors quite often. If that’s the world you live in, a magical unicorn might just be your best friend.
Back in my day, Invisibility cost us a whole card and two blue mana (but was still bad, just like Prowler’s Helm).
Much like Fleetfeather Sandals, this require aggression to be good, but unlike the Sandals, it’s less powerful and a complete blank on defense.
Pyxis of Pandemonium
I could see this being a sweet anti-control card, though it still seems really speculative. Dropping this turn one against a deck full of non-permanent spells could be awesome, at least if Detention Sphere and Ratchet Bomb didn’t exist.
What Limited deck is so sure it’s got more permanents than the opponent, and has multiple turns and seven mana lying around to find out? Don't Pyxis highly.
We’ve seen this before, and it didn’t leave much of a mark. This amulet doesn’t travel well, mainly because of a lack of efficiency.
I would avoid this in a two-color deck, but am happy to travel in order to find my splash color.
Eye do not spy a playable.
Unless your deck is 100% reliant on a particular card to win, this seems way too slow and costly. If your deck is reliant on such a thing, try and draft better in the future.
The amount of work it takes to make this better than a Wojek Halberdiers is just too high, definitely more than a hop, a skip, and a jump away.
In the aggressive RW deck, this is basically a 2/2 for two with upside, which isn’t a bad place to be. It will rarely be a 4/2, but even as a 3/2 it more than justifies its inclusion.
Anax and Cymede
Boros is one of the better aggressive color combinations right now, even with the loss of Clifftop Retreat, and Anax and Cymede is cheap and powerful enough to warrant some consideration. I’m not sure what the good enablers might be for the deck, since finding room for non-creature non-removal spells is tough, but if there’s a deck that is happy enough with a 3/2 first striker with vigilance and has a few ways to target it, Anax and Cymede might both find a good home.
It’s pretty tough to beat Anax and Cymede even without any pump spells, and throw one trick or bestow card in it becomes just impossible.
Even though I don’t expect this to get cast all that often, it’s still going to have a pretty solid impact on older formats. It completely exiles Angel of Despair if you aren’t paying the casting cost to begin with, which Dread Return and Show and Tell pretty much guarantee. In Standard, there are a couple ways to potentially bring this back, and casting it isn’t completely out of the question, though not very likely.
I don’t have a good bead on how often you get to cast 8-drops in this set. I’d clearly love if they were good, and I’ll definitely be trying them, but despite the powerful effect this has it might just be too hard to cast. If you get it early enough, building around it may be an option, since if you know from the outset you want to survive until the lategame it’s much easier to make that happen.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
I’d be Ashioked if this didn’t find a home in Standard. It’s a 3-mana planeswalker, and it has a very good middle ability to go along with the damage-resistant +2 ability. Ashiok’s biggest weakness is that it does nothing the turn you play it, even if previous Ashioks exiled cards (though that would have been a cool flavor interaction and a more powerful ability if it could). I suspect the strength of this on the early turns is enough to balance how weak it gets later, and it provides a credible enough threat against control at all points.
An early Ashiok threatens to run away with the game via all the free creatures it gets you, and a late Ashiok does that and can easily deck the opponent. For a card that does nothing the turn its played, Ashiok is one of the better cards in the set.
You’d be wise not to overestimate heroic, though I do like the stats on this guy. Getting a counter and a scry for each spell is kind of neat, and like most of the other heroic cards, how playable this is relies more on how cheap and easy the enablers are.
If you are UW, you aren’t paying much of a cost by including Battlewise Hoplite in your deck, and your opponent has to respect that he can grow at any moment. He also gives you a touch of extra value on your combat tricks, and those are already pretty efficient.
Chronicler of Heroes
I’ve chronicled many of the trials and tribulations I’ve gone through to draw an extra card, but this is too much even for me. You have to play a somewhat inefficient creature that requires +1/+1 counters on your other guys, just to occasionally get an extra card.
Assuming you are straight GW, this is a slightly harder to cast Nessian Courser with a pretty reasonable upside. Nessian Courser is pretty good to begin with, so that sounds like a good deal to me.
Daxos of Meletis
I’m a huge Nightveil Specter fan after Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze (stealing Rootborn Defenses the turn I was going to cast Supreme Verdict was one of the highlights of the Pro Tour), so I want to like Daxos. He is much easier to cast, and the life gain is a nice bonus, but there are two pretty significant downgrades from Specter. The first is that “can’t be blocked by creatures with power 3 or greater” is much worse than flying, providing less evasion on offense and zero benefit on defense. The second is that you don’t get to play lands off Daxos, and using Specter to hit land drops was actually a big part of the card’s power. I’m willing to overlook the drop from 3 to 2 toughness and the legendary supertype, but the other drawbacks seem insurmountable to me.
Daxos can easily steal games by nabbing a sick card or two, and even the life gain part is enough in a close race. He also conveniently enough becomes unstoppable once you bestow something on him, which is not difficult to do.
This is the Disenchant aggressive red/green decks (which is many of them) have been waiting for. Having to blow up artifacts and enchantments is often a necessary evil, and the 2 damage goes a long way in letting beatdown decks keep the aggression going. Ancient Grudge is a natural competitor in older formats, but I could even see some decks wanting Revelry over Grudge.
Two mana is pretty cheap for this effect, and it being instant speed and adding a couple points of damage helps justify maindecking this.
I’d be lion if I said that this card being printed was good for me. It’s a great card, and powerful enough that I can see losing to it many, many times. It just so happens that it’s in a spot on the Constructed axis where I rarely tread, which is somewhere between aggro and midrange. It’s a perfectly good aggressive card, and I have been known to play Plains and attack, but the five-mana monstrosity trigger does indicate some degree of midranginess. All I know is that Watchwolf was a fine card, and this is one hell of a Watchwolf. Once it goes big, it’s incredibly hard to kill, enough so that it presents way more of a threat than almost any other 2-drop. We probably haven’t gotten to the point where this enables control, but aggro and midrange are both happy to pick this up.
When a card is great on turn two and great on turn seven, you may have yourself a winner. As with any other gold cards, committing early on in a draft is a real cost, but you aren’t getting fleeced if you pick up the Lion early.
For the life of me, I cannot understand what all is going on with this card. It has flash, flying, and trample, which don’t really work all that well together, and the 2 toughness means it won’t be ambushing much of anything. It also gains you life off card draw, which while a good ability, just adds to the confusion.
As confusing as this may be, it’s still a good card. Remember to pop this in during your upkeep to gain the 1 extra life if you are reasonably confident that this is going to be your play that turn.
I call ‘em how I see ‘em, and this is at least one mana too expensive for Constructed. The Minotaur tribe isn’t known for it’s deep stable of awesome cards, but if Kragma Warcaller was just a little bit cheaper it might have been good enough to get some Deathbellow Raiders into your deck.
Just by itself, Kragma Warcaller is a Thundering Giant, which isn’t the absolute worst. Add in a few other Minotaurs and you have the makings of sick beatdown deck, especially since the Minotaurs are aggressive to begin with.
Medomai the Ageless
The only Time Walking happening here is when you tap six mana to play this and it gets immediately Doom Bladed. As cool as the ability is, things that cost six have to protect themselves or provide immediate value, and this does neither.
There’s a little more leeway for finishers in Limited, and if this hits, at the very least it untaps all your lands, itself, and draws you an extra card. That’s a pretty sick deal when attached to a giant 4/4 flier, something which is already fairly desirable in Limited.
Given that this can bring back Whip of Erebos, plus any sort of monster that may have made its way into your graveyard, I don’t quite want to rule Pharika’s Mender out yet. It’s not efficient enough to see play straight-up, but Whip recursion makes this a potential addition to a graveyard shenanigans deck.
This is one of the bigger Gravediggers I’ve ever seen, and it even has the courtesy to bring back enchantments if you desire one. Pharika’s Mender is a great card if you are GB, and powerful enough to splash even if you aren’t.
Take that, Detention Sphere! I think it’s a bit unlikely that this sees play right away, but given enough time it could make its way into a sideboard here and there.
As an efficient 4-drop that has protection from a pretty wide range of cards in the format, including many of the creatures, Polis Crusher is very good. The ability to all of a sudden turn into a 7/7 that eats enchantments is a significant bonus on top of a great card. Never has protection from enchantments been so good, and I doubt it will be again (at least not any time soon).
Prophet of Kruphix
I’m sure there are many people fixing to play this in Commander, but I actually think it’s powerful enough to warrant at least some consideration in Standard. If it lives until the opponent’s turn, it’s essentially free, as you untap all the lands used to cast it and get to cast any other 5-drop creature as well. That’s a solid amount of mana efficiency, and may be enough to look past the fact that this is a five-mana 2/4. If you have enough big creatures that having this in play is sufficiently prophetable, you won’t find this type of mana advantage anywhere else.
Chaining this into a 5-drop is insane, since even if your opponent deals with this, you got a free turn’s worth of mana. It also makes it near-impossible for your opponent to attack you with any sort of confidence, as dropping giant monsters into play lets you ambush to your heart’s content. Pick up a couple Thassa’s Bounties and you have yourself a deck.
I don’t mean to intrude on any fantasies about casting Psychic Intrusion and stealing your opponent’s best card for the blowout, but Thoughtseize does the important part of this for 1/5th the mana. It’s pretty hard to argue with that.
In Sealed, this is amazing, but Theros draft can’t really support doing quite this much durdling around. After board it can be one of your best cards, so I don’t mind taking this for additional edge in control matchups. If you have to maindeck it, it’s decent, just a tad too slow for many of the decks you’ll face.
Reaper of the Wilds
Reaper is pretty big for its cost, and has a couple useful abilities to boot. Still, a 4/5 that requires an additional two mana is asking a lot, so I think Aetherling will retain its title as the best 4/5. It wouldn’t be completely wild if this saw play, but it’s a long shot at best.
Not only is this large and efficient, it’s near-impossible to kill and gives you a nice passive benefit just by sitting on the board.
Sentry of the Underworld
I too am a vigilant sentry, doing my duty to make sure lost souls like this don’t accidentally make their way into Constructed. I think I’m safe in this particular case.
Sentry attacks for a solid amount of damage, gets to stay back and play defense while doing so, and regenerates in the event of something untoward happening. Three life per pop is a real cost, but as it’s basically costed as a bonus, it’s more than worth using from time to time.
As fun as it might sound to wreck a bunch of tokens, the mana costs involved here sink the Harpy’s chances.
If you have any reasonably-sized creature in play, this gets your opponent hook, line, and sinker. It’s mana-intensive and multicolor, so I’m not always looking to first-pick it, but the effect is very powerful.
If you truly believe in the heart of the cards and/or Chimera, this might get there for you. I’ve seen a couple of interesting Steam Augury decklists, and don’t think it’s completely out of the question to play this as a finisher of sorts. It’s not very tough, but 7+ power for three mana (with multiple kinds of evasion) is a good deal.
The decks that can truly unlock the Chimera’s full potential are few and far between, but they do exist. Once you get enough sweet draw spells, a couple bounce spells, and maybe a Threaten or two, Chimera might be the beater you are looking for. Plus, nobody else is likely to want it, so picking up two could actually happen.
As I sit here attempting an augury of my own, I am forced to conclude that Steam Augury is not the next coming of Fact or Fiction. It’s definitely powerful, enough so that it’s worth testing, but the fact that you are rarely getting a good pile of three hurts the economy of this card significantly. If Opportunity and Sphinx's Revelation weren’t so unbelievably efficient at drawing massive quantities of cards, I’d be much more interested in Steam Augury. The instant-speed card drawing niche is a hotly contested one, and at the moment I think Steam Augury loses out (to a pair of insane cards in their own right). I do think that it’s worth keeping in mind, and if there are enough other incentives to play a UR deck, possibly one with both Opportunity and Steam Augury, it could see a home. Anger of the Gods is one such incentive, and Spellheart Chimera might be another. I’d keep an eye on this one, it definitely has room to improve.
If I can cast this without incident (e.g. I'm blue/red or have a light splash), I don't mind playing it. It's rough that it can never draw you your best bomb, but picking up a few extra cards can still be pretty awesome.
Triad of Fates
I like the idea here, and wish it were just slightly faster to get going. Having the option to flicker creatures or turn them into two cards is very powerful, but requiring that a four-mana 3/3 survive multiple turns is just tempting fate.
I’ve only had this once, and it was as good as it looks (and as complicated as it looks). It makes combat and/or removal a mess for your opponent, and even lets you flicker their guys to hold them off. Sacrificing your creatures for cards is also quite powerful, with the option to make your opponent do the same if they have something you truly can’t beat.
Tymaret, the Murder King
I feel like Tymaret’s best friends just graduated, and since they were a year ahead of him, he’s left without any Gravecrawlers or Geralf's Messengers to play with. There’s the possibility of a reunion in Modern, since good ammunition is hard to find in Standard these days. Tymaret is also very colorful, so even though his abilities are very powerful, building a mana base to support them can be a challenge. He does provide an unkillable clock, and I can imagine a control deck struggling to stabilize against him. He can’t sacrifice himself, but if you have one in the graveyard, you can swap the one in play if they try to Detention Sphere him or the like.
Every time my opponent has played a Tymaret, I’ve felt like my life total was under incredible pressure. Having the specter of unanswerable damage hovering over your head is a terrifying prospect, and Tymaret does a good job of finishing things off. They chump your big guys, chuck them at your head, and there’s not a ton you can do about it. He’s clearly the best in an aggressive deck, though not limited to such, and really only demands a high creature count when all is said and done.
I don’t know where this is headed exactly, but it’s powerful enough to find a home somewhere. It’s a great anti-Wrath tool, kills the opponent dead in just a few short turns. Protecting the graveyard seems to be more of a flavor issue than a functional one, but I definitely approve.
There aren’t many situations that involve your opponent surviving the Cerberus, and it’s not even that bad if they do. Black/red tends to fill the graveyard one way or another, so if you see a Hound incoming try to avoid killing your opponent’s creatures on the way. The fact that this is a 6/6 evasive creature for five mana is insane, and it doesn’t even have a drawback in the strict sense of the word.
Xenagos, the Reveler
Another RG planeswalker, time to throw a party! Xenagos and Domri do represent slightly different interests when it comes to deck archetypes, though that certainly doesn’t keep them from joining forces when necessary. I like that Xenagos can pressure other planeswalkers, and keeps up a steady stream of incoming damage. His strength is partly derived from how much ramping power he brings, so he’s at his best in decks that can take advantage of that. Also, his ultimate is pretty dicey, and I’ve seen it result in more misses than anything else.
Xenagos does join the class of planeswalkers that is weak to fliers, but if your opponent is relying on ground forces to get anything done, he’s fantastic. He can even turbo out a giant monster (or monstrous activation), and as a Satyr factory alone he would be very good.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Nyxos goes pretty deep in Constructed, and it's a rare land that offers multiple mana these days. It both requires and allows you to dump a ton of cards into play, which is not always the best idea in this Supreme Verdict-filled world. The power is here, it's just figuring out how to harness it that's the question.
If you are heavy in one particular color, Nyxthos can do some work. I've seen it go off with Dragon Mantle, and running the slight risk of a colorless land is usually worth playing this.
I get that these look so close to the Guildgates that it seems odd that they are rare, but they play fantastically well. Scrylands are awesome, and they are going to be a huge part of Standard moving forward, even if that's not the best news for aggro decks.
I don't like playing these unless you want both the colors, but if you do they are great.
These particular shores might be unknown, but we've seen this effect before, and it wasn't great.
Much like the other fixing in the set, this is good if you are three colors and bad if you are not. It is cute to splash offcolor activation costs off this, which a cycle of the commons supports.
Top 10 Theros Cards for Constructed
10. Xenagos, the Reveler
9. Nyxthos, Shrine to Nyx
8. Polukranos, World Eater
7. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
6. Hammer of Purphoros
5. Purphoros, God of the Forge
4. Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Theros is quite the set, and I've greatly enjoyed playing both Standard and Limited with its inclusion. It's got a ton of interesting and powerful things going on, many of which lead to some very strong and distinctive decks.