The new set is already having an impact on Standard, and a few cards in particular look to have a promising future. Here are the Top 10 Theros Beyond Death cards I expect to make the biggest impact on Constructed, and a few examples of the decks they will go into.
10) Storm’s Wrath
Not only did red get a new sweeper, it now also deals damage to planeswalkers, which is really big. The downside is that it also deals damage to your own planeswalkers, which is usually how control decks tend to win games, so using this in something like Grixis Control will be challenging. As a result, I think it will mostly get used in Fires of Invention decks, but it fits perfectly as a followup to Fires on turn 4.
8/9) Nyxbloom Ancient + Nyx Lotus
Both of these cards do need a lot of setup to work, but they are also capable of some really powerful plays. Naturally, Lotus will go in all kinds of devotion decks, of which the most exciting to me so far are Mono-Blue and Mono-Green. I can see Nyxbloom Ancient in a normal U/G ramp style deck as an additional way to get more mana and set up a lethal Finale of Devastation. As an example, here’s a cool looking Mono-Green Devotion deck from Brian Gottlieb that uses both cards.
Standard – Brian Gottlieb
21 Forest 4 Castle Garenbrig 1 End-Raze Forerunners 2 Arboreal Grazer 4 Paradise Druid 2 Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig 4 Thunderous Snapper 3 Nyxbloom Ancient 1 Nylea, Keen-Eyed 4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 3 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner 4 Finale of Devastation 4 Wolfwillow Haven 3 Nyx Lotus
2 Arboreal Grazer (WAR) 149
21 Forest (THB) 287
4 Paradise Druid (WAR) 171
4 Wolfwillow Haven (THB) 205
4 Finale of Devastation (WAR) 160
3 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner (WAR) 232
2 Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig (ELD) 185
1 Nylea, Keen-Eyed (THB) 185
4 Thunderous Snapper (ELD) 215
3 Nyx Lotus (THB) 235
4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World (WAR) 169
3 Nyxbloom Ancient (THB) 190
1 End-Raze Forerunners (RNA) 124
4 Castle Garenbrig (ELD) 240
Most allied two-color decks in Standard have been in desperate need of an extra dual land, and Temples should help in that regard. U/W Control and R/B decks in particular will be the most happy to use them.
6. Ox of Agonas
I expect this card to go straight into Modern Dredge, where it will serve as a way to mill the rest of your deck for a pretty cheap price of RR, while also giving you a 5/3 creature and all the Prized Amalgams from your graveyard in the process.
In addition to that, I just managed to 4-1 a Pioneer league with this Hollow One deck from Yoman5, one of my favorite brewers. You really miss Faithless Looting, but you are still capable of some really nice draws, and I really liked my sideboard as well. It would be nice to get to play some delve cards like Gurmag Angler, but I’m not sure if it’s possible without fetchlands.
Mono-Red Hollow One
Pioneer – Yoman5
14 Mountain 2 Castle Embereth 4 Ramunap Ruins 4 Runaway Steam-Kin 4 Hollow One 4 Flameblade Adept 4 Insolent Neonate 4 Flamewake Phoenix 4 Merchant of the Vale/Haggle 4 Ox of Agonas 4 Fiery Temper 4 Lightning Axe 4 Cathartic Reunion Sideboard 4 Tormod's Crypt 4 Rampaging Ferocidon 2 Chandra's Defeat 2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance 3 Eidolon of the Great Revel
5. Woe Strider
Woe Strider is a great sacrifice outlet with some extra value thanks to the escape mechanic. In Standard, it should replace Chandra, Acolyte of Flame in R/B Sacrifice, which is a very welcome change, because it should also make your mana much better.
7 Swamp 5 Mountain 4 Blood Crypt 3 Castle Locthwain 4 Fabled Passage 1 Temple of Malice 4 Midnight Reaper 4 Gutterbones 4 Priest of Forgotten Gods 2 Rix Maadi Reveler 4 Mayhem Devil 4 Cauldron Familiar 2 Rankle, Master of Pranks 4 Woe Strider 4 Witch's Oven 3 Claim the Firstborn 1 The Akroan War Sideboard 4 Duress 3 Noxious Grasp 3 Embereth Shieldbreaker/Battle Display 1 Claim the Firstborn 3 Eat to Extinction 1 The Akroan War
4 Midnight Reaper (GRN) 77
4 Gutterbones (RNA) 76
4 Priest of Forgotten Gods (RNA) 83
4 Blood Crypt (RNA) 245
1 Temple of Malice (THB) 247
2 Rix Maadi Reveler (RNA) 109
4 Mayhem Devil (WAR) 204
1 The Akroan War (THB) 124
4 Witch’s Oven (ELD) 237
7 Swamp (ELD) 258
5 Mountain (ELD) 262
4 Cauldron Familiar (ELD) 81
2 Rankle, Master of Pranks (ELD) 101
3 Claim the Firstborn (ELD) 118
4 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
3 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241
4 Woe Strider (THB) 123
3 Eat to Extinction (THB) 90
1 Claim the Firstborn (ELD) 118
1 The Akroan War (THB) 124
4 Duress (M20) 97
3 Noxious Grasp (M20) 110
3 Embereth Shieldbreaker (ELD) 122
Rally the Ancestors
Uniq – 5-0 MTGO Pioneer League
1 Plains 4 Blooming Marsh 4 Concealed Courtyard 3 Godless Shrine 4 Mana Confluence 1 Overgrown Tomb 4 Temple Garden 2 Cartel Aristocrat 4 Cruel Celebrant 4 Hunted Witness 4 Satyr Wayfinder 4 Stitcher's Supplier 3 Thraben Inspector 4 Voice of Resurgence 4 Woe Strider 2 Zulaport Cutthroat 4 Return to the Ranks 3 Rally the Ancestors 1 Abzan Ascendancy Sideboard 2 Abrupt Decay 2 Dromoka's Command 3 Fatal Push 3 Knight of Autumn 2 Soul-Guide Lantern 3 Thoughtseize
4. Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Heliod has the potential to break Pioneer and/or Modern wide open. All you need is Heliod and a Walking Ballista with two counters that you give lifelink with Heliod’s ability and you can ping your opponent to death. Luis already posted an initial draft of the deck here, but I was thinking more of a Collected Company build where you also get to protect your combo with Selfless Spirit and gain incidental life with creatures like Scavenging Ooze and Centaur Courser (which gets you free counters from Heliod). In Modern you also get to play Eternal Witness to bring your combo pieces back. We’ll see if someone breaks it in time for the regional Pro Tours coming up in the next two weeks.
3. Dream Trawler
Blue-White control got a lot of new tools from Theros Beyond Death. Shatter the Sky does a good Wrath of God impression, Banishing Light is a catch-all answer, Temple of Enlightenment fixes your mana, and Thassa’s Intervention does a little bit of everything. But the most important addition is Dream Trawler, because it gives the deck an almost unkillable finisher that also draw you extra cards. I wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing more and more of this card in other decks like Esper Control or Bant ramp. Even in Pioneer, it has already started to show up in some U/W Control decks as a sideboard card.
2. Underworld Breach
Another card with the potential to break some of the older formats wide open is Underworld Breach. One of the most talked-about new decks in Pioneer uses Underworld Breach in combination with self-mill via Chronic Flooding and Hidden Strings, eventually winning the game with Thassa’s Oracle and an empty library. It gets even better in Legacy or Vintage where this card will often be a cheaper Yawgmoth’s Will, allowing for crazy combo kills. Frank wrote an article about some of the Underworld Breach combos here.
Underworld Breach Combo
TERANO (5-0) – Pioneer League
6 Island 1 Mountain 4 Shivan Reef 4 Spirebluff Canal 4 Steam Vents 4 Temple of Epiphany 4 Thassa's Oracle 4 Hidden Strings 4 Strategic Planning 3 Dig Through Time 2 Spell Pierce 4 Witching Well 4 Chronic Flooding 4 Omen of the Sea 4 Underworld Breach 4 Opt Sideboard 2 Abrade 3 Anger of the Gods 4 Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft 2 Lazotep Plating 3 Mystical Dispute 1 Narset, Parter of Veils
1) Thassa, Deep-Dwelling
If you’ve read my last article, it will probably come as no surprise that I think Thassa is the most powerful card in the set. Between Thassa’s Oracle, Agent of Treachery, Claim the Firstborn, The Akroan War, and basically every other creature with a good enters-the-battlefield ability, Thassa lets you do a lot of sweet things. The flicker ability will be good enough most of the time, but if you can also make her into a creature, she becomes even better and indestructible makes her super hard to deal with. My current favorite deck with Thassa is probably Mono-Blue Devotion.
18 Island 4 Castle Vantress 3 Fabled Passage 4 Thassa, Deep-Dwelling 3 Fblthp, the Lost 4 Agent of Treachery 4 Cavalier of Gales 4 Arcanist's Owl 4 Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft 4 Gadwick, the Wizened 4 Thassa's Oracle 4 Nyx Lotus Sideboard 4 Aether Gust 2 Dungeon Geists 3 Negate 4 Mystical Dispute 2 Sorcerous Spyglass
4 Thassa’s Oracle (THB) 73
4 Brazen Borrower (ELD) 39
4 Gadwick, the Wizened (ELD) 48
4 Nyx Lotus (THB) 235
4 Cavalier of Gales (M20) 52
4 Agent of Treachery (M20) 43
4 Arcanist’s Owl (ELD) 206
4 Thassa, Deep-Dwelling (THB) 71
3 Fblthp, the Lost (WAR) 50
4 Castle Vantress (ELD) 242
18 Island (ANA) 57
3 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
3 Negate (M20) 69
4 Mystical Dispute (ELD) 58
4 Aether Gust (M20) 42
2 Sorcerous Spyglass (XLN) 248
2 Dungeon Geists (M20) 57
You probably noticed that I didn’t include cards like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath or Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis in my top 10. I don’t want to say that I don’t think these cards are good, but in my opinion, they aren’t currently being used in the right way and they are still waiting for someone to put them in the right deck. Uro in Standard U/G Ramp seems like a win-more card to me, because it only really works if you also resolve Cavalier of Thorns right after. The ability of putting an extra land into play also isn’t anything unique or special, U/G already has a ton of those effects and most of your ramp starts on turn 2, so you would rather resolve cards for 4 mana that affect the board on turn 3. If you do want to play Uro, I think you should drastically change the early game to include 4 Gilded Goose and/or 4 Arboreal Grazer to make sure you can actually cast Uro on turn 2 and follow it up with Nissa on turn 3.
I’m not really sure where Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis will fit in exactly, but I’m fairly confident that it is not the U/W Control finisher the deck was looking for. You want planeswalkers that have abilities that add loyalty counters so you never have to play another spell and just ride that one card to victory. Elspeth will only make you two tokens twice and then it dies, and paying 6 mana and exiling four cards to bring it back from the graveyard is a lot when you are playing a control deck that rarely wants to tap out on your own turn.
Hopefully someone will prove me wrong soon though, because both of those cards look very powerful and fun to play.