Theros Beyond Death Set Reviews:
Welcome to my Theros Beyond Death set reviews. I’ve been reviewing each and every set since Alara Reborn, and I always kick things off with Limited. This review will give each card a grade for Limited, which does mean both Sealed and Draft. However, if there is a meaningful difference between the two formats for a specific card, I’ll call that out in the comments. Note that the grades help you compare the cards to each other, or see where a card lands at a glance, but the commentary on the cards tells the full story. Enjoy!
Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. The Scarab God.
5.0: The best of the best. (Oko, Thief of Crowns. Embercleave.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (The Great Henge. Lochmere Serpent. Stonecoil Serpent.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Murderous Rider. Bonecrusher Giant. Edgewall Inkeeper.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Bake into a Pie. Scorching Dragonfire. Covetous Urge.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Rimrock Knight. Trapped in the Tower. Maraleaf Rider.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Rosethorn Acolyte. Lost Legion. Youthful Knight.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Raging Redcap. Garenbrig Squire. Wicked Guardian.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Ogre Errant. Sporecap Spider. Fling.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Eye Collector. Fortifying Provisions.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Return to Nature. Crystal Slipper.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Irencrag Feat. One with Nothing.)
The Akroan War
The Akroan War is a high-variance card. What you usually want to do with this is steal a creature, use that creature to block their team when they are forced to attack, and then have the last chapter wipe out whatever is left. That’s not too hard to pull off, though you need to balance how much damage you take (because you don’t want to trade off for their creatures, given that the last chapter will kill most of them), and the opponent needs to have creatures with power that isn’t lower than their toughness. Sometimes, this will kill 3 creatures, and sometimes it won’t kill any, but the average case is good enough that I like this card.
I suspect Anax is going to be a high pick because of how many different themes he enables. Anax contributes to constellation, devotion, go-wide aggro, and sacrifice strategies, all for the low cost of three mana. By himself, he’s a solid threat, and it doesn’t take much to make him monstrous, all while supporting a half-dozen themes. Anax will often make your deck work much better than it would otherwise, even he doesn’t dominate the board by himself.
If you need more flash payoffs, Arena Trickster will serve you well. It’s a bit clunky, and nobody else will be sniping them from you, so you don’t need to prioritize this. I imagine most UR Flash decks will want one of these.
Aspect of Manticore will win most fights it’s involved in, though at three mana it’s a bit pricey for a combat trick. It is nice that it’s an Aura, but the first strike only being temporary means that this doesn’t leave behind a whole lot of power (well, in a sense all it leaves behind is power). I’d play this in aggressive decks or if you really need Auras, but it’s not insane.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
Blood Aspirant is mediocre until you feed him (sort of like me). Once you’ve got a steady supply of things to toss at the opponent, this delivers, and it also plays nicely even if other cards are doing the sacrificing. This opens the door to a lot of different lines of play, and will be annoying for your opponent to play around.
You get to play pretty carelessly with this card, as it does some good work whether it lives or dies. This trades up in mana, opens the door for some very easy 2 for 1’s, and is very appealing for the sacrifice deck (though good anywhere).
Dreamshaper Shaman is pricey, but does pressure the opponent into dealing with it. If this remains in play, you get to upgrade one of your permanents each turn, and it combines especially nicely with Omens or tokens that you have laying around. It is an enchantment, making it especially vulnerable to removal, so don’t be surprised if this dies before you get to shape the dream.
Dreamstalker Manticore offers an aggressive statline and a very good ability, making it a win in my book. It’s not hard to ping most turns with this, making 1-toughness creatures pretty vulnerable, and it can stack up with other effects if need be.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
In a normal deck, this doesn’t do enough to justify its inclusion. Giving creatures haste for extra mana traditionally doesn’t play well. In a deck that cares about Auras and constellation, however, this can lead to a lot of extra triggers, and is a fine enabler.
Fateful End has all the numbers I like to see, and you don’t need to be Frank Karsten to figure out that they line up. Three mana for three damage at instant speed is great, and you even get a scry 1 for good measure.
I like the first Final Flare in most decks, but this gets worse in multiples unless you are going out of your way to enable it. Given enough fodder, you can play a few of these, and they do a good job of taking out big creatures.
I don’t like this in defensive decks, but it will be quite strong in any aggro deck or in a deck with the 4-power matters theme. That makes this a solid common, just be aware that you really shouldn’t play it in decks that primarily need to block.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.5
In a deck where this is mostly on, it’s fantastic. Drawing two cards a turn makes it very easy to overpower the opponent, and this gives you a whole turn cycle to play the card (and you can even play lands off it). This is a build-around worth going for.
If your deck needs a 3-drop, this is passable. If you’ve got a lot of tokens and some ways to target this, it becomes good, though I doubt it will ever be great.
Hero of the Akroan Games? Meh. Hero of the Afterparty? Hell yea, sign me up. This is a good enabler for go-wide decks and sacrifice decks alike, while also just being a good card on its own. I’m down to party with these guys.
In retrospect, we were too high on this in the LR set review. Don’t get me wrong, it can definitely end games, but there are enough answers floating around that I’m less inclined to just slam this and hope it works out. If your opponent doesn’t have bounce or removal, they probably do die quickly, so I’d play this in aggressive decks and side it out if they have answers. I’m also waiting for the game when you play this on your opponent’s creature and then kill it to get the final 3 points of damage in.
A bear with firebreathing is a good deal, and this even prevents Escape. You don’t need to be a fortune-teller to know that this will see play most of the time.
If you need a combat trick, I wouldn’t be too mad about having to play this one. It’s a fine rate and will get the job done.
Deal 4 for 4 also lines up well, and this leaves behind an Aura and +1/+1 boot. You do have to be careful with this one, as a timely bounce or removal spell can prevent this from landing, and therefore prevent you from getting the four damage you were anticipating.
The haste option is nice to have, but that doesn’t make this into a maindeck card. I’d side this in if I saw two artifacts (or one must-kill artifact), but I’d stay away from maindecking it.
The Brute is too pricey and too weak to really make the cut. If you are hard-up for creatures and/or enchantments, I suppose this will work, but I’d be unhappy if I had to play it.
Two mana for two damage is already passable, and this offers plenty of additional value between sacrifice synergy, enchantments, and even just a scry 2. I really like how the Omens help themes in this set, and look forward to playing with them.
You can’t go too wrong with this, as it’s a cheap blocker and an enchantment, which combined with a good lategame ability makes me inclined to play it most of the time.
This is a real beast of burden, as it gives you a new hand when you play it at the top of your curve, and it may even come back in the very late game. It’s not even that bad to discard 1-2 cards to its ability, as that fuels escape, and this looks incredibly good in any deck (though it will be at its best in a low-curve one that can empty its hand).
The Phoenix puts your opponent on a very fast clock, and comes back for a second (or third) bite even if it’s dealt with. Without the pump ability, this would be excellent, and the pump ability takes it way over the top. It can kill the opponent in just a few hits or trade for anything, which is a great place for your 3-mana card to be. You aren’t required to say “dat Ash” when you play this, but it is encouraged.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
In the sacrifice deck, this is a great card to have access to. It’s mediocre outside of that, as four mana for this effect is usually underwhelming (and this effect in general doesn’t do much unless you’re sacrificing the creature or hyper-aggressive). I am interested to see how the RB sac deck plays out, as it looks fairly strong to me.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
This may be a hot take, but I think most of the Gods will be overrated in Limited. The split rating here reflects that in decks that can reliably assemble devotion, Purphoros is great, but outside of that he really doesn’t do enough to justify his cost. If you look at a God as an enchantment only, and it pulls its weight (like Erebos), it’s a great card. Purphoros doesn’t, as haste plus a Sneak Attack imitation isn’t worth five mana, so save this for mono-red.
Purphoros’s Intervention, on the other hand, is an excellent card. This kills anything you want at a pretty good rate (usually 3-4 mana), and if you’re trying to close out the game you can send a giant elemental at the opponent. This is even splashable, making it a safe early pick.
Even in the sacrifice deck, I think you can do better. The ineffective Escape spell is not a cycle I am a fan of, and this fits right in.
I rate this purely on the stats plus first ability, as it’s not often going to combine with one specific rare. If you do manage to get the Labyrinth, this becomes a 3.5, as fighting other creatures at will is very strong. The minotaur guarding the maze is excellent flavor, as well.
If you are missing a 5-drop or a sacrifice outlet, Warleader fills those roles. It’s got a good threat of activation going, though don’t get blown out by instant-speed removal.
In a deck that supports this fully, you can bump up the rating a bit, but mostly it’s a fine early drop that every now and then attacks with a little more oomph. It also has trample, making it a good aura target.
A 3/2 haste for three is spicy to begin with, and if you have any Auras laying around, this can set up some good turns. I don’t think this is quite a build-around, but keep it in mind when constructing your deck.
Wraths aren’t usually great in aggro decks, so try and lean towards midrange/control if you get this early. It’s a powerful card, and one you should be able to set up nicely, either by slowrolling creatures or playing out a 5-toughness beast to hold the fort until you sweep the board.
Tectonic Giant is incredible. Not only does it punish the opponent for targeting it, it also provides massive value every turn it attacks. Note that the cards remain playable until the end of your next turn, so you have a long window in which to use them. This is a beater, and one of the scariest cards to see early or late.
I’m never unhappy when this makes the cut, though it’s rarely all that thrilling either. It does play well in the UR Flash deck, and any deck that’s short on playables can always slot this in.
I don’t know what Anax did, but he needs to hire a better bard to regale the populace with his exploits (throw a coin to your Anax…). This offers three chapters of unexciting pump spells, followed by the most predictable fight in history. I’ll pass.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
I suppose a deck full of self-mill and cheap removal might get two cards out of this, but I struggle to see how normal decks ever really get value. It’s just asking too much to play this, have the mana for other spells, and have all that Escape fodder. Save this one for the 60-card decks.
This is a sideboard card in the vast majority of cases, though if you have a lot of ping abilities maybe you can maindeck it.
Despite all his rage, he is still just a hound in a cage, though I’d be inclined to let him loose in just about any deck. This is an aggressive 2-drop that comes back later in the game, and exactly what my beatdown decks are looking for (with bonus sacrifice synergies too).
This is mostly a sideboard card, though you can play it in aggressive decks as a finisher as well. It does multiple things, which is nice, and that flexibility helps justify what would normally be a pair of narrow effects.
Top 5 Red Commons
5. Final Flare
Red’s commons fall off quickly, as red tends to do. This reflects how synergy-driven red looks, as besides the top two commons, which cards you want depend on which direction your deck is going more than any raw power.