Theros draft is far, far different than Sealed. If you want a good article on Theros Sealed, check out Owen’s from earlier this week.
While the Sealed format is bomb-heavy, slow, and driven by large creatures, draft is fast, efficient, and focused on synergy. If your deck doesn’t have a concrete goal or theme, it will be difficult to compete with the decks that are more than the sum of their parts. When drafting, don’t just take the best card in your color, draft a deck.
Of the various archetypes, heroic is the most force-able, consistent, and features the nuttiest draws. I’ve drafted the format seven times now, forcing it six of those seven to a 19-2 record, with the losses due to screw. The deck played out like more of a combo deck than anything else, and I mulled for hands with threat + heroic enabler over hands that could cast all the spells.
Each color has something to offer, and I’ve gone over all the threats and enablers and rated them. If you go through and soak it all in, you should have a good idea of the pick orders.
Remember that these ratings are in the context of forcing aggro-combo. It’s possible another archetype rates the same cards differently.
Each color has something unique to offer, and the enabling tricks and enchant creatures are more important than the threats themselves. If you have the best tricks in the color, there’s no reason for your neighbors to take the strong heroic creatures.
[draft]Ordeal of Heliod
ordeal of purphoros
ordeal of thassa
ordeal of erebos
ordeal of nylea[/draft]
These cards are a high priority for any aggro deck, but especially this one, and they work best in multiples. In pack three, if you don’t have any yet, they drop down to the 2-3 range.
The best ones are red, blue, and white, though I still pick green and black highly because, again, the counters stack and they work better in multiples.
My drafting style is to force a color based on depth and powerful early picks and then feel out a second color based on what’s open. I’ve yet to draft a dedicated green heroic deck, though it has some great enablers and I’ve seen it done to success.
This is one of the best pump spells in the format. While the other enchantments curve out better, the instant-speed permanent buff puts this ahead. A solid reason to be in green.
I actually haven’t cast Surge in this format, but I’ve played the white +2/+2 a lot and it seems reasonable. While a good trick, the untap is way worse than scry 1 here.
Aside from [card]Cutthroat Maneuver[/card], all of the cards that target two creatures are first picks in this archetype. While [card]Warriors’ Lesson[/card] isn’t the combat blowout that the white and red ones are, it still contributes to a mighty god draw when combined with [card]Akroan Crusader[/card] and another pump spell.
For example, GP Detroit Top 8 competitor Adam Jansen had the following line:
All right, I like where this is going.
Green lacks a good cantrip enchantment, as [card]Nylea’s Presence[/card] doesn’t do the job. Warrior’s Lesson more than makes up for that.
I’ve played red more than any of the other colors. It ties white for the best nut draw, its threats go late, and it features some of the best enablers.
I have yet to see this card cast in a losing game, and it’s one of red’s few ways to trade favorably in combat. On top of that, you get double the heroic triggers! Don’t pass it.
If I had kids, I wouldn’t have a picture of them in my wallet, I’d have a copy of [card]Coordinated Assault[/card].
This is the best common, and I’ve taken it over [card]Lightning Strike[/card] a few times now. Removal is filler in this deck, and the main goal is to combo your opponent as fast and as consistently as possible. [card]Dragon Mantle[/card]’s firebreathing wins games by itself, and its efficiency at triggering heroic and its cantripping to the next enabler puts it way over the top.
Put this on a Cerberus and just try to lose.
One of the less necessary pump spells, since it rarely helps your creature survive, but it’s a passable, efficient enabler, and you can value it higher or lower depending on how badly you need its effect.
Blue is generally slower (worse) than the other colors, but there are still some great reasons to go into it.
The cost is efficient, the evasion invaluable, and the repeated scry keeps the juice flowing. What’s not to like?
Looks better on paper than in practice.
Useful for blocking, which is great for other decks but not this one. Honestly, a one-mana instant that reads “Target two creatures. That’s it.” would score a 3.
The black tricks are worse, but they go later, making it a fine second color but never your main.
[draft]Boon of Erebos[/draft]
Kind of like [card]Coordinated Assault[/card] in that it can save a creature in combat, but sometimes it’s a worse [card]Titan’s Strength[/card].
This card sucks.
Worse than an Ordeal, but a solid role-player.
White has some of the best tricks and threats, but that means you have to fight for it. You’ll have more powerful cards but also more filler.
Solid. I like that Battlewise can push through attacks, saving creatures in combat, or just be fired off for cheap triggers and damage.
[draft]Chosen by Heliod[/draft]
Another solid enabler. This one lets your guys keep attacking while it cantrips into more of the same.
Are you kidding me? Good luck getting passed one of these, because this card is insane. When it’s in my deck, I pull it out to look at in between rounds to make sure it’s still there.
[draft]Gift of Immortality[/draft]
Not a heroic card, though it could make a sweet [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] or [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] deck.
I could see boarding it in against a deck full of removal, or maybe run it as a filler card, but it’s underpowered for an enabler.
For most of you, an early rare is going to be your signal to go into heroic, though a sweet uncommon like an Ordeal is all you need to start forcing the archetype.
[draft]Agent of the Fates[/draft]
Absolutely unbeatable. Every deck in the format requires some number of creatures, and most decks are trying to generate one giant threat to end the game quickly.
While Agent gives you some freedom in a second color, the double-colored mana requirement is unfortunate. You never want black as your main color.
[draft]Anax and Cymede[/draft]
A stone bomb. First strike and vigilance are already a fine set of abilities, but the heroic trigger turns into a pile of damage quickly. This is a great reason to force heroic.
It helps that [card]Cavalry Pegasus[/card] goes late, as the cards work well together. Cavalry gives evasion vs. giant blockers, and Anax makes the Pegasus not embarrassing in combat.
RW is one of the best color combinations anyway, so the gold cost isn’t much of a deterrent.
[draft]Anthousa, Setessan Hero[/draft]
I ran this card in a UG ramp deck with only three real ways to trigger it and that was solid. Five mana for a 4/5 is reasonable, and having a random [card]Ball Lightning[/card] every now and again puts it over the top.
That said, five mana is a lot for a dedicated heroic deck. I could see playing one, just because the card is so good, but it’s not a reason to go heroic in and of itself.
[draft]Artisan of Forms[/draft]
I haven’t played with it, but Artisan doesn’t look good. If I was already blue heroic I’d give it a shot, but even then I wouldn’t take it over quality commons or uncommons.
[draft]Daxos of Meletis[/draft]
I took some flack for pack-one-pick two’ing [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] over Daxos despite a pick one [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card]. My logic was that the Ordeals work best in multiples and are fantastic topdecks, triggering with one attack if you already have a creature with some counters on it.
Meanwhile, if you prioritize Ordeals over any other cards, then your neighbors have less incentive to move into heroic. When looking for signals, the guy to my left is less likely to make something of a UW card than a solid mono-colored one, especially since I shipped him a sweet GB rare in pack one.
Daxos is a great card if you can run it out on turn three and pump it. That said, it isn’t consistent, making it one of the more overrated Limited cards in the set. I watched a few players raving about it while dying with a [card]Grey Ogre[/card] in play. Still a high pick, but not the highest.
No zero, [card]Fabled Hero[/card] is a [card]Two-headed Cerberus[/card] on crack. Like [card]Anax and Cymede[/card], Hero is a quality card even without a pile of pump spells, but if you slap an Ordeal on him he’ll run away with the game.
Labyrinth Champion is a fine backup plan, clearing blockers or going to the dome. He’s weakest against decks with a lot of X/3s, which are typically green decks. The hefty mana cost means you’ve probably already used a lot of your targeted spells when he comes online, and there’s a real risk of flooding out after playing him.
The nice thing about Champion is that the non-heroic decks have little use for him, and he’s passed often.
Some of the uncommon threats are so powerful that they’re on the same level as the rares.
A solid early pick. It’s worse against decks that flood the board, say GW dudes, but most of the format is trying to make a giant creature and force the opponent into chumping. If you play this guy on turn two and your opponent doesn’t have a play, your opponent is dead.
Remember those uncommon bombs I mentioned? Stacking counters triggers your Ordeals quicker, and the pile of free scry digs you to the next Ordeal.
While this creature is fine in a larger deck that has some incidental targeted buffs, it’s too expensive for most dedicated heroic decks.
One mana is the perfect cost for a threat because most of the enablers cost two, leading to a perfect curve and a possible turn four kill.
Since most of the decks are going to be two color, WW is actually harder to cast than [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card], but the overall power level and impact is higher. [card]Cavalry Pegasus[/card] goes late, and even if that’s your only other creature it still gives evasion and another body for the Leader.
Since the heroic deck deals damage in giant bursts, the reach on [card]Tormented Hero[/card] isn’t actually that useful. Reasonable, but it’s more of a filler card.
[draft]Triton Fortune Hunter[/draft]
Cantripping off of every random pump spell is amazing. I haven’t had the pleasure of playing this guy yet, but I know how good the cantripping enablers are at keeping the gas flowing, and turning a [card]Dragon Mantle[/card] into a [card]Thoughtcast[/card] sounds like the best thing ever. Have you ever resolved a second [card]Glimpse of Nature[/card]? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Not an early pick, as no other deck wants Crusader and they tend to go late. It’s also a miserable topdeck. Still, it’s the force behind a lot of nut draws, and I want at least two in any deck with enough (7-11) enablers.
Turn one Crusader, turn two Ordeal attack for 3, turn three Ordeal attack for 6. Add a [card]Dragon Mantle[/card], a red Ordeal, or a [card]Portent of Betrayal[/card] to generate a turn-four kill.
This guy is similar to [card]Labyrinth Champion[/card] in that, while slow, it’s a solid backup plan to the main strategy. If they deal with your initial rush, or you stumble, casting one of these bad boys will give you a way to get back into the game.
That said, four is a lot of mana for this type of deck, and I wouldn’t be happy playing more than two of these.
While not technically a heroic card, the Cerberus also benefits from a deck full of crazy pump spells. With only a [card]Dragon Mantle[/card], it can start abyssing the opponent as early as turn five. And both of these cards are common!
More of a spell or a trick than an actual threat. Kind of like an [card]Arena Athlete[/card], only the better ability isn’t worth the extra mana or loss in power.
A solid pack one pick one. I’ve seen a few opponents shrug at the turn three 2/2, play a threat of their own, and then die to an Ordeal with a [card]Lightning Strike[/card] in hand.
The BR deck was gifted to me, the UW forced, but both swept strong competition.
BR Nutter Butters
2 Akroan Crusader
2 Arena Athlete
1 Agent of the Fates
1 Labyrinth Champion
1 Two-headed Cerberus
2 Ordeal of Purphoros
3 Ordeal of Erebos
2 Dragon Mantle
1 Coordinated Assault
1 Titan’s Strength
1 Fanatic of Mogis
2 Minotaur Skullcleaver
2 Portent of Betrayal[/deck]
This deck is excellent, featuring a blistering turn four nut draw, plenty of bomby threats, a whole slew of Ordeals, and a few deadly filler cards to flush out the curve and provide reach.
My only complaint is the mana base. With five cantrips and a curve this low, 16 lands is too many, as the only way this deck is going to lose is if it floods.
2 Wingsteed Rider
1 Battlewise Hoplite
1 Phalanx Leader
2 Wavecrash Triton
2 Ordeal of Thassa
2 Aqueous Form
1 Triton Tactics
1 Ordeal of Heliod
1 Battlewise Valor
1 Master of Waves
1 Cavalry Pegasus
1 Lagonna-Band Elder
2 Coastline Chimera
1 Anvilwrought Raptor
1 Divine Verdict
1 Lost in a Labyrinth
1 Flamecast Wheel[/deck]
Even though this deck had a lot of filler, it still featured the coveted powerful-threat-into-multiple-Ordeals draw, which was good enough to 3-0.
Of the lackluster cards, I was least impressed with the 4-drop creatures. A threat needs to be efficient so you can suit it up and go to town. Blocking is not ideal. The spells, on the other hand, were useful for buying time or punching through damage, and I was happy with all of them.
This is a short list, a basic run down of some other decks I saw. There are plenty more out there, and if you share archetypes that have worked for you it’ll bring us closer to mapping the format.
U/x or B/x control: These decks are too slow. While they feature a lot of good cards, that’s not as important as having a proactive game plan. [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] is black’s best common, but stuffing a deck with inefficient creatures isn’t worth it.
G/x or R/x dinosaurs: While the format has plenty of fast, efficient tricks, sometimes they get snatched up, or maybe that’s just not your style. Fortunately, dinosaurs is a fine archetype. Make sure your curve is low enough to compete! The nice thing about this deck is that your top-end creatures are large enough to hold their own, and picks that you’d spend on [card]Giant Growth[/card] are spent on more threats, ramp, and removal. [card]Nessian Asp[/card] is the best common dinosaur, and probably the best green common.
Dredge: I saw Sam Black cast [card]Commune with the Gods[/card] into [card]Nemesis of Mortals[/card], and it looked awesome. Grab every early Nemesis you see and the Communes will come late.
UG Tempo: Ramp creatures into midsize threats backed up with blue evasion and tricks is a solid strategy with a lot of play to it. The deck relies on [card]Voyage’s End[/card] and [card]Griptide[/card], great tempo-gaining spells against monstrosity and heroic.
Theros is a deep format with a myriad of fun, aggressive archetypes, the best of which are aggro-combo. The format should develop as people improve, but even then I won’t be passing [card]Dragon Mantle[/card] very often.
Good luck drafting!