Owen’s a Win – How Journey Changed Theros Block Limited

Over my last three Pro Tours my draft records have been 5-1, 4-2, and 5-1. At Grand Prix I missed one Day Two and have final records of 12-3 at the others. I think I’m a bit of a wizard when it comes to Theros draft and today I will be going in detail talking about varies cards that have changed in value in my eyes. There are many reasons for this, but the headliner is that there is only 1 pack of Theros now. When you draw three packs of the same set, especially a set as powerful as Theros, it’s easy to get a deck with 3 Gray Merchants of Asphodel or 3 Wingsteed Riders and have your entire game plan revolve around those cards. With way less consistency and an overall drop in power level we’ve ventured into uncharted territory and now the draft format is much slower.

The first card I want to talk about is Raised by Wolves. I used to think this card was pretty mediocre and not a card I want to pick very high, which is odd because if you put this card in almost any other draft format it would be a total all-star. With there being multiple different common bounce spells in the form of Retraction Helix, Voyage’s End, and Griptide, it was somewhat unreliable and you rarely wanted to cast it into open mana. Now there are fewer bounce spells being opened in the boosters and the ones that are opened, like Hubris, don’t always do the trick.

Another reason Raised by Wolves has spiked in value for me is that now I want it more and I want Swordwise Centaur less. Usually in a Born/Theros/Theros draft you want to pick Swordwise Centaur over Raised by Wolves because 2-drops are so important and it’s pack one, so starting your draft off with a nice color-committing 2-drop can give your deck focus. Now when you have this decision you have already drafted 14 cards, and the first pack has many good cheap green creatures so you aren’t as desperate for low curve plays. 2-drop creatures that only attack are less exciting when you have two different packs that feature Golden Hind and Voyaging Satyr.

Akroan Skyguard has gotten worse. When I draft this format, I’ve found it very hard to get a strong, focused aggressive deck that also has enough ways to trigger heroic with any consistency. Usually if I have enough ways to get my heroic engine going, I’m lacking in heros that are actually worth investing in. Don’t get me wrong, Akroan Skyguard is still a good card and a very high pick and if you’re getting them late then you’re doing something right but the purpose of pointing out that it has gotten worse is to get you to pay attention to it even more while drafting. Usually in the previous draft format you would first pick a Skyguard, take the best white card in every pack, and then you’d have a great deck no questions asked. Now it is different, I feel strongly that you need to be mindful of the fact that if you put heroic cards in your deck you need to prioritize cards that trigger it. Wingsteed Rider on the other hand is still ridiculously good, this has not changed.

Satyr Hoplite is in a similar category, because it looks as good as Favored Hoplite, but in practice it falls well short. You can still play this card and have a good deck based around it, but it’s very hard to do and it shouldn’t be your plan A heading into a draft.

Another card that I think is under the radar for most people is Sip of Hemlock. This isthe picture perfect curve-topper and I may even go as far as to say I would play as many as I could get. This goes for Spiteful Blow as well, which is even better than Sip. “Destroy target creature” is a rare commodity in the land of Theros. I have also found that black is the single best controlling color in the set, with good commons in all the sets leading you in this direction. Servant of Tymaret, Feast of Dreams, and Returned Phalanx are all cards that can let you sit and wait to amass six lands so you can start throwing down Sip of Hemlocks on any problematic creature. Just for the record, Spiteful Blow is both way better than Sip of Hemlock and a very good card/high pick.

Snake of the Golden Grove is a card I usually like to have 1 or 2 of in my average green decks. It wasn’t my favorite card before but now my green decks are less aggressive and more just trying to put down massive creatures and hope that the opponent can’t do anything about it. I actually really like to pair black with green and for that reason the cheaper black cards that allow you to survive work well with the expensive green creatures that end the game quickly. Snake of the Golden Grove specifically fits well in this strategy because he very often results in you gaining 4 life and helping you stabilize. He isn’t all he’s cracked up to be when the opponent makes him a 7/7 and kills or bounces him but as long as you can get him into play before you’re very behind in the game he’s going to have a big impact. At the Pro Tour I took Snake of the Golden Grove over Setessan Oathsworn and it worked out extremely well for me. My green decks that win just don’t have a strong heroic theme or want cards that don’t help me when I’m playing from behind. I do still like Setessan Oathsworn but I need a deck tailor-made for him first.

Red. Yep you heard me, the entire color red has gotten better with the addition of Journey into Nyx. It was almost unanimous that red was the worst color and there weren’t really a ton of good red cards you want to open in the new set, so how did it get better? I believe that red is a totally reasonable and fine color to draft in this format as long as you know that the only reason it’s good is because of the great cards in Born of the Gods. In this format if you cut red, hard, presumably the person to your direct left won’t be red and then when pack two is being passed to you he won’t want any of the red cards.

Just between the commons and uncommons there are some great cards like Fall of the Hammer, Kragma Butcher, Bolt of Keranos, Pinnacle of Rage, Akroan Conscriptor, Archetype of Aggression, Everflame Eidolon, and Searing Blood. Not only are these cards all extremely powerful but they’re all hard to put in a non-red deck or a deck using red as a small support color. A deck with with 7 Mountains doesn’t want to pick Searing Blood, Bolt of Keranos, or Archetype of Aggression very high so they’ll take a different card for their deck and the red cards go later than they should.

Shipwreck Singer has improved considerably. The quality of the card has not improved. It was outstanding before and it still remains great, but it’s in a better position than it was. With powerful gold cards in the last pack, if you can cement yourself as the only person at the table in those colors and one gets opened, there is a very high likelihood that you get it late. For it to be drafted someone would have to hate draft it or draft it with the intention of splashing it, which is pretty rare. The same is true for many other cards like Sentry of the Underworld and Triad of Fates. Even Scholar of Athreos can be a card that people do not take and can be one of the best cards in your deck. I mention Shipwreck Singer by name because of all the cards it’s the most powerful and has the highest reward for getting it really late. Akroan Hoplite is in this category as well.

Lastly Forgeborn Oreads is a card I like very much but probably not for the reason you think. A card like this is basically always going to be good and a high pick but when I get one of these early I try to draft a few Aspect of Gorgon. If you cast Aspect of Gorgon on Forgeborn Oreads the first thing that happens is you get to deal 1 point of deathtouch damage to target creature which means up front you’re getting a Terminate and a 5/5 deathtouch creature, and in addition to that every enchantment you play for the rest of the game will have a Terminate stapled to it. You can also execute this combo with a Gorgon’s Head on the Forgeborn Oreads. More unlikely but still very cool is the combo of Felhide Petrifier and Lightning Volley, if you amass an army of deathtouch Minotaurs all you need is a Lightning Volley to give them all tap: destroy target creature. I wouldn’t recommend trying to draft these combos from first pick forward and hoping it works out, but they are really strong when they work so I would keep them in mind and be open to the possibility of putting one of those cards in my deck if I needed a playable.

I hope this article was helpful as it’s a culmination of my own Limited preparation in the house before the Pro Tour with team ChannelFireball Pantheon. I think in the first draft of Day Two 7 of the 14 players on my team posted a 3-0 finish which I’m proud of. Of the three people we put into Top 8, their draft records were 6-0, 6-0, and 5-1. I would never have guessed that a team of the best deckbuilders in history would be known for its Limited performance.

Owen Turtenwald
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