Immortality! Take it! It's yours!
We have reached that point again my friends! It is a new year and time for a brand new set. The release for Theros: Beyond Death is near and I could not be more excited. My love for the plane of Theros runs deep. My bedtime stories as a child were those of Greek myths and my fondness for those tales has never diminished.
The information in this article is more Magic theory than practices guaranteed to work in a given decklist. Most, if not all, of the opinions and ideas that I offer in this article are simply that. These decklists and card combinations are where I plan to start in the new Standard format.
Imagine A King Who Fights His Own Battles. Wouldn’t That Be A Sight.
It would seem that Elspeth is not the only soul escaping from the underworld of Theros. Theros: Beyond Death sees that return of Daxos from the dead in the form of Daxos, Blessed by the Sun.
A modern format stalwart is the first deck that jumps to mind when I look at this card, Soul Sisters. Soul Sisters is a name used to refer to a deck that is focused on gaining life through creatures. This can be through enter-the-battlefield effects or abilities like Lifelink.
Let me be frank, lifegain decks have never been my forte. I have nothing against the strategy, it’s just not for me. This is my first pass at this type of deck for the new Standard format.
The white slice of the color pie has been lacking in constructed Magic as of late. With that in mind, we do have some powerful options in this deck. First, we start with Ajani’s Pridemate, if you’re gaining life and not playing this little kitty then I don’t know what you’re doing.
The value built into Staggering Insight is, well, staggering. The previous Standard rotation saw Curious Obsession leave and go on to the greener pastures of Pioneer, but now we have it’s successor.
The flyers, or skies, decks have been just on the outside looking in for a couple Standard seasons. A very important addition from Theros: Beyond Death is the return of the allied-colored temples. Access to Temple of Enlightenment is very important to allied-colored (White/Blue, Blue/Black, Black/Red, Red/Green, Green/White) mana bases going forward.
They Envy Us Because We Are Mortal.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here, everybody loves Ashiok. Okay, good, now we’re all on the same page. Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is a very powerful planeswalker and may just be what the previous formats Esper Hero decks needs to return to form.
As you can see Teferi, Time Raveler hasn’t gone anywhere. As you can see, this deck hasn’t changed much since its inception. The only real upgrades we have here since the heyday of Esper Hero is the addition of Drown in the Loch from Throne of Eldraine and now the powerful planeswalker Ashiok, Nightmare Muse.
A very meaningful pickup for Esper decks in general are the corresponding Temples. Temple of Enlightenment and Temple of Deceit may seem innocuous but it is going to make the mana base of the decks much smoother and can help set up your draws in a such a way for a given match.
While I’m unsure if these changes to the deck allow it to return to its former glory, I do believe that it now has the tools to be a role player in the format once more.
Charon Only Ferries The Dead.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel has returned! This zombie was a powerhouse during Theros’s first go around in Standard. I wouldn’t expect that to change in this iteration of the Greek inspired world. The first card that comes to mind when thinking of Gray Merchant is Bolas’s Citadel. Citadel is already a powerful card, it has three black mana symbols in its cost for Devotion; what more do you want?
Just like Gray Merchant of Asphodel, the God of the Dead has returned as well. Erebos, Black-Hearted is a more powerful version of the God than the original printing. This list is built more to maximize the power of Gray Merchant. As you can see, we have such Standard bombs as Yarok’s Fenlurker and Deathless Knight. While I do say this in jest, this occurrence isn’t that different from what we saw happening when it came to Devotion based builds in the original Theros Standard. Deck build became more about how many mana symbols were in the cost of your cards and as long as the cards weren’t terrible it was fine. I’m looking at you Nightveil Specter and Frostburn Weird.
Erebos still has a variation on the Greed ability, but now it involves a trigger from your creatures dying. Anyone who has played Standard in the last few months is well aware that there is a deck that does this just fine. So, without further ado, I give you Mono-Black Food.
Ayara, First of Locthwain has finally found a home in Standard. This list has a lot in common with the Devotion-focused list. The cat combo is a prime component of this build. The sacrificing loop that we can achieve with Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven really powers up Erebos, Black-Hearted allowing us you use our life total as a resource to draw cards to dig through our library. This is also a fantastic synergy with Bolas’s Citadel, if the card on top is not one you can cast you can sacrifice the Famliar and draw a card through Erebos to keep the Citadel train a-rolling.
Just imagine casting a Gray Merchant of Asphodel off of a Bolas’s Citadel. Oh be still my beating heart.
What We Do In Life Echoes In Eternity.
What kind of article would this be is I didn’t talk about Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis? A poor attempt that’s for sure.
There are a lot of the usual suspects that we’ve seen in control decks as of late so I’m not going to get into that part of it too much.
It’s important to know what kind of role you want your planeswalker to play in your deck during deck construction. Elspeth is going to serve a dual purpose in this build. Elspeth’s ability to continually produce tokens to be blockers to buffer your life total and help get you to the later stages of the game.
The Escape mechanic is going to be key in helping you close the game out once you have established control. I imagine game patterns such as the following; use Elspeth’s minus two ability to create two tokens, then the following turn you use her minus one ability to give the two tokens each +2/+1. This equates to six damage per turn at minimum. That’s not factoring in turns where you would be able to use the last loyalty counters on Elspeth and then cast Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis from your graveyard through Escape and using the minus one ability again to get in for even more damage.
Are You Not Entertained?
This is just the tip of the iceberg for brews with the new cards from Theros: Beyond Death.
I can’t wait to delve into the format and see what all we can really do with these new toys. There are so many things that I want to try out, looks like I’ll be spending a lot of time on MTG Arena then.
Let me know in the comments below what kind of brew you’ve been working on and what cards you’re looking forward to trying out.
Good luck, I hope you lose!