Wow, it’s really been over a month since I made any mention of Magic: The Gathering on this blog. I did take a bit of a hiatus over the course of December so that’s a big part of it, but there was a lot of news to come out of the last quarter of 2019. Some things that we knew back then was the schedule of new sets coming in 2020. Theros: Beyond Death is the first of those, and releases before the end of the month. A familiar plane to those who have been playing for years, but another return to a plane we’ve already been too, ala Ravnica. I wasn’t playing during the first Theros block, but I have collected a majority of the Gods introduced in those sets, along with plenty of other cards. You could say I’m familiar with the plane despite my absence from the game the first time around.
Like previous sets of the past year or so, there is once again a buy-a-box promo card, only available at your LGS. I’ve gotten one of these so far, because where I live currently LGS’s aren’t exactly local. The last box I purchased was War of the Spark a little under a year ago, and I did so through Amazon. The price was actually a bit lower taking this option, so I’m not too worried about the promo card. I do rather like this one though.
The Gods are returning. We had a newer cycle of Gods during the Amonkhet block, and most of those we reimagined in War of the Spark, having been corrupted by Nicol Bolas. This time around it seems we’re seeing most of the same Gods (albeit not all of the ones from Theros) in differing forms, some good and some bad. The new Athreos is still reanimation based, but instead of bringing the dead back to the battleground immediately (unless an opponent pays 3 life) he puts counters on creatures. Creatures who die with the counters on them return to the battlefield under your control. This means you can target opponent’s big nasties and then wipe to board to bring them all back to your side. He’s a bit pricey CMC wise and I don’t know that I’d want to run him as my commander but he is definitely a key recursion/theft piece.
New God Cycle:
Speaking of the returning Gods, we have 5, one from each color. Erebos, Heliod, Nylea, Purphoros and Thassa are back, and each does something different than they did before. One new God was introduced as well, an RG creature that does similar things to Xenegos. Of these, Erebos is still one of the best, but not as good as his prior form. Heliod has already been pointed out as being broken in combination with Walking Ballista from Kaladesh, as it’s a two card infinite combo. I wouldn’t mind a copy of all of these, but they aren’t the chase cards for me.
Demi God Cycle:
Instead of finishing off the cycle of Gods, instead we are being given Demi-Gods as well. Another cycle with one for each of the five colors, each is a recognizable legendary character from past sets, and to my knowledge all of their prior incarnations were multicolored. Ascending to Demi-God status did one thing across the board — each of these creatures has either power or toughness affected by devotion, which has proven to be a powerful strategy in the past. Daxos is the only character here that I really have an attachment to, and this version of him is pretty weak compared to his Orzhov and Azorius cards. They are uncommon so should be easy to get ahold of.
Moving into the individual colors, I found that there was less that I was excited about than I thought. There are plenty of interesting cards, sure, but there isn’t a lot that I’m dying to acquire. We have another cycle reflecting the wave of Gods, each of them have a spell with their name + “intervention” and they’re modal cards. Most have a good option and then a less good option, but options are goo, and I can see the one above being useful for clearing the board of artifacts and enchantments that you don’t like, or just one at instant speed. Idyllic Tutor needed a reprint, and I’m hoping that means the price comes down. The Archon is a Pegasus lord, and though I don’t think that’s really needed, perhaps another tribe will become viable eventually with more cards like it.
Sagas are back too, and Kiora Bests the Sea God was one of my favorites from the set. These enchantments do different things for a few turns before hitting the yard, where in some cases you can bring them back to do it again. Another intervention card here, which is either an expensive counter spell or a way to dig for combo pieces. The other cards are viable in certain strategies, but I’m not dying for any of these.
A new demon that’s not terrible but is quite expensive. More enchantment creatures that can be great in the right deck. Oh, and Gary (Gray Merchant of Asphodel) got a reprint with new art. Sweet!
Red got some neat tricks, including a Dragon that gives your creatures double strike, an Ox that is a wheel on a stick that you can cast again from the graveyard, and a decent sort of board wipe for only 4 cmc. Not too bad.
Green seems to have gotten a lot of love again, and that’s puzzling because it doesn’t really need more ramp. Nyxbloom Ancient gives you crazy mana ramp. Yes, it’s an expensive card and it dies to all sorts of removal, but it can be crazy if it lives. The Dryad gives you more ramp and fixing, Nylea’s Intervention can ramp you for a ton, and landfall decks are drooling. It’s good stuff but I don’t think green really needed the help.
In multi-color we have more options that I’m actually kind of into. The Allure of the Unknown is a risky spell but I like the payoff. It’s very political too so a plus. The new Planeswalkers aren’t very exciting, but I do like Ashiok as a character. I really like the Izzet merfolk and think he deserves a spot in both my Tawnos artifact deck and my Shu-Yun voltron deck. Lastly, I really like the Orzhov hound, being a nice 3/3 vigilance, menace lifelink for only 3 CMC, but also being graveyard hate on a stick. It’s not bad. I think a death and taxes kind of deck is in order, with other assholes like Kambal.
Colorless and Land:
Only a couple of artifacts that caught my eye this time around. Nyx Lotus is a pretty good rock that taps for your devotion to a color. It does cost 4 CMC and comes into play tapped though, so perhaps you’ll want a way to untap it on the turn it comes down. The Shadowspear is some nice protection removal and I think it could slot into my equipment deck. As far as lands go, there are some really pretty full art lands that feature just the mana symbols instead of a landscape and not only is that unique but they’re really cool looking. Supposedly there is one per pack, so I did actually consider buying a box just for that reason. If nothing else I get a few packs just to get some of these for a deck.
So that’s that. It looks like a pretty decent set overall, but I’m not as excited for it as I thought I was going to be when it was first announced. Perhaps getting my hands on some new cards will change things.