TWR: Theros: Beyond Death Spoilers

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.

Buy-A-Box Promo:

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.

White:

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.

Blue:

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.

Black:

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:

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:

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.

Multi-Color:

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.

TWR: Throne of Eldraine Spoilers & The Next Year of MTG

We’ve known about the next Magic: The Gathering expansion, Throne of Eldraine for a little while now, but as is customary in the month leading up to a set’s release, we’re entering into spoiler season for it. I saw a few whispers about a Twitch stream that certain community members were given access to, and shortly thereafter we were learning that Wizards of the Coast would be attempting again to push the Brawl format. Most people, myself included, had already written it off as dead, but with the additions to Arena, they have been pushing the format again between paper and digital. I’m not sure if there will be Planeswalker decks, or if these are going to be more comparable to the Guild Kits from the Ravnica block, but whatever the case, a new product is launching with Throne of Eldraine and we’ll see Brawl preconstructed decks for the first time. Here are the face commanders for these sets:

Brawl Commanders:

If you are unfamiliar, Brawl is a Commander variant in that it follows the same color identity and singleton rules, but instead of being 100 card decks they are only 60 cards. They also have a rotation that matches standard, meaning you can only play with standard legal cards. So no putting your Commander deck cards into your Brawl decks. I think it’s a silly limitation and part of the reason I stopped playing standard is because rotation can be expensive. In EDH, you can wait for a set to rotate out and get a good deal on singles you want. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same game. And when it comes down to it, I’m not overly impressed with any of these commanders enough to warrant building a new EDH deck around it. I think the Bant and Esper creatures are more interesting than the others, but I’m sure people playing knights are excited to access to a new color with a new general. Friends of mine seem to be most interested in Korvold, and I’ve seen what sorts of shenanigans you can pull with him but I find it uninteresting. Deck lists were already released for these, though I don’t believe all of the cards have been spoiled just yet. They don’t really seem worth the time, but I’ve heard they are going for $20 a piece so not a lot to invest if you want to build around one.

New Mechanics:

Throne of Eldraine is adding a couple of new mechanics, and though they are kind of interesting and their take on fairy tales aren’t bad, I just haven’t really seen much yet that I’m excited for in the set. I don’t think I’m burnt out on the game because I’m still always brewing, building, writing and thinking about the game. One problem is that I don’t really play much, but even with all of that on my plate I still don’t find much to be excited for. So the new mechanics are Adventure, Adamant and Food Tokens. Various cards from the set reference food and creating food tokens. Some, like the Goose above, will allow you to create food but also to sac food to the goose itself to get a different effect. Otherwise, Food tokens are much like Clues or Treasures before them, but instead of drawing you cards or giving you mana, instead you gain life. I guess Oloro players rejoice, but it just seems like a tacky limited-only thing. The same really goes for Adamant. It’s great for mono colored decks I suppose, because it typically requires you to cast the spell with only one color of mana in order to get a bonus effect. That’s pretty meh, and I haven’t seen one that seems worth it yet. Of course, spoilers have only just begun. Lastly, with Adventures you get the new card frame at top right above. There is a spell side and a creature side to these cards. You can cast the creature normally for its CMC and be done with it, or you can cast the adventure spell (which can be either instant or sorcery) which is then exiled rather than going to your graveyard. You may then cast the creature half of the card from exile for it’s normal cost. I can see ways this could be really good, but the creatures spoiled that have adventures on them haven’t been great.

New Planeswalkers:

A couple of Planeswalkers have been spoiled so far, including the return of Garruk. Apparently Will and Rowan from the Battlebond set are supposed to be around as well, but we haven’t seen them just yet. Garruk looks ok, but I’m not sold; older versions are better. A brand new walker in Oko has appeared as well, and he references those damn food tokens too. I’m not into this guy either. As a matter of fact, I think I still have a hangover from War of the Spark.

In other news, we were treated with the schedule of releases for the next year of Magic: The Gathering. I first saw this information over on Hipsters of the Coast.

 

So, we know that beginning in quarter one of 2020, we’ll be returning to an older plane with Theros: Beyond Death. I’m pretty excited for this one as I wasn’t playing when the original Theros set released but I have purchased many cards from the block. I’m curious to see what sorts of new Gods them might come up with. In quarter two, we’ll be heading to another brand new plane, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Apparently there’s something about building monsters in this set, but I’m not sure if that will be like the fusing of creatures in Unstable, or if it will be more like the meld cards. Whatever the case, the new planes tend to be more exciting than the old. Core Set 2021 will likely have some gems, but overall core sets are dull. Finally, in quarter four we’ll see another old favorite in Zendikar Rising. I didn’t play during either of the Zendikar blocks, though the latter was still standard legal when I came back to the game in 2016. As such, I own a ton of cards from these sets, but I’m disappointed that we won’t get more Eldrazi.

Whatever the case, 2020 looks like a good year for MTG. I’m looking forward to new things to come!