By Niels Viaene
When I looked at the card lists the first time, I must admit, I was underwhelmed. I did not really see anything stand out as a mechanic or synergy that would spur a lot of innovation in Gentry. After the prerelease, I went to mark down every card that I thought was interesting after all and somehow I ended up marking down 40 non-rare or Mythic Rare cards, so I guess there is plenty to say about the new additions after all. Let’s jump right in.
All-stars are cards that I expect to find a home in multiple decks, to a degree that if you are playing that color, you should probably have a good reason not to be playing at least a few copies. These cards are usually extremely versatile and are nearly always removal options.
Banishing Light is the type of card that keeps formats fair. It is capable of defusing almost any threat your opponent brings to the table for a very reasonable cost. We have had 4 cost alternatives in Gentry the past few years that all offered varying other bonuses, but having this back on 3 mana is a huge deal. This single-handedly makes every answer-focused deck, read: white-based control decks, better. Prison Realm was played a bit from time to time. This card will replace all instances of that card while getting more room in those decks. And I would not be surprised to see it pop up more, and in more decks than that predecessor.
This section looks at cards that slot into existing decks, making them better than they currently are.
Lasy time we saw Anax, he was still accompanied by Cymede in the card Anax and Cymede. It looks like she was the white and tempered aspect of the couple because seeing him on his own, rallying satyrs to replace his fallen Conrades, hardly feels peaceful. I expect him to slot into Cavalcade decks to offer both an alternate win condition and an insurance policy against damage based sweepers. Some people might also want to try him in Rakdos Sacrifice shells, but I am afraid he has a lot of competition in the uncommon slots there. Just don’t forget about him once it is time to rotate some of those alternatives out! Slaughter-Priest of Mogis falls into the same camp. He would be an interesting fit in the deck to offer a stronger clock but will likely be kept out of the 60 by the restriction on Uncommons unless a shell emerges that focuses less on Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven.
UW fliers might have been a small fringe deck up until now but Empyrean Eagle has a power level that he will take over a game if left alive. A supporting cast of Winged Words and Faerie Miscreants already gave this deck a subtheme of fighting through card advantage but now we have Staggering Insight, both pushing this card advantage into problematic levels and helping its match-up against more aggressive decks. Add Karametra’s Blessing and suddenly we are back to Curious Obsession with Dive Down protection. There are different ways to play this deck with Fash based strategies and protective angles competing against each other.
Boros Aggro is getting a massive influx of support characters, with Hero of Nyxborn likely the strongest of the bunch. He offers both an extra body and a way to buff the rest of the team. His smaller heroic buddy, Hero of the Pride can play strong support cast but might be a bit too fragile to removal and combat. The deck also gets a bunch of new ways to target their creatures, with Phalanx Tactics likely the strongest of the bunch. Don’t sleep on Sentinel’s Eyes as a very reusable enabler either. One that will come back in a lot of the more innovative deck ideas.
Last but not least we have mono White Life Gain. Daxos has returned in all of his Demi-godly glory to bring that deck to the next level. And if you are lucky he will bring his boss, Heliod, the Sun-Crowned to help with some of the heavier lifting. The rest of the deck, Healer’sHawk, Ajani’s Pridemate, Angel of Vitality and Ajani, Strength of the Pride are as strong as ever and more than capable of running away with a game. You can also make the deck Black-White, but obviously, it will be a lot harder to get your devotion and mana in that case. Or, you can decide to go for a more DEvotion oriented approach, and you will likely end up with Sentinel’s Eyes and Kerametra’s Belssing as solid options again. But [/c]don’t forget to look at other interesting options like Daybreak Chimera.
New deck ideas
While looking through the card list I ended up highlighting a lot of cards that seemed to come together in a very interesting deck. Dawn Evangel and Hateful Eidolon seem like they could join hands in order to get a recursion engine going that is capable of grinding out a lot of creature-based opponents by using Dead Weight and Mire’s Grasp while offering options of attacking their hand with Burglar Rat, Aspect of Lamprey. Heliod’s Pilgrim would function as an awesome search engine in this deck with Inevitable End, Kaya’s Ghostform, Minion’s Return, Mogis’s Favor and some others as possible silver bullets to address different opponents. And to tie it all together and keep it going, there is Rise to Glory.
Eurtopia the twice-Favored is a strong build-around-me card that offers herself to the creation of different decks. She can be a finisher in aggressive decks trying to look for those last points of damage, or, as I would like to build her, be the centerpiece around a Simic build that takes advantage of Sharktocrab constantly getting counters to lock down the board. That deck would likely also have Neoform but then the question whether it is actually better than Elementals rises. Adding Hydra’s Growth could be the reason it is better but I feel like that pushes us in a different direction where you are ramping to a big hexproof creature that you want to give evasion or trample. Barkhide Troll could be the answer to that question but that is a segway into another deck.
Mono Green Devotion gets a champion in Renata, Called to the Hunt. Besides the aforementioned Troll there are plenty of other cards that are very interesting in this deck. Setessan petitioner is the first one that comes to mind but that one seems a bit underwhelming. Nylea’s Huntmaster offers a lot more power and that as a common. it makes haste a very interesting thing to have, though, and that could push the deck towards Rythm of the wild. It would be a midrange deck that can use Arboreal Grazer, Beast Whisperer, Cavalier of Thorns, God-Eternal Rhonas, Keeper of Fables, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Rampart Amasher, Samut, Tyrant Smasher, Syr Faren, The Hengehammer, The Great Henge, Thrashing Brontodon, Vivien, Arkbow Ranger and Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig are all ringers that could pump these decks up. What is missing is good support in the form of commons, it seems, so keep your eyes open for a two-drop that costs 2 green mana.
Let’s stay in the Devotion camp and have a look at Black Devotion, not because the demigod is so good this time around, in fact, Tymaret, Chosen from Death is pretty underwhelming unless it serves as an answer to recursion tactics. No, it is all about “Gary”, also known as Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Any deck that can maintain a Devotion of around 5 on the table threatens a kill with recurring Garys. Cards we expect to see surrounding Gary are Ayara, First of Lochtwain, Burglar Rat, Cauldron Familiar, Cavalier of Night, Deathless Knight, Blood for Bones, Doom Whisperer, Drag into the Underworld, Dread Presence, Lampad of Death’s Vigil, Lost Legion, Omen of the Dead, Whisper Agent and Yarok’s FenLurker. The deck would have a lot of game against midrange decks while being decent against Aggro decks but will likely struggle against control decks without some heavy sideboard strategy.
We might as well wrap up with the last member of the Devotion uncommons in Callaphem Beloved of the Sea. As a three cost creature that has her * on the Power side of her Power and toughness textbox, she has to be respected. Her innate protection might come across as less impressive, but once in game it really slows down your opponent’s way of interacting with you. She could be the cornerstone to an anti-control aggro deck. Her allies would possibly include Arcenist’s Owl, Brazen Borrower, Cavalier of Gales, Charmed Sleep (in the sideboard), Faerie Miscreant, Hypnotic Sprite, Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer, Phantom Warrior, Spectral Sailor, Spinx of Foresight, Thassa, Deep-Dwelling, and Whisper Agent. There might even be a deck in there somewhere that puts Staggering Insight in this shell for a non-flying approach to the strategy.
Siona, Captain of the Pyleas is such a neat little package, She is card advantage, some tutoring, and payoff, all in a nicely costed body and interesting colors. Add in Sentinel’s Eyes and you already have a recurring grindy engine that goes wide while it goes big. Keramatra’s Blessing can play defense while Pious Wayfarer brings an interesting balance between early game pressure and late game utility. Phalanx Tactics comes back as an insane finisher and rounds out a decent anti-aggressive aggro deck. Camaraderie Would probably be amazing in this deck, alongside Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis, Harmonious Archon, and a bunch of token creating spells and extra Aura’s.
This section is for a few cards that give new options to deckbuilding. As you will see, these are quite geared towards control decks as these thrive on having a diverse pool of answers available to them.
In the removal pool we welcome Elspeth’s Nightmare, a sort of light version of The Eldest Reborn. It is quite narrow, but if the metagame becomes soft to at least two of these effects then it a very strong card with some extra upside in the occasional match. Pharika’s Libation is something very rare, a way for Black to deal with Enchantments. With the expected rise in Banishing Light this might be a very impactful card to have access to. The fact it also solves a turn 3 Gatebreaker Colossus if there is no fodder lying around alone makes this a card worth considering. We also get Final Death as a way to address recurring or indestructible threats, of which there will be a lot more between escaping monstrosities and Gods running amok.
Pharika’s Spawn will be just what some decks were looking for. It can lock up the midgame for a little while, has a body-to-cost ratio that is acceptable and then comes back to deal with annoying threats as long as you can isolate them, the perfect addition to a black deck that can sweep and has targetted removal looking to having answers to anything with a 5/6 beater attached.
Flicker of Fate lets us dream of recurring Sagas and other broken tricks but right now it does not seem like we have access to the cards this needs to really become a dedicated focus. I will be looking out for cards that synergize with this in the future.
And then there is Thirst for Meaning… Would you believe that the exact same card with the word ‘artifact’ instead of ‘enchantment’ was once deemed strong enough to be a draw engine in Vintage. Digging three cards deep at instant speed is ridiculously strong, even if you do not get to keep all of them. I expect this card to be a strong consideration for any slower shell that feels stressed in their uncommon slots because this card is common, and honestly, that blows my mind.
Last, but definitely not least, is Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths. Their true power lies in the creature type. It is an Advisor, which means you can tap them with Persistent Petitioners to mill 10 cards! Bah-ROKEN! You can also turn to Lagonna-Band Storyteller for the same awesome powers but Atris brings more oomph.
That is all I want to say about Theros: Beyond Death at this point. Did I mention every card that deserves attention? No, not in a long shot. For one, I barely gave any attention to Rares and Mythic Rares even though we still Have Neoform in the format allowing us to tutor up any creature our deck is designed to find. On top of that, there are plenty of other interesting cards to play that don’t offer the kind of innovation or seem too narrow to me to work currently but perhaps I am wrong.
So let us know, reader, what cards are you excited for? What are you brewing with? What do you think is underappreciated currently?
May your brewer go beyond death,