Hey guys, welcome back to Know Your Limits. This is the 2nd in the ‘What’s Your Pick?‘ series where we go through a pack together and talk about the cards within, both on their own merits and their place in the wider format.
For those of you that didn’t read the first, you can find it here.
I am not going too deep on each card as I hope that the article itself is merely a starting point and the discussion can continue into the comments below.
I want to know which card you guys would first pick and any opinions you have about other cards in the pack. Without further ado, let’s find out what awaits us this time!
This is a nice one to start on. This creature looks pretty marginal, but I have seen the little lizard do a lot of work in the short time that I’ve know him.
When you are on the offensive the Scry effect can really help keep up the momentum. You can potentially use a trick on the Skink to keep it alive in order to increase your chances of topdecking further tricks to push through even more damage and snowball the game out of control.
In most conditions you are going to get off one or two attack triggers before you trade with something or it eats a Pharika’s Cure, which is honestly pretty nice for a two drop. Worst case it’s just a bear and you need bears for your limited decks.
Red does actually tend to struggle with decent two drops. I’m sure you’ve discovered that you usually end up playing a Satyr Rumbler or two in your red decks just to fix your curve. Putting a priority on the two drops that are actually good can help you avoid playing sub-par cards and tighten up your decks.
I think you’ll end up picking Sigiled Skink reasonably highly. It’s not going to be a first pick here by any means, but I can see it settling around 5th or maybe even 4th in most packs.
Heroic in Journey into Nyx appears to be significantly worse than what we have previously seen. The lack of a premium heroic common along the lines of Wingsteed Rider or Akroan Skyguard means that any heroic drafters will lose a third of these creatures. Added to that is a much higher concentration of cards in Journey into Nyx that punish the strategy such as Akroan Mastiff, Feast of Dreams, Reprisal etc.
Most importantly it is difficult to plan to be a Heroic deck without getting those early heroes. There are not even any common bestow creatures in the set, which means it’s difficult to have a good number of enablers incidentally. You will have to take a bit of a leap of faith (or open Dawnbreaker Charioteers) if you want to get into this strategy early and have to trust that the best heroes will get to you in later packs.
In addition black really is the wrong colour to take advantage of Heroic, but it is all upside on an otherwise playable body. As I said with Sigiled Skink this creature is at the least a bear and the floor on these creatures is pretty high. You really can’t go too far wrong with them. This card could take over in the right scenario and it’s really nice when your early drops can actually do something like that in the late game.
I need to do more drafts before I get a good idea where to pick this. I suspect it could be a priority if it looks like you are in white/black, but it is mostly a bear in other archetypes. I’m probably picking it around 6th or so for those decks.
This is a classic example of a powerful sideboard card. If your opponent is killing a lot of your creatures as part of their strategy bringing this in can blow the game wide open.
Playing this card in the maindeck for value is going to be very clunky. There are plenty of decks in this format that will circumvent your creatures without killing them or will take advantage of the tempo loss so much you might just die before you get to recast the creatures you returned.
There could be some green/black decks with cards like Commune with the Gods and Satyr Wayfinder that can stock their graveyard and stall the game enough to take advantage of this, but in either case it will not be necessary to pick it highly. You’ll see these late, so grab them only then.
I talked about this card last time, so I won’t repeat myself here.
Pin to the Earth has so far proved to be every bit as good as I thought, especially in control decks that win with evasive or non-combat damage based win conditions. Best served on an opposing Master of the Feast.
Starfall is reminiscent of Punish the Enemy, which was kind of a powerhouse in Ravnica blcok. Even though this version has been getting good press I do think this card is a decent amount worse for a few reasons.
The creatures get a lot bigger in Theros and 3 damage is often not going to cut it. Small amounts of damage can nab a fledgling hero, but it’s pretty rare that a five mana card can catch them before they grow. Compare to Lash of the Whip which always underperformed and at least that could deal with 4 points of toughness.
The format is much less about going wide and pushing through damage to the face as it was in Ravnica block, which is the strategy this card most compliments. There are some decks that do this especially after JOU was added, but in Theros the aggro decks tend to win more often by capitalising on tempo advantages and snowballing the game away.
When it does work properly you get to do way more damage than you should, taking out a blocker whilst getting incidental damage on the player can stack up the pain really quickly. However, I really don’t value it much as a pick. It’s nice to have, but I feel like other people are picking it high enough that by the time I am willing to spend a pick on it, it’s already gone.
This might just be the most underrated card in the set right now. I have seen it come stone last pick twice, which really should not happen.
Fortunately last time that happened I was even able to play it. I had it in a blue/white deck with seven 2 drops, 16 lands and Riptide Chimera. Whenever my opponent cast their first good blocker Oppressive Rays would ensure a free hit on that turn. Thereafter, they would have to make a decision to either block with that creature or to continue developing their board. If you’ve ever been on the back foot in a game you’ll know that you really need to do both of these things to get back into it.
If you have a deck like mine that can apply a lot of pressure your opponent can very rarely afford to pay the tax and it really starts to feel like a one mana Arrest.
All that said this card does very close to nothing if played in the late game and this is the last card defensive decks want. While I don’t expect to keep wheeling these, I doubt you’ll need to spend seriously high picks to get them as your fellow drafters will need to be both white and aggressive to take full advantage of this.
Another over performer is Flurry of Horns.
We are essentially getting four power and six toughness of haste for 5 mana, which is a nice return. It can be awkward that it’s spread over two bodies as that is generally a bit worse for attacking, but there are some circumstances for example when your opponent has a deathtouch blocker, in which you would rather have two guys. If you layer in one of the minotaur tribal lords Felhide Petrifier or Kragma Warcaller things get really scary!
Blocking wise I prefer the two creatures although the minotaurs have haste and you are playing red, so you are most likely to want to put the pressure on. In any case this card looks relatively simple and innocuous while pulling some serious weight. Perhaps not a reason to jump into red, but I wouldn’t be upset taking this around 4th or 5th if I was already there.
Yet again we essentially have a bear that has some minor utility in the late game. This one does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a bear early and when a bear is irrelevant you can get a small bonus, perhaps on an evasive creature. It might be exactly what you need to punch through a reach blocker.
Green ironically might be the worst colour for a bear in the format. Most green decks employ ramp effects to accelerate their game plan and the best ones all cost two mana. If you have this and a Voyaging Satyr in your hand 9 times of out 10 you are going to go with the satyr.
This means you’ll see Satyr Grovedancer coming round late as fellow drafters focus on more critical aspects of their decks. There is a decent chance it will make your deck if it does end up in your pool, so do pick it above a sideboard card or hate draft.
Counterspells are traditionally not great in limited. They ask a lot of you, keeping your mana open just for the chance that your opponent casts a spell worth countering is a very real drawback. Even worse is if you are already behind by the time you draw one.
The only thing they do very well is the ability to untap already ahead on board and be able to maintain that position regardless of what type of spell your opponent casts.
There are a couple of ways you will get a counterspell into my deck. A very easy to cast one like Essence Scatter reduces the drawback of a counter quite a bit and cards like Exclude or Lost in the Mist have significant upside. Countermand has none of these qualities.
I have had this cast on me and I did die a little inside, but that’s not a reason you should play it. If this is in your deck, your draft has gone awry.
It appears that this pack is a study in bears with upside. The upside on this one however is significantly more than the other examples. Voyaging Satyr has consistently been a premium common throughout this block and Golden Hind is going to do the same thing most of the time.
Making green mana is not quite as good as untapping a land. With Voyaging Satyr it is possible to cast a double blue card with only one island for example. However, a 2/1 is a lot better than a 1/2. Even in a ramping green deck you will find yourself on the offensive from time to time. More importantly the ability to trade with most 2 and 3 drops is going to be invaluable if you find yourself on the back foot. I think for this reason Golden Hind is actually a superior card.
Ramp has shown itself to be pretty good in this format. There are a bunch of good 4 and 5 drops that you can hoover up mid to late pack and mechanics like Bestow and Monstrous provide excellent outlets for your excess mana. I like getting this effect early, especially in multiples, as I can draft a bit more liberally with my mana costs going forward.
I would not be disappointed if this was my first pick and there’s definitely a chance that we will pick it from this pack.
This card is horrible. Do not play it.
This card must win the award for the most deceptively powerful card in the set.
What I found by playing it was that the initial 2 mana investment always got squeezed in somewhere when I wasn’t using the mana anyway. This meant I was essentialy paying 6 mana for a removal spell. We have been more than happy to do that with cards like Sip of Hemlock being quite high picks.
That’s a pretty good baseline, but there are actually a couple good upsides. The fact that the creature isn’t actually removed from play means that all Bestowed creatures remain on, so you can get some serious card advantage by locking down a hero. In addition it is possible to swap targets. This is a bit clunky, but it is a nice little bonus and lets you use this on a low priority target to get some immediate value before something really scary comes along that you can switch to.
It does all of the above whilst being colourless. I am a massive fan of first picking a good artifact as it leaves you totally flexible for your subsequent picks and buys you additional time to work out what’s open. It’s been a really long time since there was a non-rare artifact I have been willing to take first, but I think this card could actually be it when no premium coloured cards are present.
Paying six mana for the privilege of not affecting the board has proved to be a little sketchy in the past. Including one in your deck that encourages you to play additional expensive spells give me concerns as well. The obvious sister card is Thassa’s Bounty, which saw little to no play. The real question is, was the problem that it didn’t draw enough cards or are these spells are too risky period?
Theros block hasn’t been a card advantage format so far, but I feel like we’ve started to creep towards more of a normal environment as it gets further diluted. It’s pretty much impossible to do Gray Merchant of Asphodel shenanigans now you only have a single Theros pack for example. Whenever there is less synergy and consistency formats tend to gravitate to magic’s core concepts, with card advantage being a big one.
This gives me hope that Interpret the Signs is going to be decent. The potential is undeniable. Once the game has been stabilised it’s not difficult to draw 4 or 5 cards with a Scry 3 to ensure they are good ones. It’s usually fairly academic to go on and win the game from that point.
Your high picks are going to be reserved for cards that actually impact the board. If your deck looks like it’s going to be able to trade resources effectively, perhaps you have 2 removal spells and a Pharika’s Chosen, this could make a nice 4th. However, I feel that it might end up as mid pack fodder most of the time. I’m not too unhappy about that, because I’ll probably be the one taking it!
Mind Control is an unbelievable effect to have in this format. When your opponents are expending a lot of resources into one threat it’s bad enough if you can kill it with one card let alone steal it. I’d really like to see what % of games you go on to win after Bestowing this creature. I suspect that it is not far from 90%.
That steep mana cost should not be overlooked though as Theros games do often end before you get to seven mana. However, it is pretty nice that you can just get a 1/1 flyer in a pinch which trades with Vaporkin, Eagle of the Watch and others. It’s pretty much the best thing you can have in your hand alongisde Ordeal of Thassa to boot.
It’s good when your expensive spells can do something, no matter how small that something is before you hit late game. Having a lot of pricey cards in your hand can often be the reason you don’t get to see the late game in the first place.
In most packs I think this card will not be the first pick, because as I already mentioned seven drops are hard to rely on. There is usually going to be something like a Banishing Light, Reprisal or if the gods are willing Hour of Need that will outclass this card.
In this pack… we’ll see…
It’s no Island, but this card will be essential to any deck with green spells.
In all seriousness I have really liked green throughout this block. There is a huge depth of playables, so you almost never come up short when drafting and a very high percentage of sealed decks are correctly built with green.
Another thing I have slowly realised is that outside of rares green has basically no spectacular first picks, so you can quietly take a lot of solid creatures whilst other people fight each other to keep hold of their premium tricks and removal spells.
The First Pick Candidates
There are certainly strong arguments for taking any of the three and I wouldn’t fault you for taking any of them.
Hynoptic Siren has the most powerful effect and it usually wins the game whenever you Bestow it. Costing seven means this pick is pretty high variance though.
Golden Hind is the most consistent performer of the three. It’s always going to be solid and in concert with a couple good follow up plays can give you unbeatable opening sequences.
Deserter’s Quarters is a super safe card to have in your pool and can be very powerful sometimes to boot. It’s never going to reach the heights of the other two, but it will also never reach the lows of sitting in your sideboard like the others might if you get booted out of their respective colours.
For me it’s the Hypnotic Siren. I think blue is a powerful and reliable colour to be in. Picking it first lets me build my deck in such a way that I get to see 7 mana before I’m dead. I love defensive decks and this gives me a nice reason to stall out the game.
The upside is so great on Hypnotic Siren and I feel like in the new full block format, things have slowed down just enough that I am not quite so scared of playing a seven drop any more.
Do you agree or disagree with my pick? Any opinions about other cards in the pack? Let me know in the comments!